Monday, July 1, 2013

NC Poetry Is Alive and Well


Poetry is alive and well, and speaks to a multiplicity of voices out of an ever-changing culture. Thus concluded national Poet Laureates Howard Nemerov and Richard Wilbur and NC Poet Laureate Sam Ragan at the Duke University Poet Laureate Festival in 1989. Then, as now, one of the primary forces behind the vibrancy of poetry in NC, was the NC Poetry Society, co-sponsor of that festival and many similar landmark poetry events before and since.

The NC Poetry Society was founded in 1932, having at that time only 6 members, one of whom was Zoe Kincaid Brockman, editor of The Gastonia Gazette. The next year, the following objectives were officially adopted by the society:

to foster the writing of poetry; to bring together in meetings of mutual interest and fellowship the poets of North Carolina; to encourage the study, writing, and publication of poetry; and to develop a public taste for the reading and appreciation of poetry.

For the past 81 years, the members of the society, having grown now to 370 in number, have strived to achieve those objectives by coordinating meetings, workshops, readings, contests, and publication opportunities for poets young and old, new and renowned, across the state.

The Society’s 17 annual contests provide opportunities for poets from a wide range of backgrounds and interests to receive recognition for their work. All contests are judged anonymously by renowned poets and scholars to maintain objectivity. Current contests include the following:
Lena Shull Award – new manuscript of poetry by a NC resident;
Brockman-Kincaid Award – best published book of poetry by a NC resident from previous year;
Poet Laureate Award – single poem by NC resident; judged by NC Poet Laureate;
Thomas H. McDill Award – any subject, any form, 70 lines maximum;
Caldwell W. Nixon, Jr. – poem written for children 2-12 years of age;
Joanna Catherine Scott Award – any poem in a traditional form;
Ruth Morris Moose Award – sestina;
Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award – poem on the theme of American heritage, brotherhood/sisterhood, or nature;
Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award;
Griffin-Farlow Haiku Award;
Poetry of Courage Award;
Poetry of Love Award;
Travis Tuck Jordan Award – students grades 3-5;
Joan Scott Award – poems about the environment from students grades 3-8;
Mary Chilton Award – students grades 6-8;
Sherry Pruitt Award – students grades 9-undergraduate;
Farlow-Griffin Haiku Award – students grades 9-undergraduate.

Most Society members consider the 6 annual events sponsored by the Society to be the highlights of its work. Meetings are held the third Saturdays of January, May, and September at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines. The May meeting features presentation of awards and readings by winning poets from the Society’s annual contests. The September meeting is highlighted by recognition of the Brockman-Kincaid NC Poetry Book Award winner. The January meeting includes readings and workshops.

Weymouth is also the setting for the annual Sam Ragan Poetry Festival in March, where participants wear bow ties in the tradition of Sam Ragan. This event typically includes live music as well as poetry.

The other two annual events take place in the eastern and western parts of the state, both in April, and include readings, workshops, and roundtable discussions. Walking Into April is held annually at Barton College in Wilson, NC, and Poetry Day is held at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. Poetry Day is highlighted by recognition of the Lena Shull Award winner.

Other regularly scheduled events sponsored by the NC Poetry Society include monthly readings at McIntyre’s Fine Books at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, and the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series. Since 2003, the Gilbert-Chappell series has matched a successful North Carolina poet with as many as three student mentees and one adult in each of the three designated geographical regions in the state. The pairs work together for the year, and at its conclusion, give a public reading in each student’s home library.

The Society’s regular publications include the annual awards anthology, Pinesong; its monthly online newsletter of opportunities and announcements, eMuse; and its print newsletter, Pine Whispers, published 3 times a year to keep members informed about issues under discussion, upcoming contests and workshops, and other poetry-related news and opportunities.

Additionally, over the years, the Society has published 4 anthologies of NC poetry: A Time for Poetry (1966); Soundings in Poetry (1981); Here’s to the Land (1992); and Word and Witness: 100 Years of North Carolina Poetry (1999). Publication of Word and Witness was followed by a Touring Theatre of North Carolina production of over 50 of the poems combined with original songs, adapted by TTNC founding director Brenda Schleunes. Titled This Is the Place Where I Live, the production was performed 38 times in 26 cities.

Anyone with an interest in writing, reading, or supporting poetry in NC should visit the Society’s website at Membership is only $25 per year and is undoubtedly the best way to both support and participate in our state’s rich poetic heritage.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your work, which is always a pleasant read. Thank you for all you've done to encourage other poets, other writers. All your outreach efforts have been appreciated not only by me, but many writers across North Carolina. It's a pleasure to know you and read you.
    Nancy Purcell