Sidney Lanier Award Poetry Competition winners

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Lanier Library was bursting at the seams on Sunday when the winners of the 2010 Sidney Lanier Award Poetry Competition were announced by Frances Flynn, the competitions organizer and Cathy Smith Bowers, the North Carolina Poet Laureate and the competitions judge. Following a presentation and reading by Bowers, many of the winners were on hand to read their winning poems.

With 133 entries from all over North and South Carolina, amazingly the winners of both the adult and student competitions were from Tryon. Nancy Pemberton won the first prize of $500 for her poem For Robo, Gone Away, and Ash Gray, a Polk County High School sophomore, won the first prize of $100 in the student competition for his poem Latent. Gray was a runner up in last years competition.

Other local poets to receive an honorable mention for their poems include Laurianne Ross of Columbus and last years winner, for her poem The Broken Black Umbrella, Harry Goodheart of Tryon for his poems Light Trick and When I Write Haiku, Eric Bundy of Tryon for Homesick, Elizabeth Watson of Flat Rock for Faux Fix and In Hot Water, and Michael Cass of Saluda for Survivors.

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Another town with a large representation among the winners was Florence, South Carolina, with Jo Angela Edwins winning second prize ($200) for Old Wives Tale, and Lillian McCarter Batarseh winning the third prize ($100) for Apostrophe to Catherine. Edwins also won an honorable mention for two other poems, Rock, Paper, Scissors and In Dreams. Michelle Ott of Florence won honorable mentions for her poems Gardenias and Tender Ritual, and Beverley Spears of Florence won an honorable mention for It Was Wayne. The winner of an honorable mention traveling furthest to attend Sundays award presentation was Joseph Taylor of Beaufort, South Carolina for his poem Missing.

One student, Saroush Shabazi of Greensboro, North Carolina, won both second and third prizes (totaling $75) in the student competition for his poems Of a Time In Keowa and A Story Goes. Saroush was unable to attend the ceremony because he was taking his SAT exams that day.

The following are the winning poems by Nancy Pemberton and Ash Gray.

For Robo, Gone Away

by Nancy Pemberton

February, 2007

Back in the day, you were death on deer,

Harrying them from the farm

With a voice like Gods bowling.

The neighbors were too distant then to hear

We didnt like them anyway

And so I let you go, knowing

You would return, always, to my whistle,

Your stubbed tail wrung with joy.

Old age crippled your passion

as it crooked your back.

Last night you didnt leave your pillow

When deer crept into the far gardens, lured by blueberries

Planted there that first, bad Spring.

Later I watched your body dream of them,

Paws spasming, the bell of your voice

A chuffled grunt of pain or loss.

Or both.


Home from the clinic, your collar tight against my own

Tear-brittled throat, I drag your bed into the barn, and drain

Away the medicines that couldnt make you stay.

Haddie haunts my footsteps, refusing food and

Consolation, refusing to believe.

Outside, deer gather in the winter pasture.

I step onto the deck and let the door bang hard behind me.

Godspeed, old man, I shout, and watch

The deer ballon across the fence line, legs

Tight against their chests, rigorous with fear.

Godspeed, the crows echo overhead, having forgotten

That you used to chase them, too.


by Ash Gray

Everything that enters this bed becomes a mother.

Even the dog seems maternal,

growling its bitch-growl behind my knees

as I rub the jar of flies

safe inside her gut.

Like a choking boy, a whimper pulls us back

and ties us together at the throat.

The knots cannot be undone.

I must forget about the friction,

the sand between bones,

the men who dont find their way home.

There is nothing we can do but sleep.