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
Maggie Smith
Kathy Fagan
Susan Glassmeyer
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
The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison
Invisible Fish

NOTE: This article was edited on March 19, 2019 to include the winners for 2016-2018.

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)