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Winners of the First New York State “Poetry Unites – My Favorite Poem” Contest Announced

Marie Howe, State Poet of the State of New York and Corinne Evens, a philanthropist, in coordination with the Academy of American Poets, the New York State Writers Institute, and the New York State Office of Cultural Education, are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Poetry Unites contest for the best short essay about a favorite poem.  The winners of the contest, which was open to all New York State residents, are in alphabetical order:

  • Marita Boulos, literacy program coordinator from Rose Points, Clinton County, NY, for her straightforward and eloquent prose that candidly brings John Donne’s “Song” into her village.

  • Rosanna Oh, from Jericho, Long Island, a student, for her deeply personal response to the humility and precision in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays.”

  • Matthew Powers, a teacher from Syracuse, NY, for the way he realistically invokes the incantatory and communal nature of poetry in Mark Strand’s “Lines for Winter.”

  • Paul White a healthcare provider from Cheektowaga, NY, for recognizing the talismanic power and healing capacity of poetry in David Ignatow’s “Sunday at the State Hospital.”

The winners will each be featured in short film profiles directed by Ewa Zadrzynska, which will be posted on Poets.org as well as the State Library, and NYS Writers Institute’s websites, and may be broadcast by public television across the United States. They will be awarded a Certificate of Merit and invited to a celebratory film screening on October 18, 2014 in NYC.
           
The Jury selection members included:

Marie Howe, State Poet of the State of New York, 2012-2014;
Jeffrey Cannel, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Office of Cultural Education;
Nina Darnton, Author;
Donald Faulkner, Director, New York State Writers Institute;
Edward Hirsch, Poet and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets;
Robert Pinsky, Poet, former US Poet Laureate and the Founder of Favorite Poem Project;
Ewa Zadrzynska, Writer and Filmmaker.

The Jury also awarded Certificates of Merit to six additional  participants :

  • Helen Ruggieri, poet, from Olean, NY, for her essay on James Wright’s poem: “A Blessing”
  • Louis Altman, a lawyer from Albany, NY, for his essay on Wallace Steven’s poem “The Sense of Order”
  • Philip McCallion, Ph.D. from Albany, NY, for his essay on Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging”
  • Sharon de Silva from Schenectady, NY, for her essay on Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son”
  • Martin Mahler retiree from Brooklyn, NY, for his essay on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem: “Lament”
  • Ben Kroup, editor, writer, from from Waterford NY, for his essay on Kristtijonas Donelaitis’ poem “Metai”

Each of their essays will be published on the Academy of American Poets website.

The New York State Poetry Unites contest is based on a model that has been held successfully in Europe. Developed and produced by Ewa Zadrzynska for the Evens Foundation, the first “Poetry Unites – My Favorite Poem” contest was held in Poland in 2008, where it has since become an annual event. In 2012 the Evens Foundation extended the contest to other European countries.  So far the contest has been held twice in Germany, five times in Poland, and once in Bulgaria.

Ewa Zadrzynska, who produces the short films of the winners talking about their favorite poem said, “The project, which celebrates the integrating power of poetry, introduces the medium as an instrument of mutual understanding in the world. The goal is to promote poetry and poetry readers in the hope that their enthusiasm will be contagious to thousands, if not millions, of others.” 

Out of the 124 essay submission 18 were written about Robert Frost poems, and four on Mary Oliver’s. Edna Vincent St Millay, Langston Hughes, and William Butler Yeats poems were the subject of three essays each. Other poets chosen by the NYS residents were written by Elizabeth Bishop, Shane Koyczan, Wallace Stevens, and John Donne, among others.

Among the 124 favorite poems of the NYS residents, only two were written in other than English language, and were read in translation. The poems were written by Polish Nobel Prize winners: Wislawa Szymborska and Czeslaw Milosz.

Seventy percent of the submissions were from women. The youngest participant was 10, the oldest 95.

The largest number of entries came from the Albany area and NYC.


The first New York State
"Poetry Unites" contest announced

Open to all New York State residents for the
best short essay about a favorite poem

After a successful six-year run in Europe, the Poetry Unites contest, inspired by Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem project, is coming to New York State.

Marie Howe, the New York State Poet, and Corinne Evens, a philanthropist, in co-ordination with the Academy of American Poets, the New York State Writers Institute, and the New York State Office of Cultural Education, are pleased to announce a contest for the best short essay about a favorite poem. The contest is open to all New York State residents.

Marie Howe issues the following call to New York State residents:

Do you have a poem you carry in your wallet? Or, in your heart? Perhaps you have a poem you taped on your refrigerator? How has this poem changed your life?

Briefly, deeply in no more than 600 words, tell us how. Say a few words about yourself and the story
of the poem.

Are you seven, or twenty-two, eighty-two, or ninety-four? Are you a construction worker, a priest, waitress, doctor, student, homemaker? Are you self-employed, employed, or unemployed? Whoever you are we want to hear about how one poem has affected your life.

We believe that everyone has a favorite poem, but not everyone knows about it.

If you do, tell us about it. If you don't, try to find the poem now. We want to hear from you.

Four individuals' essays will be selected to be featured in a series of six-minute-long film profiles, which will be posted on Poets.org and PBS website and may be broadcast by PBS and other media. These winners will receive invitations to a celebratory film screening in New York City in October 2014.

Poetry Unites Contest Guidelines
Participants are asked to write a two-page (or 600 word) piece about their favorite poem and about its importance in their life. The selected poem should be by a published poet. The contest participant's essay can be in any style or form, but the piece should touch upon the following three questions:

1. What's your favorite poem, who wrote it, and when did you read it for the first time?

2. Why is this poem important to you?

3. Please provide some information about yourself: what does your day look like, what are your dreams, what do you expect from life?

The jury, headed by New York State Poet Marie Howe, will select four winners and each of their essays will be awarded a Certificate of Merit. The winners will each be featured in short film profiles, which will be posted on Poets.org, the State Library website, and may be broadcast by the public television across the United States.

All winners will be invited to a celebratory film screening in October 2014. Travel within New York State and hotel accommodations for two days in New York City will be covered.

The Jury Members are:

  • Marie Howe, New York State Poet, 2012-2014
  • Jeffrey Cannel, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Office of Cultural Education
  • Nina Darnton, Author
  • Donald Faulkner, Director, New York State Writers Institute
  • Edward Hirsch, Poet and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets
  • Robert Pinsky, Poet, former U.S. Poet Laureate and the Founder of Favorite Poem project
  • Ewa Zadrzynska, Writer and Filmmaker

Submissions should be made electronically, and should be emailed to poetryunites@poets.org.
The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2014.

Contest winners will be announced at the beginning of May on Poets.org, and production of films of the four winners will commence. The production process will conclude in September, and the films will premiere at the celebratory film screening in New York.

For additional information contact Ewa Zadrzynska at ewazadrzynska@hotmail.com.