Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Brief Look at Ohio Poet of the Year

Nominations Now Being Accepted

Since 1976, the Ohio Poetry Day Association (founded in 1937 by authorization of the Ohio Legislature) has been naming annually an Ohio Poet of the Year, basing its choice on a book published in the previous one to two years. The award is based on the one book and not on an aggregation of work published over some time.

During the first several years, selection was made by the Poetry Day Board, acting as a committee of the whole. In the past 20 or so years, there has been a coordinator and a group of (lately) four judges, different each year, who are chosen to represent academic and non-academic outlooks, and to include generally an equal number of male and female judges, one of whom is a former Poet of the Year.

One variation is that in the 50th and 75th years of Poetry Day (the competition had not existed at the 25th year), instead of honoring an already-published book, the OPD Association has offered a contest for a chapbook manuscript and has published the winner, thus giving the award to a brand new book rather than one already extant.

Several rules govern for the poet and the book to qualify. First is that poets may not self-nominate, but their books can be offered by others: a publisher or editor, a college faculty or member thereof, a writers' or poets' organization, any other person of poetic standing in the state, or from the lists of books newly published that are put out by the Ohioana Library several times a year. The poet must be a native or a resident of Ohio, or if neither, must have lived in Ohio long enough to have formed serious ties to the state. (A list of former winners of Poet of the Year follows.)

The book nominated must be longer than a chapbook (i.e., more than 48 pages) and not a "collected" or "complete" works—the former because it gives too few poems to consider, and the latter because it is generally uneven in quality. The book may be from a commercial or university press or self-published, but it may not come from a vanity press. Books nominated will be screened for quality and to ensure that there are not too many of them for judges to consider. For example, one year there were eight nominations, and the judges complained at so many. Generally, the list is three to five books.

Nominations must be in to the coordinator by May 1 and can be sent to:

Amy Jo Zook
3520 State Route 56
Mechanicsburg, OH 43044

Previous awards or honors to the book are allowed. Poets who have previously been nominated may be so again, for a different book, but no one will be chosen a second time as Poet of the Year. Only one book is required to accompany the nomination, for all the books will be sent to the judges in a round-robin fashion and eventually returned to the coordinator when all votes have been submitted.

The person chosen as poet of the year will be notified in the late summer and invited to be the luncheon speaker at Ohio Poetry Day weekend in October. The award consists of $200 and a commemorative plaque, with one poem for the chosen book also being published in the year's BEST OF collection of general contest winners.

Ohio poets are writing and publishing great collections of poems. I encourage readers to submit their nominations soon.
- Amy Jo Zook

Previous Ohio Poets of the Year

Hallie Cramer
Muriel de Chambrun
Virginia Moran Evans
Cecil Hale Hartzell
Celia Dimmette
Novella Humphrey Davis
Daisy Lee Donaldson
Mary Oliver
James Magner, Jr.
James C. Kilgore
no award given
Charlotte Mann
Richard Hague
Michael J. Rosen
J. A. Totts
Timothy Russell
Amy Jo Schoonover
Robert Wallace
Bonnie Jacobson
David Baker
Debra Allbery
Grace Butcher
Frankie Paino
David Citino
Tom Andrews
Michael J. Bugeja
A Sprig of Bittersweet
Sudden Soring
To Seek the Sun
Song on the Anvil
Ocean Carry Us Far
There Was This Place
Surface Fragments
Twelve Moons
Till No Light Leaps
African Violet
Grape Pitcher
A Drink at the Mirage
Outside the Dream
The Possibility of Turning to Salt
New & Used Poems
The Common Summer
Stopping for Time
Sweet Home, Saturday Night
Walking Distance
Child, House, World
The Rapture of Matter
The Discipline
The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle
After Oz
Alberta Turner
Lou Suarez
William Matthews
James Cummins
Susan Grimm
Miriam Vermilya
Myrna Stone
Pauletta Hansel
Deanna Packard
Elton Glaser
Cathryn Essinger
Herbert W. Martin
David Hassler
Martha Collins
William Heyen
Stephen Haven
Terry Hermsen
Will Wells
George Looney
Linda Ann Schofield
Lianne Spidel
Dzvinia Orlowsky
David Lee Garrison
Jeff Gundy
Beginning With And
Losses of Moment
Time & Money
Portrait in a Spoon
Almost Home
The Art of Loss
ln Dreams We Kiss Ourselves Goodbye
Pelican Talks
My Dog Does Not Read Plato
Escape to the Promised Land
Red Kimono, Yellow Barn
Blue Front
The Confessions of Doc Williams
Dust and Bread
The River's Daughter
Unsettled Accounts
Open Between Us
Psalms of the Hood
What to Tell Joseme
Playing Bach in the D.C. Metro
Somewhere Near Defiance

Monday, February 1, 2016

Becca Lachman shares her Desert Island Books

After leading a terrific workshop in early January, poet Becca Lachman has sent us her list of desert-island poetry books—those must-haves that shape her life in many ways. She writes:

"To me, ‘desert island’ books means keeping my finger on the pulse of those poems and collections I need to look into my own life in order to encourage change, forgiveness, and transformation—basically, those major things that I often ache to see and read about in the larger world."

Not surprisingly, Lachman's list is emblematic of her respect and admiration for William Stafford. But all of the works here will strike chords deep within any reader.

"These are books that have changed me, have asked me to laugh more, and have asked me to look hard at my voice, privilege, and possibility," she says. "They are also books I keep going back to when I want to re-learn how to tell a story that matters through verse, a poem series, or even a table of contents."
  • Ask Me: Selected Poems, by William Stafford
  • Early Morning: Remembering my Father, William Stafford, by Kim Stafford
  • Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms and Poems by William Stafford, eds. Wixon and Merchant
  • Kyrie: Poems, by Ellen Bryant Voigt
  • Selected Rumi, Coleman Barks, translator
  • Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine
  • New & Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver
  • Dearest Creature, by Amy Gerstler
  • Ariel, by Sylvia Plath
  • The Dead and the Living, by Sharon Olds
  • Their Ancient Glittering Eyes, by Donald Hall (essays about poets and writers)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bibliography is Great Resource for Teaching Poetry to Young Writers

The deadline for the OPA Student Poetry Contests is just over a month away—January 15, 2016—and we hope our members and non-members will encourage their teenage children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and any high-school students in their lives to submit their poems to this free contest. But perhaps you’re unsure of how to get started.

Thanks to OPA members Sandy Feen and Rikki Santer, we can offer an annotated bibliography of some of their terrific books for inspiring the writing of poetry. If you know Sandy and Rikki, or have heard them read their work at any number of poetry venues and open-mics, then you know that they’re wonderful poets.

Both are also public high school teachers and creative writing instructors who are dedicated to the teaching of poetry in their own classrooms. And they’ve assembled the following annotated bibliography to aid others—such as teachers, parents, mentors—in working with young poets in creating their own poems.

We think you’ll find the bibliography to be an invaluable resource. Click here to download the bibliography [pdf].

For complete details on the student contests, click here. If you are interested in a poetry workshop geared for teachers of writing, please contact OPA for scheduling; email us at

Many thanks to Rikki and Sandy for taking the time to compile and share the bibliography.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Get Ready for a Great Year of OPA Events in 2016

As another year comes to an end, we reflect on events of the past twelve months but also on the year to come. And OPA has an exciting year of programming planned for 2016.

Our quarterly workshops will cover a wide range of poetry styles and topics. Becca Lachman will work with attendees to explore how poetry plays a role in our pursuit of peace, community, and social justice. And renowned artists John and Cathy Bennett will lead an exploration of the avant garde.

We also have a great slate of special events lined up. In February, we’ll continue our series of ekphrastic poetry workshops at the Toledo Museum with Cindy Bosley. And in the mid-June, riding the tide of a successful reading this past September, you can join OPA as it takes part in the Summer Solstice Celebration at Serpent Mound in Adams County, where we’ll again feature some of Ohio’s top poets and honor voices of the past.

Our writers’ retreats at Malabar Farm will feature two respected poets and educators. In May, we welcome Charlene Fix, professor emeritus at Columbus College of Art & Design. And in September, we welcome David Baker, professor at Denison University and poetry editor of The Kenyon Review. We highly recommend you join us in the beautiful surroundings of Pleasant Valley for a weekend of great poetry, food, and camaraderie.

As always, we’ll gather in July for our annual picnic featuring food and poetry. And when it comes to contests and submissions, members are encouraged to get those submissions in for our Ides of March Contest and Common Threads. Ohio students are encouraged to submit to our annual High School Poetry Contests as well. Finally, we encourage all Ohio poets and OPA members alike to submit to the forthcoming ekphrasticpoetry anthology.

A dedicated team of OPA leaders and volunteers are working hard to bring these dynamic programs to the community in 2016. In addition to hard work, it takes membership dues, small grants thanks to The Columbus Foundation (TCF), and additional donations from all of you who love poetry and want to see it thrive in Ohio.

As we approach Giving Tuesday on December 1, please consider the good work that OPA does to promote the art of poetry throughout Ohio and give what you can. No amount is too small. Most OPA events are offered free to the public, including our high school contests, and your donations help to make this possible.

So, in this season of giving, help OPA continue to grow and provide these great programs. To donate to OPA, you can send a check to:
Rinda Sansom
OPA Treasurer
1258 Scott Road
Mansfield, OH 44903

Or visit theTCF PowerPhilanthropy website here and search “Ohio Poetry Association” to donate.

The OPA leadership team thanks all its members and donors and The Columbus Foundation for continuing to help us bring great poetry events to Ohio. For full details on our programs, visit the OPA events page on our website. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

More photos from the Serpent Mound Reading, September 26, 2015

On September 26, 2015, The Ohio Poetry Association sponsored the “Voices from the Past,” reading at Serpent Mound State Memorial in conjunction with the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System (AAPS). You can read all about it by clicking this link. Here are some additional photos from that event taken by Kari Gunter-Seymour.

David and Guilda LaClerc Altman

Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson

Kari Gunter-Seymour

Connie Willett Everett

Steve Abbott

Kathleen Burgess

Jack Burgess

Mark Hersman

Kerry Trautman

Chuck Salmons

Friday, October 23, 2015

Neil Carpathios shares his Desert Island Books

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, at Otterbein College, Neil Carpathios provided those who attended the OPA quarterly business meeting and workshop an inspiring afternoon of poetry. His focus was on how to make your poems more original, and how to make them stand out in the crowd. 

Creating delightful, surprising poetry is something Carpathios does well. He has three books of poems:  Playground of Flesh (Main Street Rag), At the Axis of Imponderables (winner of the Quercus Review Press Book Award), and Beyond the Bones (FutureCycle Press). He also is the author of several award-winning chapbooks and recently was named the winner of the 2015 Slipstream Press Poetry Competition for his collection, The Function of Sadness, which will be published in autumn of 2015. 

In keeping with the dictum that says, to be a good writer you must be a good reader, we asked Carpathios to provide us with a list of the ten books he would take with him if he were stranded on a desert island. Here is his list. 

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez--"Masterpiece of magical realism exploring time, history, and family."
2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman--"Poems that celebrate the entirety of existence in the face of life's brevity."
3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius--"Self-reflections that convey the stoic philosophy."
4. The Oxford Book of Aphorisms--"Intellectual small bites to whet the mind's appetite."
5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard—"Memoiristic essays on the natural world, perception, and spirituality."
6. The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker--"Nonfiction psychological and philosophical exploration of death in all its facets."
7. Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges--Short tales and fables by the Argentine writer that convey the immensities of time, the supernatural elements inherent in existence, and the sheer relishing of mystery in the world.
8. Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert--"Emotionally honest poems of passion for love, the erotic, the life of solitude and the mind."
9. New and Selected Poems (1962-2012) by Charles Simic--"Darkly humorous poems that turn the ordinary upside down and allow the reader to see alternate realities in the everyday."
10. Selected Poems of Rumi--"Mystical poems by the great Persian poet."

© 2015 The Ohio Poetry Association

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Outstanding Students Shine in the Ohio Poetry Association Contest

In a recent article in The Atlantic, titled,  “Why Teaching Poetry is so Important,” Andrew Simmons wrote,
"Poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes.

Sara Abou Rashed, OPA Grand Prize winner in the 2014-15 
contests reads  her poetry at the annual picnic. Sara is from 
Centennial High School.  Her teacher was Sarah E. Barry.
The Ohio Poetry Association has long recognized the value of encouraging young people to participate in poetry.  For the past thirty-three years, we have been sponsoring an annual student poetry contest. This year’s contest brings opportunities for prizes and publication across ten categories such as poetry of place, of family, ekphrastic poetry, and poetry that celebrates women.  A grand prize winner will be published in Common Threads, OPA’s poetry journal and have an opportunity to read their poem at a public gathering. Ten eligible winners' poems will be sent on to the Manningham Trust Student Poetry Contest sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Submissions are currently being accepted until January 15, 2016.

The OPA contest is open to any student in grades 9–12 in public schools, private and faith-based schools, and home schooled students in Ohio. There is no entry fee. For complete guidelines and a list of all the categories, check out the OPA website. 

Sandra Feen, who teaches English 10 and Creative Writing at Briggs High School in Columbus, has encouraged her students to participate for several years. She says, "OPA provides high school contests that appeal to students of all demographics and engage an array of artistic palettes. My students look forward to all of the contest choices each year and see it as a privilege to submit to a quality literary organization such as the Ohio Poetry Association, where they know their work will be thoughtfully considered and revered."
Michael Rainwater placed third in the Manningham
competition last year. Michael is home schooled by his
mother, Holli Rainwater.
The success of the contest depends upon getting information about it to high schools and high school teachers across the state. We will be contacting schools with mailings and flyers; but, if you know of a high school aged student, please let them know about the contest and encourage them to participate. If you know a teacher, please inform them of the contest as well. It is often through the encouragement of teachers like Sandra Feen, that a young person first comes to poetry. 

© 2015 The Ohio Poetry Association