Friday, March 27, 2015

Poetry Out Loud Statewide Finals

    This year’s statewide Poetry Out Loud poetry recitation competition produced another memorable set of performances that reaffirmed the value of this annual program.
    I was again fortunate to be asked to participate as one of five judges for this year’s competition. The day is a moving experience that offered the excitement of competition as well as a moving aesthetic experience.
    The annual Poetry Out Loud program, sponsored nationally by The Poetry Foundation and in Ohio with additional support from the Ohio Arts Council, is a showcase of both talent and poetry’s ability to explore human experience.
    Held in Columbus at the beautiful Lincoln Theater on March 7, the event brought together students and their high school coaches from throughout the state. Sarah Binau of Bexley High School edged out last year’s statewide winner, Lake Hilburn of Columbus Centennial, to take first place and advance to the national competition in Washington, DC, on April 28–29.
    Sarah placed fifth last year, and Lake went on to place second nationally in 2014.
    The judges work from a set of guidelines to assess each participant’s presentation, but evaluating any type of performance admittedly has subjective elements. Each judge may see a given performance slightly differently, including in such areas as presence and difficulty of the poem selected by the student from a list of classic and contemporary poems that is revised annually. That range of five viewpoints, along with additional evaluation of accuracy, assures a more balanced set of scores.
    Poetry Out Loud is not a performance competition. It is a recitation, and although limited dramatic gestures are allowed, overdoing the performance angle can be costly. This limitation forces participants to focus on the poem itself, to find a way to embody the voice of a poem’s speaker and the soul of its content, rather to rely on a more individualized or personal delivery.
    Listening to these impressive students, I heard and felt a number of familiar poems in ways I had not experienced them before. For that alone, aside from witnessing the culmination of what had been months of intense and careful work on the part of the competitors and their coaches, Poetry Out Loud offers a revelation and reminder that both readers and writers of poetry are channels—vessels, vehicles—for something more than ideas or feelings or opinions, that the attention that the writing and reading of (and yes, listening to) good poetry demands is in truth a path to some form of self-discovery, often surprising and never insignificant.
    I suggest that all OPA members consider attending the statewide competition next year, which is likely to be the first weekend in March. I guarantee a rewarding experience that will remind you how important it is for a reader/speaker to truly own a poem in the way that nothing but memorization can allow.
    For more information about Poetry Out Loud, visit

Steve Abbott

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ohio Author Wins Prestigious Poetry Prize

ASHLAND, Ohio – Angie Estes, an Ashland University faculty member in the low residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, has won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for best book of poems published in the previous year.
“That is fantastic news for Angie and Ashland University,” said AU Interim Provost Dr. Douglas Fiore.  “This speaks not only to Angie Estes's work, but to the quality of our entire MFA program.”

Dr. Stephen Haven, director of AU’s MFA program, agreed. “This is a huge achievement for Angie – it is the biggest cash prize in the U.S. for a book of poems -- and a reflection of the type of writers we have hired for the MFA faculty here at Ashland University,” Haven said.

“Our faculty members in both poetry and nonfiction have won major national prizes, and we just hired equally talented and accomplished fiction writers for the faculty, one of whom Celeste Ng – just had her 2014 novel selected by Amazon editors as a Best Book of the Year, one of 20 books on that list,” Haven noted.

Estes, who won the award for her book Enchantée (Oberlin College Press), will receive her award at a ceremony to be held April 16 at Rose Hills Theatre in Smith Campus Center on the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. 

“The unprecedented number of submissions this year represents a wide range of poetic voices and visions,” said Wendy Martin, director of the Tufts Poetry Awards and professor of American literature at CGU. “The competition was fierce, and the selection of the winning books was especially challenging. This gives us great confidence that contemporary American poetry is vital and thriving.”

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, which is offered through the Claremont Graduate University, is among the world’s most generous and distinguished prizes for books of poetry. The award is given annually for a book by a poet who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career. The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, now in its 23rd year, was established at Claremont Graduate University by Kate Tufts to honor the memory of her husband, who held executive positions in the Los Angeles Shipyards and wrote poetry as his avocation.

Estes is the author of five books, most recently Enchantée (Oberlin College Press, 2013) and Tryst (Oberlin College Press, 2009), which was selected as one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitizer Prize. Her previous book, Chez Nous, also from Oberlin, appeared in 2005. Her second book, Voice-Over (Oberlin College Press, 2002) won the 2001 FIELD Poetry Prize and also was awarded the 2001 Alice Fay di Castagnola Prize from the Poetry Society of America. Her first book, The Uses of Passion (1995), was the winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize.

The recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize and the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Estes has received fellowships, grants and residencies from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the American Academy in Rome, the Lannan Foundation, the California Arts Council, the MacDowell Colony and the Ohio Arts Council.

[Taken from the
Ashland University press release]

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Student Award Offers Online Submissions, Excellent Publishing Opportunity

Ohio college/university students and poets have an excellent opportunity to get a chapbook published through the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS). Each year, as part of its slate of contests in the run up to the annual convention, the NFSPS includes a chapbook competition open to college poets. Two manuscripts are chosen as winners and receive publication, a cash prize, copies of the published work, a chance to read at the annual convention, and a stipend to attend the convention.

OPA encourages all Ohio poets who currently attend college as an undergraduate to submit their work. For more information and a bit of clarification, see the note from the NFSPS College/University Competition Chair, Shirley Blackwell, below. Or visit the competition web page at

Dear State Presidents,

The 2015 annual NFSPS College/University Level Poetry Competition has a new twist, in that students will be able to submit their manuscripts either in electronic form through, the publishing industry's top submissions manager, or on paper, as they have in the past.

The contest opens on January 1, when the Submittable system will become available online and those sending hard copy manuscripts can mail their packages (postmarked no earlier than January 1). The electronic submission system will be in operation January 1 through February 14 only, and paper submissions must be postmarked during that same period.

Two award recipients will be announced by April 19, 2015. Winners receive $500 plus publication of their manuscript as a chapbook, which will be printed in time for the June 2015 NFSPS Convention. Each winner is also given 75 copies of the chapbook to sell at the Convention or elsewhere, or to give to friends and family. Recipients are invited to read from their work at the NFSPS Convention and offered a $300 stipend to offset travel expenses to that event.

Please help spread the word about this exceptional opportunity for undergraduate student poets. Encourage eligible friends or family to enter, and inform college or university teachers of creative writing about this program. We will rely heavily on word-of-mouth advertising until we can gauge the response to this new approach. We anticipate more entries with this new opportunity for electronic submission, so we are not advertising this year on the national stage. However, we want to make sure none of the states with NFSPS affiliates are left out, and you are our best ambassadors.

Anyone with questions about the competition is welcome to email me at

Thank you all so much for promoting this worthy program and giving our up and coming poets the recognition and honor that will inspire their entire poetic careers.

Shirley Blackwell

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sincerest Thanks to OPA Members and Volunteers

Last Sunday evening, I attended the Peripatetic Poets 3rd Annual “Giving in Gratitude” All Open-Mic event in Columbus. What a terrific evening filled with music and poetry. Held at the Global Gallery Café in Clintonville, the house was packed and hosts Susan Hendrickson and Paula Lambert led the celebration.

Music was performed by Paula’s family (husband Mike, son Christopher, and daughters Alexandra and Mikaela). Guests brought non-perishable food goods and personal hygiene items to be donated to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. The energy was so positive. (And I have to note that Global Gallery’s mulled spice hot apple cider is fantastic!)

Ultimately though, this evening was about giving—not just to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, but to each other by sharing our poetry and music, our creativity, with one another. And in this season of giving, I think it’s most appropriate to begin by giving thanks.

In that vein, I want offer my sincerest thanks to those who have made OPA what it is today—a vibrant, growing organization that seeks to lift up and support Ohio poets. My appreciation extends to our officers, chairpersons, volunteers, and especially to our members: OPA continues to accomplish great things because of you. And finally to all Ohio poets and those who run the many coffee houses, open-mics, and reading series throughout the state: Thank you for sharing your time, energy, ideas, and your creativity.

As we head into the holiday season, my sincerest wishes to all of you for a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends, family, and fellow poets.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

2014 Fall Retreat Recap

"Whether we like it or not, we all come from someplace. And at some point in our lives, we have to make peace with that place." This quote from Jeffrey Stepakoff (from The Orchard), one of several shared by workshop leader Diane Kendig last weekend, established the theme for the recent OPA Fall Writers Retreat at Malabar Farm.

And this year's fall retreat reinforced for me why these events are my favorite that OPA sponsors. There are few places in Ohio that will move you--and give you room to move--to write. And how fitting Diane chose to lead workshops focused on poems of place, inspire also by her latest book, The Places We Find Ourselves.

On day 1, the weekend challenged all in attendance to explore, through their poems, places they'd never written about--first by creating a list of those places and then approaching the poem with one of three focuses:
  1. Through meaningful description--making the place come alive.
  2. Exploring the significance of the place.
  3. Using the place as a setting for a poem.
After sharing the poems and discussion the night moved into social time with food, wine, a bonfire, and as always, good conversation.

A fourth approach to poems of place was discussed on day 2, where poets tackled a new place poem by combining or juxtaposing two places. The choice was ours whether to write about the same place from day 1 or to choose a new place.

But whether this place or that, every poem presented different challenges, forcing the poet often to reach deep into memory for those smallest of details that carry significance of place in our lives. 

For myself, two poems drafted warrant further exploration, fleshing out new details new description. But I think it's safe to say everyone found something to carry home--and to carry them home--wherever and whenever that home might be found.

--Chuck Salmons

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ohio Poetry Day 2014 Events

Troy Hayner Cultural Center, 301 W Main Street, Troy, OH 45373

Friday Evening, October 24 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Evening Workshops
& Overnight Contests

Saturday Morning, October 25 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Evan Lodge Memorial
Poetry Workshop
One dollar Admission

Saturday Noon, October 25 Lunch
Box lunch will be provided –
Contact Amy Zook to prepay:
Amy Jo Zook
3520 State Rte. 56
Mechanicsburg, OH 43044

Saturday Afternoon, October 25 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Readings by the Ohio
Co-Poets of the Year
& Contest Winners

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ohio Poetry Day Announces 2014 Co-Poets of the Year

An Announcement from Ohio Poetry Day 2014:

The 2014 Ohio Co-Poets of the Year, Dzvinia Orlowsky, (of Marshfield, Massachusetts) and David Lee Garrison (of Dayton, Ohio) have been named by the Ohio Poetry Day Association.

This award has been given annually since 1976 to a poet or poets on the basis of a book published in the previous year or two years.  The award consists of a money prize, an honorarium as speaker, and a plaque commemorating the event.  In addition, a poem by each poet will be included at the beginning of the Ohio Poetry Day 2014 prize poems collection, Best of 2014.

For 2014, Orlowsky's collection is Silvertone and Garrison's is Playing Bach in the D.C. Metro.  The winners are invited to speak and to read from their work at Ohio Poetry Day, which will be observed on October 24 - 25 at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center in Troy, Ohio.