Friday, December 21, 2012

Oscar Arnold Young Award Winners Announced

2013 Oscar Arnold Young Award Winners Announced

Maureen Sherbondy of Raleigh has been selected by the Poetry Council of NC as the winner of the 2013 Oscar Arnold Young Award for NC’s best book of poetry. Her collection The Year of Dead Fathers (Spring Garden Press) was selected by judge Robert Lee Brewer from 24 entries.

Brewer remarks that Sherbondy’s “collection begins with a butterfly landing on a windowsill and ends with ‘an old bird/lifting away from a pine tree, leaving behind a/trembling branch.’ In between, the narrator deals with death, specifically the death of her father.” Brewer was impressed with Sherbondy’s ability “to assemble a collection as focused as this one without falling into repetition,” remarking that she “keeps her subject fresh and interesting throughout--providing one new layer after another.”

Beth Copeland’s book Transcendental Telemarketer (BlazeVox) was chosen as runner-up. Of Copeland’s book, Brewer writes, “this collection zips from one type of well-performed poem to the next. No subject is off limits--as a reader could tell easily from poem titles such as ‘For the Poets of Afghanistan,’ ‘Pear Tree,’ and ‘My Life as a Slut’.” Copeland lives in Gibson, NC.

For honorable mentions, Brewer also praised Wilmington poet, Daniel Nathan Terry’s Waxwings (Lethe Press) and Greenville poet, Malaika King Albrecht’s What the Trapeze Artist Trusts (Press 53). Brewer states that what strikes him about Terry’s collection is not only “the want hiding in each poem” but also the “sense of duty that seems to rear its head time and time again.” He adds that “Albrecht invites the reader to join her on the poetic trapeze act she performs” but “is always there, ready to catch the reader before sending her off again.”

All of the books submitted for the contest will be archived in the Poetry Council collection at Catawba College in Salisbury. Winners will be recognized in the Council’s annual awards anthology, Bay Leaves, to be released at Poetry Day on April 20 at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. Winners of the Oscar Arnold Young Competition and all of the Poetry Council’s annual awards will be given the opportunity to read from their work at Poetry Day.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Best of the Year Poetry List

Best of the Year Poetry List

It's that time of year where everyone makes their "Best of the Year" list: best recipe, best movie, best song, best album, best play, best moment in baseball, basketball, or football, best book. So, in recognition of the true value of best of the year lists, here is my intentionally brief list of the best poetry books of 2012.

In the quid pro quo world of contemporary poetry, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a sincere review or recommendation and one motivated by obligation or self-serving ingratiation. All poets have favors to repay or curry, but in writing about poetry, I try to always remain objective and focused on just the quality of the poetry. That is why I am pleased to say that I don't owe Daniel Nathan Terry anything, nor is he in a position to help me advance my professional ambitions. Thus, I can recommend his collection, Waxwings, from Lethe Press, without any fear of apparent prejudice or guile.

Terry's narrative of a difficult childhood marked by taught shame, by a reluctance to accept oneself, as that self is unaccepted by others, is relevant, fresh, and sharp. These poems grab the reader by the throat, or perhaps by the conscience, or the imagination – probably all three – and refuse to let go. They are both lyrically beautiful and brutally honest, leading us to a deeper understanding of how all of us come to be and learn to accept who we are. If you own only one book of poems from 2012, this is the one to own.

If, on the other hand, you can afford a second book of poems this year, I also recommend Scott Douglass's Hard to Love. By way of contrast, while I owe Daniel Nathan Terry nothing, I owe Scott Douglass everything. As the owner of Main Street Rag Publishing Company, Douglass has published 4 of my books. Nevertheless, having established that my recommendations are based entirely on the quality of the poetry, I also recommend this book without guilt or doubt.

Douglass has been widely recognized for his skills in design, editing, publishing, and business. Hard to Love, however, makes clear that he is also an outstanding poet. Combining socio-political acumen and insight with significant portraits and narratives from working class America, these poems are always interesting and engaging as they clearly capture the essential personality of their author and demonstrate his mastery of poetic technique and both his recognition of and ability to involve his reader in the importance of the moment.

Of course, a proper best of the year list would include many more items, and I will mention, for those with still more money to spend on poetry, Malaika King Albrecht's What the Trapeze Artist Trusts (Press 53), Joseph Mills' Sending Christmas Cards to Huck & Hamlet (Press 53), and Mimi Herman's Logophilia (Main Street Rag) as additional books every best of the year library should include. But to make this list truly meaningful, I will stop with just that handful of recommendations – a list all can afford and none would be disappointed by.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Book

Shadows Trail Them Home, a continuation of the collaboration Pris Campbell and I undertook in The Nature of Attraction has just come out from Clemson University Press.

This larger version of the romance of Sara and Norman has all 28 of the poems from The Nature of Attraction along with 46 newer poems to fill out the story more completely, including many more poems that focus on "the boy" and the aftermath of the relationship.

The book won't be listed on Clemson's website until after the holidays, but anyone wanting a copy before then can order it directly from me ($15 plus $3 shipping) by emailing to

Here is what Ron Moran, author of The Jane Poems and Waiting, and Professor Emeritus at Clemson, says of the book: "Shadows Trail Them Home is an excellent and compelling novel in poetry, an important contribution to the cultural canon of American life, presented in an engaging but disturbing context. It needs to be read by a wide audience, not only those who have faced abuses as children, as the two main characters have, but also by a reading public that treasures poetry that fuses superior writing with major social issues."

There will be a book launch at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in Hickory, NC, from 2 to 4 on Saturday, January 26. Refreshments will be served, and everyone is welcome.