- Courtesy Of Hannah Ensor
- Mary Ruefle
Good news can be hard to come by these days, but if you're an emerging poet — or eager to emerge — here's a welcome opportunity: The Johnson-based Sundog Poetry Center has just announced a brand-new First or Second Book Award for poetry. And there's a reason for that slightly awkward-sounding name.
"Sometimes a first book is heavily collaborative," explains Neil Shepard, a veteran poet, the founder of Green Mountains Review and a Sundog board member. "The second is usually post-MFA — really the first book. That's still relatively an emerging poet."
In other words, writers who vie for this award might already have an extant book or chapbook, or they might just have a bursting-with-promise manuscript. Either way, the winning entry will be designed, printed and distributed by Sundog collaborator Green Writers Press in Brattleboro.
Tamra Higgins and Mary Jane Dickerson founded Sundog in 2014 with the mission to "promote poetry for the enrichment of our cultural lives," according to its website. The nonprofit has fulfilled that promise with publications, workshops, retreats, readings and other events. For the most part, Shepard points out, these ventures have featured established poets. For example, when Sundog began collaborating with Green Writers Press, his own book Vermont Exit Ramps II was the first to be published.
But, after Sundog and the press released the 2019 volume Vermont Poets and Their Craft, edited by Shepard and Higgins, "we decided to do something for emerging poets," Shepard says.
The competition is open only to Vermonters, defined as residents of the state a minimum of six months of the year. The submission deadline is October 31 and must include proof of residency and a $20 application fee. Manuscripts should be 48 to 64 pages long.
Shepard notes that he and other board members — Dickerson, former Vermont poet laureate Chard DeNiord, Rebecca Starks and Bill Drislane — and managing director Sarah Audsley will "each choose two or three manuscripts by the end of November and send them to our final judge, Mary Ruefle." Vermont's current poet laureate, Ruefle will make her decision by December 31. The winner will receive $500 and 50 copies of the published book.
Eyes on the prize, poets.
In related news, Sundog/Green Writers Press-affiliated poet Stephen Cramer is launching — in person! — the recently published Turn It Up! Music in Poetry From Jazz to Hip-Hop on Thursday, September 10, at 7 p.m. at Halvorson's Upstreet Café in Burlington. The anthology, which Cramer edited, includes some of his own verse among poems that evoke the likes of Miles Davis, Nirvana and Public Enemy. Sundog is presenting the limited-audience, free-but-ticketed event. Face masks are required.