Lanier Library starts poetry competition to honor Sidney Lanier

Published 4:07 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sidney Lanier

Born in 1842 in Macon, Georgia, Sidney Lanier was a man of considerable talent. As a young child he learned to play several musical instruments with little or no instruction, mastering both the violin and the flute. His interest in music led him to become a professional musician, becoming the first flutist at the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in Baltimore, and to compose several choral works for which he also wrote the words. And it is his words, in the form of poems, for which he became most famous both in his own lifetime and long afterwards.

After suffering tuberculosis for more than 15 years Sidney Lanier died in Lynn, where he came for relief from his sickness, on September 7, 1881. Following his death, his wife Mary, who was the editor of a collection of his works &dquo;Poems of Sidney Lanier,&dquo; gave some of his books to a book-lending club formed by a group of women in the then small hamlet of Tryon.

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The Lanier Club, which charged sixty cents a year for membership, at first housed its small collection of books in a book case that was placed in various locations, such as a church basement, the post office and several stores on Trade Street. The collection grew considerably over the next few years and eventually, in 1905, the Lanier Library was built as its permanent home. The Lanier Library still houses an historic collection of Lanier&squo;s works and memorabilia.



The Sidney Lanier Award Poetry Competition is open to poets from North and South Carolina whose poems have not been published in book form. There is a prize of $500 for the winner, who will also have the opportunity to present his or her work at Lanier Library. A second award, for high school students, carries a prize of $100.

The judge for the awards is Cathy Smith Bowers, a South Carolina native who now resides in Tryon. She is the author of three books of poems: &uot;The Love That Ended Yesterday in Texas: Poems,&dquo; &uot;Traveling in Time of Danger,&dquo; and &uot;A Book of Minutes: Poems.&dquo; Her work has also been included in numerous magazines and journals, including &uot;The Atlantic Monthly.&uot;


Poets residing in either North Carolina or South Carolina whose poems have not previously been published in book form, except for staff and members of the board and poetry award committee of the Lanier Library in Tryon.

How to submit entries

For each entry, submit two copies of a poem that is no more than five pages long; do not include your name or address on either copy. Attach to one copy of the poem a sheet of paper with your name, address, telephone number, and, if available, your email address.

Entrants for the Sidney Lanier Student Poetry Award should also include the name and address of their high school and their English teacher.

Poets may submit up to five entries. A check or money order of $10 made payable to The Lanier Library must accompany each entry. The fee for student entries is $5.


Entries must be received no later than February 15, 2009 and will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The awards will be announced during National Poetry Month, April 2009.

Please mail entries to: The Sidney Lanier Poetry Competition; The Lanier Library Association; 72 Chestnut Street; Tryon, N.C. 28782.

For more information about the Sidney Lanier Award or the Lanier Library, visit the library on the corner of Chestnut Street and Melrose Avenue in Tryon or its website at