Posted in news, Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize

Noah Davis wins the 2019 (Emerging) Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize

noah-davis

Noah Davis, an MFA candidate in poetry at Indiana University, has been selected by George Ella Lyon as the winner of the 2019 (Emerging) Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize for his collection Of This River.

About Of This River, Lyon said, “Both mythic and rooted, the poems in Of This River  arrive full of bear and deer, blood and muck. Their beauty is taut, tough, unsparing, like the lives of the people who inhabit this Pennsylvania land. Short-Haired Girl dives, hits her head on a rock, drowns. Lovers are sliced by a train. Meanwhile, life goes relentlessly on: coyote speaks about love for his brother, snapping turtle tells of his loneliness, grandma fries up snapping turtle meat for her grandkids standing by the stove. Of This River testifies to the way all life, for good or ill, is interwoven. We need this visionary voice.”

Davis has won a Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellowship from the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, as well as the Jean Ritchie Appalachian Literature Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University. His poetry has been published in Orion, North American Review, The Hollins Critic, Atlanta Review, Water~Stone Review, and Chautauqua among others. Davis has received Pushcart Prize nominations for poetry from both Poet Lore and Natural Bridge. His prose has been published in Sou’wester, Kestrel, Chariton Review, The Fly Fish Journal, Anglers Journal, The Drake, Fly Fishing & Tying Journal, and American Angler.

Davis will receive a $1,000 prize, and publication in 2020.

Finalists for this sixth round are 89% by Sarah Cooper, The Pirate Anne Bonny Consults the GPS by Dorsey Craft, Nothing is Always Moving by Nicole Robinson, and What You Call Falling by Yeskah Rosenfeld.

Established in 2016, Wheelbarrow Books is an imprint of the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU, with publication and distribution by the MSU Press. The Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize is awarded to one emerging and one established poet annually.

 

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Posted in news

MSU Professor Laura Apol named Lansing Poet Laureate

“Passing of the Laurels” celebration set for Friday, May 3, at 5 p.m. in Lansing’s Old Town

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Professor Laura Apol (courtesy photo)

Source: LEAP

LANSING, Mich. – The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University and the Lansing Poetry Club, are proud to announce the appointment of Laura Apol as the second regional Lansing Poet Laureate. As Poet Laureate, Laura will engage the tri-county region in the literary arts to promote poetry as an art form, expand access to the literary arts, connect the community to poetry and showcase poetry as a literary voice that contributes to a greater sense of place, which supports the attraction of global talent and business.

“The appointment of a poet laureate is both symbolic and tangible—an element that speaks to the value of this region’s place; connecting arts and cultural experiences into daily life—most certainly an amenity that draws and keeps talent in the region,” said Bob Trezise, President and CEO of LEAP. “The past two years with the inaugural Lansing Poet Laureate were wildly successful, and we are eager to see how Laura uses her expertise to connect our region to the world through poetry.”

This new appointment of the Lansing Poet Laureate will continue to stimulate the transformative impact of poetry, creating excitement about the written and spoken word. The Lansing Poet Laureate will serve as an ambassador for poetry within the region for a 2-year appointment and will receive a $2,000 per year stipend from LEAP.

Laura is a longtime Lansing resident and associate professor of literacy and curriculum at Michigan State University’s College of Education. “It’s an honor to be selected as the incoming poet laureate, and I’m looking forward to working with area poets to bring poetry into areas where perhaps it’s something new,” she said. “Poems are about community—they connect us to one another. So much of a place, and people in a place, can be expressed and understood through poetry. I’d love for poetry to be part of the everyday life of the community, so that poems are encountered in unexpected places, and so people who don’t consider themselves to be poets find themselves enjoying poems and perhaps even writing some lines.”

With this appointment, the Lansing Poet Laureate will offer instructional workshops and readings with the public, working to engage all 3 counties within greater Lansing.

“I’m delighted that Laura will be our new Poet Laureate and will work within our communities to help us create poetry that explores the fabric of our lives and our deep connection to this region,” said Ruelaine Stokes, president of the Lansing Poetry Club.

“Here at the RCAH Center for Poetry, we’re thrilled to see Laura as Lansing Poet Laureate. The selection process was robust, with many excellent choices,” said Laurie Hollinger, assistant director for the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU. “In the end, Laura’s stature as both a nationally renowned poet and her passion for poetry made her the best fit for this role. She will inspire future poets laureate, and I’m excited for our region to have such a gift.”

The community is invited to a celebration of the “Passing of the Laurel” from inaugural Lansing Poet Laureate Dennis Hinrichsen to Laura Apol, who will now follow in his footsteps. The event, which will include a reading by both poets, will take place Friday, May 3, 2019, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. during Arts Night Out in Old Town. This welcoming event will take place at Urban Beat, 1213 Turner Street in Old Town Lansing and will feature a meet and greet with the poet laureates and the project partners.

 

Nothing Begins with Us

By Laura Apol
—not this story or any other.

Andromeda
does not slow her dizzying spin

nor does a field of wheat wait. We catch our plane

in flight; below us, time
fades like a prim border of pines while the sky opens wide as god’s blue eye.

We have far to go, navigating between stars that appear only after dark. The secret names

we were given at birth are cradled in our curved hands.

It is a magic

world now, and we are at
the center, our own lives the map,

our words the edge of a knife we are just beginning to hone.

 

 

 

About LEAP

 

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is a coalition of area leaders partnering to build a stronger community for all–working every day to grow, retain and attract business. Learn more about LEAP at www.purelansing.com

Posted in news

First Book Spine Poetry Contest a Success

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“The Boat of Quiet Hours,” built by Cindy Hunter Morgan as inspiration for our first Book Spine Poetry Contest.

 

While you might not be able to judge a book by its cover, it turns out that you can craft poetry with several covers. That’s what friends and followers of the RCAH Center for Poetry learned when they entered our first ever Book Spine Poetry Contest.

The contest, initiated by interim director Cindy Hunter Morgan, challenges readers to build a poem using lines consisting of book titles. Contestants were tasked with choosing 3-7 books, arranging them in such a way as to display the titles to be read as lines of poetry, and submitting a photo of the constructed poem for consideration.

With 46 entries submitted by 26 people from around the U.S., it was difficult choosing only one winner. Cindy suggested narrowing the widely varied and highly eclectic field down to ten finalists.

In the end, Stephen Rachman, a professor in the MSU Department of English, won with his entry, “Underworld.”

IMG_4034“Underworld,” winner of the Book Spine Poetry Contest, built by Stephen Rachman.

About the winning entry, Cindy shared these comments:

“Underworld,” built by Steve Rachman, is the only entry that uses one book (Underworld) to function visually and formally as a title for the poem that follows, and “Underworld,” as that title, serves as an effective set up for the poem. We love the multiple, simultaneous possibilities of meaning in this poem, and we’re all a little worried about this woman. We wish her well on her journey, and we send congratulations to Steve, who constructed something haunting and evocative with this stack of books.

Cindy had this to say about our finalists:

The nine other entries we’ve listed as finalists are not listed in any particular order. We love these poems for various reasons: vivid imagery, wild juxtaposition, a sense of surprise, use of metaphor, or a kind of philosophical statement the “builder” is able to make with very few moves. We’ve also listed one “Special Mention” poem, which did not meet the requirements of the contest (a minimum of three titles) but feels important and significant because of its message. This “Special Mention” poem was submitted by RCAH Director of Communications Morris Arvoy. Thank you for this poem, Moe.

 

To view all 46 entries, visit our Flickr Page.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “for the poets who gather here,” by Grace Carras

The RobinThe Robin Theatre in Lansing’s REO Town neighborhood, and home to The Poetry Room. Photo by The Poetry Room

This week’s poem is by our own Grace Carras, currently in her third year as an intern here at the RCAH Center for Poetry, and co-founder (with Masaki Takahashi) of The Poetry Room, a wildly popular open mic now in its second year. We’re celebrating Grace this week in light of the news that she is the winner of the 2019 Ritzenheim Emerging Poet Award (administered by the Lansing Poetry Club and judged this year by Robert Vivian of Alma College), which includes publication of a chapbook of her poems by Finishing Line Press. For now, you can also find this poem down the street from the Robin Theatre, etched in the sidewalk at the northeast corner of South Washington Ave. and East South Street.

 

for the poets who gather here

with thanks to The Poetry Room and The Robin Theatre

 

this is for you,

who overcome the trembling

dance of your own pulse

to blossom in the stage light.

you, who dig your roots in deep

and sprout from rock bottom.

go forth and devour, you

conquerors of concrete,

who put the we in weeds,

you brilliant bouquets of breath;

i’ve seen you carry explosions

in your mouths.

you hungry poets,

i’m in love

with the shrapnel of your bravery,

with the way you become the light

that you need to grow.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “I Remember the Carrots,” by Ada Limón

carrotCenter for Poetry graduate fellow Alecia Beymer said this about this week’s choice: “I chose this poem for a number of reasons: I’m taken by the promise in the first line; I don’t know exactly what the poem means or even endeavors to mean and I’m grateful for that uncertainty; I have begun to repeat the line, ‘Why must we practice / this surrender?’ over and over again as if the resuscitation will yield a quenchable answer. I think I am always negotiating the space where this poem was written, ‘I haven’t given up’ and ‘I still want.’ I’ve always been enamored by Limón’s poetic move of renaming and the conjuring of the confession; she makes a swift, but gentle turn towards the end, ‘What I mean is:’ and there we have it, our ears pressed to the page, ready and waiting for someone to tell us just how and why we practice this day-to-day surrender? Never knowing what truly compelled us into the predicament in the first place. Also, I love her book Bright Dead Things and cannot recommend it enough. She also has another book out entitled, The Carrying. I am only halfway through and already on the floor.”

 

I Remember the Carrots

by Ada Limón

I haven’t given up on trying to live a good life,
a really good one even, sitting in the kitchen
in Kentucky, imagining how agreeable I’ll be –
the advance of fulfillment, and of desire –
all these needs met, then unmet again.
When I was a kid, I was excited about carrots,
their spidery neon tops in the garden’s plot.
And so I ripped them all out. I broke the new roots
and carried them, like a prize, to my father
who scolded me, rightly, for killing his whole crop.
I loved them: my own bright dead things.
I’m thirty-five and remember all that I’ve done wrong.
Yesterday I was nice, but in truth I resented
the contentment of the field. Why must we practice
this surrender? What I mean is: there are days
I still want to kill the carrots because I can.

 

 

“I Remember the Carrots” by Ada Limón, from Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ada Limón.

Posted in news

Founder Anita Skeen featured in MSU Today

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Anita Skeen, founder of the RCAH Center for Poetry, in full Ravenclaw regalia.

We were thrilled to find this February 11 story in MSU Today about our beloved founder, Anita Skeen.

Click this link to read more about Anita’s fascinating journey from Appalachia to East Lansing, and her campaign to start our Center for Poetry.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Miscegenation,” by Natasha Trethewey

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Center for Poetry intern Elizabeth Sauter says this about her choice this week:

“I chose this poem by Natasha Trethewey in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day on January 21.  Majoring in political science due to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird has led me to have a renewed passion for advocating for better racial equality in American society.  As we reflect on what Reverend King achieved this week, may we also reflect on how to better our country for all Americans.”

 

Miscegenation

~ Natasha Trethewey

 

In 1965 my parents broke two laws of Mississippi;

they went to Ohio to marry, returned to Mississippi.

 

They crossed the river into Cincinnati, a city whose name

begins with a sound like sin, the sound of wrong—mis in Mississippi.

 

A year later they moved to Canada, followed a route the same

as slaves, the train slicing the white glaze of winter, leaving Mississippi.

 

Faulkner’s Joe Christmas was born in winter, like Jesus, given his name

for the day he was left at the orphanage, his race unknown in Mississippi.

 

My father was reading War and Peace when he gave me my name.

I was born near Easter, 1966, in Mississippi.

 

When I turned 33 my father said, It’s your Jesus year—you’re the same

age he was when he died. It was spring, the hills green in Mississippi.

 

Natasha Trethewey, “Miscegenation” from Native Guard. Copyright © 2007 by Natasha Trethewey.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The Older Man,” by Karin Gottshall

baked pears

“I chose this poem because I admire Karin Gottshall’s use of language throughout all of her poems, but this one in particular feels extremely comforting to me. The lines “Your apartment,/dim and small, was in a neighborhood redolent/of cinnamon.” is so unique and such an interesting way of describing a location. I thought this poem was perfect for a day in January because it speaks of such cozy, intimate moments. It’s just something you need on a cold day, like a little pick-me-up. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!”

– RCAH Center for Poetry Intern, Estee Schlenner

 

White-on-white like tumbled

sheets, the crumpled paper. It was autumn;

I spent hours sketching the dancers

in the Degas galleries. Five times

a day I heard the docent say Degas portrayed

his dancers, his bathers like unthinking

animals—but I was in love

with their arched backs, the blatant pleasures

and fidgets of the body in use. Your apartment,

dim and small, was in a neighborhood redolent

of cinnamon. I was clunky in corduroy

and wool as you tenderly unwound

my scarf each night; it seemed your cat

would never leave off worshipping

my ankles. You unbuttoned

my heavy coat, received my load of books,

and set before me, once, a baked pear—rich

with brown sugar, sweet

butter, redundant with spice. I ate it

ravenously, that exotic food.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Burning the Old Year,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Center for Poetry intern, Amy Potchen, tells us why she chose this poem: “This poem only seems fitting for the beginning of the year. It serves as a reminder that a new year brings new beginnings. I enjoy the artful thought of being able to burn monotonous parts of the old year.”

Burning the Old Year

BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

 

So much of any year is flammable,   

lists of vegetables, partial poems.   

Orange swirling flame of days,   

so little is a stone.

 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   

only the things I didn’t do   

crackle after the blazing dies.

 

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The Trace of Hope from Lock 29: Advent 2018,” by David Adams

Dust Rays

 

The Trace of Hope from Lock 29*: Advent 2018

~David Adams

 

He shuffles through December rain that is waiting to be snow,

waiting to be darkness. The river winds and bubbles,

today its power more a rumble than a roar.

He stands before the remnants of the lock that lifted

the canal boats high across the river’s coils.

 

If he were not alone, someone might hear him whisper

“The river is a path, the canal is a path, and then

the water’s voices, too.” All paths that lead

to last night’s dream, with his question to

a cloud above his bed: How am I to love all things

laid before me at this age of counting losses, in such a world as this?

Lovers, friends and creatures—all consigned to memories.

Hopefulness has always been his answer,

but now the favored scripture passes from his lips

like a habit worn out from its use.

Lord I believe…

 

They built this canal to tame the waters,

but no water is ever tamed for good.

The canals fell to the rails, that fell to roads,

that swelled to highways. Each chance buried in another’s hope.

In any case he is standing here alone, once the hope of two,

waiting at the mossy lock as if it were a sepulcher.

 

Long ago, in a time of sorrow, a country pastor

told him “Think of the present imperfect.

Be emptying your hopes of everything but hope.

Figure it out. You will be okay.”

 

He remembers two years ago exactly,

Driving back down Riverview, dazzled

by sunlight slanting through a stand of cedars

Like a fold of angels. But that was then.

Now the rain has found its temperature.

In the darkness graupel dances on his hood

and in his lights, sparking in the darkness.

He is drifting to the boy in the back seat

of a Mercury, staring at the Christmas lights,

his breath a halo on the glass, the soft voices of assurance.

The snow becoming fire, becoming stars.

He is thinking he will be okay.

 

 

*A note to my distant friends. Lock 29 on the old Ohio & Erie Canal was actually an aqueduct that raised the canal boats above the bending stretch of the Cuyahoga River at the village of Peninsula, Ohio. Remnants of the old lock remain, and I have visited many times. For some reason, Lock 29 called to me as a site for this year’s poem. You might think it an odd place to seek hopefulness, but I have found all such places to appear odd choices, at least at first.