Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Poetry Awards and some thoughts

This is my second year now working on the Annual Student Poetry Awards at MPOW. As usual, if you wish to just get the quick facts, the official version is over at MPOW's blog here. This is just my personal notes of the events with some extra stuff that does not go in the official record. If that interests you, then read on. Since I was serving as host for the event, I will say that my notes are a bit thin this year.

This year, the event took place on April 28, 2009. This was part of the programs for National Poetry Month that we implemented. With the outreach coordinator's retirement (my previous assistant, or partner would be a better word), it was my first time completely in charge of the event. I do miss Joanne, but I am happy she has moved on to new adventures (she is director now here). Anyhow, as I recently noted, April is a busy month for me. Once again, thanks are in order. Anne McCrady, generous local poet and friend of the library extraordinaire (link to her blog), helped me out with a many of the details; she also suggested our keynote poet for this year and served as my go-between. I could not have done it without her. My thanks also go to our 2009 distinguished Texas poet and keynote speaker, Mr. Budd Powell Mahan of Dallas, TX. He gave a very good poetry reading for us as well as talked to our student poets. I would also like to take the moment to thank the local Friends of the Arts organization for sponsoring the poet and helping underwrite the reception prior to the event. One of the things that was reinforced for me is that there are a lot of little details, and that you have to mind the little details.

Following tradition, we held a reception and book signing in the recital hall's lobby. Joseph's of Tyler provided the catering for us, and they did a very nice job. I did make a note to hire them next year. The reception was a great opportunity for Mr. Mahan to meet with our student poets and the audience. Both Mr. Mahan and Ms. McCrady were very generous in sharing advice and insights with our student poets. I could see that they are both very dedicated to their craft and very interested in helping out new and upcoming poets. In addition, the audience had the opportunity to purchase and get signed copies of Mr. Mahan's books, Falling to Earth and Harvest. I did get my signed copies (and no, you can't borrow them).

The event started with some opening remarks from our library director. I introduced Anne McCrady, who would the introduce Mr. Mahan. Anne described Mr. Mahan as someone who is very active and involved in poetry organizations and with the craft. Mr. Mahan is a past president of both the Poetry Society of Texas and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Anne said that Mr. Mahan was "the face" of the Poetry Society of Texas, a generous poet known for his work with students, and a genuine friend.

Mr. Mahan then performed his poetry . He is known for a very warm and heartfelt verse, and it showed in his poetry. He is a bit soft spoken, but as he reads, he comes across as warm, comforting at times.

  • Falling to Earth was inspired by the recovery from a fall. The poem "Night from a 9th Floor" deals with some time spent at the hospital. In the poem, I noticed the little details such as the look of the sky as seen out the window.
  • From the book Harvest, he read some of the animal poems such as "Cats" and "Snake." The cat poem made me think of our two cats at home, royal as they are. "Snake" deals with the legend that snakes bite themselves when in pain to end the suffering. Another poem was "Corn," which inspired the book Harvest. He also read "Mercy" and "50," a reflection on turning 50.
Next we got to the awards ceremony. The student poets performed their award winning poems. They delighted our audience with their diverse themes and verse craft. Winners for first, second, and third place received a small trophy. Fourth place received a certificate. All of them received a signed copy of Mr. Mahan's book Falling to Earth. And in a surprise development that was announced shortly before the awards were presented, our library director revealed that this year anonymous donors had made a gift to the university in honor of the UT Friends of the Arts so a monetary award could be made. Thus, our poets also got a little coin for their purses.

For the record, these are the winners for 2009:

  1. Tina Bausinger, "A Concerned Friend." ($100)
  2. Jason Mars, "My America." ($75)
  3. Caleb Krause, "Dada." ($50).
  4. George Mitchell, "Not easily broken, I stand." ($25).

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