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Award-Winning Poems: Fall 2016

Jendi Reiter

Welcome to my Fall 2016 selection of award-winning poems, highlights from our contest archives, and the best new resources we've found for writers. These quarterly specials are included with your free Winning Writers Newsletter subscription.
In this issue: "Déraison" and "Le fou" by Émile Nelligan, illustrated and translated by Julian Peters.
—Jendi Reiter, Editor

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Deadline: September 30
14th year. We will award the Tom Howard Prize of $1,500 for a poem in any style or genre, and the Margaret Reid Prize of $1,500 for a poem that rhymes or has a traditional style. Ten Honorable Mentions will receive $100 each (any style). The top 12 entries will be published online. Length limit: 250 lines per poem. Entry fee: $10 per poem. Final judge: S. Mei Sheng Frazier, assisted by Jim DuBois. Submit online here.


Award-Winning Poems Selected by Jendi Reiter

SO WILL THERE BE APPLES? and other poems
by Lucy Ingrams
Winner of the 2015 Manchester Writing Competition
Entries must be received by September 23
This contest from Manchester Metropolitan University is the UK's largest cash prize for unpublished poetry and short fiction, with top awards of 10,000 pounds in each genre. Ingrams' winning portfolio can be found on pages 27-31 of the prizewinners' booklet linked here. In these romantic poems, her breathless lines, rich with nature imagery, are reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins. She chases the fleeting moment when an encounter with beauty leaves us "stunned out of role, no longer lusting after somewhere else to be."

by Jennifer Givhan
Winner of the 2015 Lascaux Prize in Poetry
Entries must be received by September 30
Online journal The Lascaux Review gives this $1,000 award for individual poems, with anthology publication for the top 12. Previously published work accepted. First published in Rattle, this timely poem depicts a mother's anguish about protecting her black son from man-made dangers, both those he can see and those he is too young to understand.

by Rio Cortez
Winner of the 2015 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize
Entries must be received by September 30
Established in 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of Cave Canem, a literary organization supporting black poets, this $500 award gives publication by Jai-Alai Books, a writer's residency in Miami, and a featured reading at the O, Miami Poetry Festival. Black writers at any stage of their career may submit a chapbook manuscript. Cortez's winning book was I have learned to define a field as a space between mountains. In these incisive poems first published in The Offing, she writes her "bloodline" back into the history of the American frontier.

by Amanda Newell
Winner of the 2015 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award
Postmark Deadline: October 1
Carlow University in Pittsburgh sponsors this $1,000 prize for an unpublished poem by a US woman over 40 with no published full-length books in any genre. The winner also receives an expenses-paid trip to read at the university with contest judge Allison Hedge Coke. Newell's fierce, heart-wrenching poem shows a bereaved mother fighting for control of the narrative of her loss.

by Sarah Sansolo
Winner of the Summer 2016 Sixfold Short Story and Poetry Awards
Entries must be received by October 24
This online journal gives quarterly prizes of $1,000 apiece to the short story and group of poems that win the most reader votes. Besides the modest entry fee, entrants are obligated to read, comment, and vote on 18 randomly assigned entries in their genre. Sansolo's ironic confessional poems are linked by themes of erotic desire and the myths that mask it.

Read more award-winning poems.

Book trailer just out for Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

Zara West made this gorgeous book trailer for Two Natures by Jendi Reiter, available September 15 from Saddle Road Press. Order now to get the special $0.99 introductory price!

Book trailer for Two Natures by Jendi Reiter

92Y's Unterberg Poetry Center Writing Program

The Frugal Editor: Do-It-Yourself Editing Secrets

There are gremlins out there determined to keep your work from being published, your book from being promoted. Resolved to embarrass you before the gatekeepers who can turn the key of success for you, they lurk in your subconscious and the depths of your computer programs. Whether you are a new or experienced author, The Frugal Editor will help you present whistle-clean copy (from a one-page cover letter to your entire manuscript) to those who have the power to say "yea" or "nay".

The second edition of The Frugal Editor: From Your Query Letter to Final Manuscript to the Marketing of Your New Bestseller is from the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. It has won awards and accolades from Next Generation Indie Awards, USA Book News Awards, Reader Views Literary Awards, the coveted Irwin Award, and Dan Poynter's Global Ebook Awards.

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Order a Signed Copy of Salve by S. Mei Sheng Frazier


Harsh and beautiful, yearning and deadly, the stories of S. Mei Sheng Frazier will remind you of nothing less than the whole wide world.
—Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket

Through Frazier's seamless prose, Salve examines the myriad ways in which we soothe ourselves in an attempt to treat what ails us—for better or for worse. Ms. Frazier is the final judge of this year's Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest.

Order your signed copy today from Nomadic Press.

Please enjoy this excerpt from "She Must Remember", appearing in Salve.

Beatrice by Ellen LaFleche

Beatrice by Ellen LaFleche

Ellen LaFleche, a judge of the North Street Book Prize, explores the emotional life of a semi-cloistered nun in this chapbook from Tiger's Eye Press. Sister Beatrice serves on a jury, bakes bread in the convent kitchen, scatters her mother's ashes in the ocean, and reflects on her friendship with another nun. Order directly from Ms. LaFleche for $10 at ElLaFleche@aol.com.

"The tides of the sacred feminine seek an outlet in the cloistered body of Sister Beatrice, a working-class mystic. The convent offers both refuge and confinement—the paradox of a women-ruled society where women must de-sexualize themselves. The ascetic environment cannot quench the vitality of Beatrice's imagination, which finds golden-faced gods in copper pans and lust's soft satisfaction in a raw quahog."
—Jendi Reiter, editor, Winning Writers, and author of Bullies in Love

Please enjoy "Bliss" and "Forbidden Fruit", sample poems from the chapbook.

Return of the Slacker: Original poetry by Jim DuBois

Jim DuBois

To slack:
1. to make loose, or less tense or taut, as a rope; loosen.
2. to become less tense or taut, as a rope; to ease off.

1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.

A slacker:
1. a person without ambition.
2. a person who gives up the idea of ambition in order to become less tense or taut, and to make the world less tense.

Return of the Slacker: Original poetry by Jim DuBois

A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers

Arthur Powers is judging this year's Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest. His award-winning collection of short stories, A Hero for the People, is available on Amazon Kindle. Click to buy—just $0.99!

"Set in the vast and sometimes violent landscape of contemporary Brazil, this is a gorgeous collection of stories—wise, hopeful, and forgiving, but clear-eyed in its exploration of the toll taken on the human heart by greed, malice, and the lust for land." —Debra Murphy, Publisher, Idylls Press
​"Arthur Powers is more than a totally captivating, adventurous storyteller. He is a wonderfully accomplished writer who enriches the reader's experience of life, and is a mighty skillful reporter who knows the ins and outs of people and places. While his locations are often fascinatingly exotic, more importantly his people are always engagingly real! In short, Powers is in that rare company of authors who are impossible to put down!" —​John Reid, founder of the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest


A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers

New from C. Hope Clark: Echoes of Edisto

Echoes of Edisto by C. Hope Clark is out and reviews are rolling in rich and positive. Like this one:

"As always C. Hope Clark has me at page one! I love her concern for detail. You can feel Callie Jean Morgan's emotions and struggles, and as she enters back into law enforcement you keep pulling for her. As soon as you open the book, you are pulled in by a sudden loss and captivated till the very end. I look forward to anything this author writes! All of her books transport your mind to the center of her books' being. A perfected skill we are all happier for. Keep that magic coming!"

Buy Echoes of Edisto now at Amazon.

Cutthroat Announces the 2016 Joy Harjo Poetry Award, Barry Lopez Nonfiction Award & Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award

Favorite New Resources

Here are some of our favorite newly added resources at Winning Writers. For a full list, see our Resources pages.

Book Trailer Design Advice from Zara West
Romantic suspense author breaks down the elements of a good promotional video

Books About Transgender Issues for Teens
Recommended YA books on gender identity, from the NY Public Library

Disability in Kidlit
Disability-centered critiques of children's and YA literature

Erika Dreifus: 13 Questions to Ask Before Submitting to a Literary Journal
Editor of The Practicing Writer newsletter shares advice for targeted submissions

Inked Voices
Platform for creating online critique groups

Lesbian Poetry Archive
Free digital chapbooks and journal archives

Midwest Book Review
Reputable online review source for all genres

The Museum of Americana
Online literary journal inspired by obscure and intriguing American memorabilia

My Writers Circle
Critique forum includes self-publishing advice, grammar tips, networking board, other useful articles

Mystery Writers Forum
Publishing tips and crowdsourced research for mystery writers

Parallel Ink
International e-zine of literature and art by teens, for teens

Story Circle Book Reviews
Website reviews books by, for, and about women

Lethe Press imprint for LGBT authors of color

Twisted Road Publications
Small press supports work by marginalized communities

Beneath the Skin by Zara West

Favorite New Books

i'm alive / it hurts / i love it See our Books page for all of our recommended poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books.

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza
i'm alive / it hurts / i love it

This poet's first full-length book transforms the raw material of emotions into visionary language without losing their sincerity and immediacy. The untitled short poems can be read as sections of a single long work, as journal entries, or as miniature worlds in their own right, composed of clouds and hormones and rain on the freeway and blood and mirrors. Each represents the daily choice to feel everything, though pain coexists with joy. Espinoza writes with honesty and wit about her life as a transgender woman who manages anxiety and depression.

Patrick Ryan Frank

Blank verse and loosely structured sonnets eloquently explore the yearnings we express through TV and movie archetypes. Sincerity and contrivance are not opposites here. The comedian, the stunt man, the late-night movie monster, and the bad-news blonde take their turns revealing the existential paradox of film: how it underscores the passage of time by freezing it on the screen, a fixed point against which we measure our real lives racing past like "a car with its brake lines cut". Frank's blend of wry conversational tone and formal meter harks back to W.H. Auden, but his aesthetic lineage is more Disney than Brueghel: "About violence they were never wrong,/the old cartoons."

Douglas Goetsch (now Diana Goetsch)

Like a Garrison Keillor monologue at the end of an evening, humorous riffs and tender anecdotes prove only partially effective at warding off a deep melancholy in this poet's third full-length collection. You can laugh at light verse such as "Pee on Your Foot", and a few pages later, be slain by the self-lacerating loneliness of "Forgiveness Poem". Sometimes the shift stuns you with surprise in the same poem, as when a tongue-in-cheek tribute to 1989's morning radio mix ends with the questioning of a worker's hopeless endurance, reminiscent of Philip Levine. In their unpretentious way, these narratives hope to heal the deepest wound of ordinary life: that of never really knowing the people close to us, or being known. Both this theme and the title seem to take on an additional significance from Goetsch's post-publication gender transition. The book closes with a delightful, multi-part fantasy about names and whether they determine our destiny, the poem itself a gift for a boy who is named at the end.

Hubert & Kerascoët

This memorable graphic novel is a tragicomic feminist fairy tale for adults, sketched in an effortless retro style with an earthy color palette suggestive of old storybooks. A troublemaking fairy grants a homely peasant girl's wish for supreme beauty, but the maiden soon finds that being a maddening object of desire is no safer than her old life of humiliation. Her reversals of fortune add up to a profound fable about power, illusion, and sexism.

Rajiv Mohabir

Taxidermy is the organizing metaphor for this ambitious, passionate debut poetry collection: a stripped and reconstituted skin as shapeshifting for survival, as forbidden gay intimacy that always carries the hint of violence, and as inescapable and often misread ethnic identities in a dominant white Christian culture. (Mohabir descends from Indian indentured laborers who were transported to British Guyana's sugar plantations, and grew up in Florida.) The poet is willing to lay his own veins bare in order to create an artifice that is painfully and beautifully true to life. This book won the 2014 Four Way Books Intro Prize.

Selections from Our Contest Archives

"Worm Bin Sestina"
by Katy McKinney
Honorable Mention, 2015 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

"My Mother's Teeth"
by Jude Nutter
Honorable Mention, 2014 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest

by Erin Byrne
Second Prize, 2013 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

"Naughty Catholic Girl"
by Jasmine Belen
Most Highly Commended, 2013 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest

by Ryan Bradley
Honorable Mention, 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

"Letter to the Head of Faculty"
by David Stokes
Honorable Mention, 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

See the complete archive of winning entries from our contests.

Katy McKinney

PSA: How Literacy Changes Lives

At 45 years old, Earl Mills was married with five children, owned his own home, and worked for 25 years at the same company. Yet he had a secret that few others knew: he could not read.

His lack of reading skill was exposed when he was put on the spot at church one night when he was asked to read a Bible passage. No one knew he couldn't read except his wife. Earl says, "When you can't read, you keep it under a lock and a key and you let hardly anyone inside of that part of your life."

Earl sought the assistance of the Craven Literacy Council. When he went to them they assessed him at a second-grade reading level. He had trouble spelling words like girl and bird. With sheer determination he embarked on a three-year process of learning how to read. In addition to improving his literacy skills, Mills developed his ability to capture the frustrations and triumphs through his poetry. Today, he has published several books of poetry, including From Illiterate to Poet and From Illiterate to Author.

Earl is now a passionate advocate for literacy. He recently attended the National ProLiteracy Conference in Charleston, South Carolina where he was asked to read a few of his inspiring poems to the audience of 500 literacy professionals. ProLiteracy is a national nonprofit that develops materials and programs for over 1,000 literacy member programs across the country. When people learn to read and write, they have the power to change their lives and their communities.

Read "Twenty Six Letters", a poem by Mr. Mills.

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"Déraison" and "Le fou" by Émile Nelligan, illustrated and translated by Julian Peters

Reprinted by kind permission of Julian Peters. Visit his website.

"At night he had visions, some radiant, some dreadful [...] Each of these dreams would take shape the next morning in lines scribbled by a feverish hand, and in which already, among the many strokes of brilliance, could be seen the monstrous mark of insanity."
—Louis Dantin, from his introduction to Émile Nelligan et son oeuvre ("Émile Nelligan and His Work") (1903)


Yet now I have the vision of bleeding shadows
And of spirited horses stamping,
And it's like the shouts of hobos, hiccupping of children,
Wheezing of slow exhalations.

Tell me, from where do they come to me, all these hoarse hurricanes,
Furies of fifes or drums?
One might think it dragoons galloping through the village,
With helmets of a radiant murkiness...

The Madman

Gondolar! Gondolar!
You are no longer out on the road till very late.

They murdered the poor idiot,
They crushed him underneath a cart,
And then, after the idiot, the dog.

They made a big, big hole for them there.
Dies irae, dies illa
On your knees before that hole there!

On August 9th, 1899, Émile Nelligan, aged 19 years and 7 months, is interned in the asylum of Saint-Benoît-Joseph-Labre.

He would never write again.


Writer's Digest: 101 Best Websites for Writers