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Out of Over 400 Poems, James Applewhite Poetry Prize Winner Announced 

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The North Carolina Literary Review (NCLR) received a record number of poetry submissions to the 2021 James Applewhite Poetry Prize competition: 416 poems by 117 poets. NCLR Editor Margaret Bauer reports that this year’s participation exceeds all previous years, even 2019’s almost 350 poems by just over 100 poets.

Final judge Catherine Carter selected “Why We Fished” by Michael Loderstedt as the winner of the 2021 prize. Loderstedt will receive $250, and his poem will be published in the 2022 print issue of NCL R . Carter said about her selection, “I appreciated this poem’s specificity about concrete details—the shapes and stamps of the sinkers, the names of the lures, the cast net in the plastic bucket—but also its understanding of what less-tangible things were being fished for. I loved the way the poem ended with the word ‘lot,’ with its rich ambiguity and biblical echoes. This struck me as a poem in the vein of Philip Levine’s work on work, using exact particulars to evoke a long, desperate struggle ‘to be / away . . . for something larger than / this place, this lot.’” 

Michael Loderstedt is Professor Emeritus of Kent State University where he taught printmaking and photography. He explores new studio and writing projects that investigate the geography, histories, or natural phenomena of place. He received an Ohio Arts Council Fellowship in Non-Fiction Literature for his book, The Yellowhammer’s Cross (PHOTOcentric, 2020). His work has been published in Neighborhood Voices, and he has written for The Land and CAN. His visual work can also be found in the public collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Akron Art Museum, the Kupferstich-Kabinett in Dresden, Germany, and others. Loderstedt has completed international artist residencies at the Frans Masereel Centrum and at AIR Antwerpen in Belgium, Grafikwerkstatt in Germany, and the Vermont Studio Center, among others. The poet/artist grew up on the Outer Banks, a region that continues to inspire his art and now his poetry. He attended East Carolina University, where he took poetry writing workshops with Harriot College Distinguished Professor Emeritus Peter Makuck. Loderstedt had a second poem make it to the final round of the competition: “The Eye” will be published in NCLR Online in 2022. NCLR will feature his photography with both poems. 

Final judge Catherine Carter is a Professor of English at Western Carolina University, a poetry editor for Cider Press Review, and the Jackson County regional representative for the North Carolina Writers’ Network. She won NCLR’s James Applewhite Poetry Prize in 2018. She has also been the recipient of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Society’s Roanoke-Chowan Award, the North Carolina Writers’ Network’s Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition, Jacar Press’s chapbook contest, Still’s poetry prize, and the North Carolina Poetry Society’s poet laureate’s prize. Her work has appeared in such prestigious venues as Best American Poetry, Orion, Poetry, Ecotone, Tar River Poetry, Cortland Review, and Ploughshares. Her most recent poetry collection, Larvae of the Nearest Stars, was reviewed in the 2021 issue of NCLR Online

Carter also picked “You Laugh” by Allen Tullos for second place, saying, “It’s very taut and concise, and it’s got some wonderfully interesting, unexpected, jaggy language. Tullos, who received his master’s degree in folklore from UNC Chapel Hill, lives in Dacatur, GA. Carter chose “Why I Believe Confession Booths are Bathrooms” by Janis Harrington for third place, “another poem with excellent details . . . which meditates on innocence in a very convincing child’s voice.” Harrington is a Chapel Hill resident; this is the second year in a row she has been a finalist in this contest. Finally, Carter noted “Dawn on the Watermen’s Dock” by Paul Jones for Honorable Mention due to its “clear sense of ‘others’—not only the watermen, but the otters ‘thanking and cursing / their otter gods’ for a pompano head and a cormorant drying its wings.” Jones, too, has been a finalist previously. All of these poems will be published in the 2022 print issue next summer. With funding from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, NCLR will award $100 for second and third place and $50 for honorable mention. 

The other finalists in this year’s competition are “Flower of Zeus” by J.S. Absher, “Ghazal: Reflection” and “We Think of Night as Still” by Lavonne Adams, “Take Jesus, for Example” by S.L. Cockerille, “J.J.–1985” by Sandra Dreis, “Mixed Messages, a Southern Childhood” by Sylvia Freeman, “Gannets” by Bill Griffin, “More Than a Haircut” by Gwen Holt, “Why I Flinch at the Thought of Daylight Squandered” by Justin Hunt, “Borrowed Light” by Kelly Jones, “Child-Bearing Hips” by Melissa LaCross, “Confederate Memorial Day” by Priscilla Melchior, “Betrayal” and “Take Away, Please, the Earth-Toned Condos” by Charles Murray, “In the Botanical Garden” by Daynne Romine Powell, “Cherry Hymnal” and “Ladder” by Benjamin Pryor, “Clichés” by Mark Smith-Soto, “Dance ‘Mr. Sexy Man’ When I Die, He Asked” by C.G. Thompson, “In Memoriam” by Eric Weil, and “Wintering” by Charles Dodd White. The finalists selected for publication will appear in the 2022 issues of NCLR Online, and the poets will receive $25 for each poem published. 

A two-year subscription to NCLR will include the 2022 issue, featuring the 2021 contest honorees, and the recently published 2021 issue, with the honorees from last year’s contest. Find subscription information here.###

 2021 Competition statistics: 
15% of total poems submitted, 41% of poets went to a second round (semifinalists)
6% of total poems submitted, 18% of poets made it to final round (finalists and honorees)

Click here for information about the James Applewhite Poetry Prize competition.
The annual deadline for submission is April 30.