GREENSBORO, NC–Michael Gaspeny, the winner of the 2012 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition, was as a college freshman inspired by Jarrell himself.
“At Randolph-Macon in 1961, I was prepared to stay awake long enough to respond to my name on the roll when my teacher brought a guest to class, Randall Jarrell. We had to be told who he was. He read Frost's poem ‘The Witch of Coos’ and spoke about its glories with such eloquence that the louts in that class were stunned by his brilliance,” Gaspeny said. “So this award has a special shine for me, and maybe a little redemption.”
Gaspeny’s poem “Shore Drive” was picked by judge Maria Hummel out of more than 100 entries. “It's hard to say what I liked more about this poem: the surprising and tender characterizations of speaker and subject or its gorgeous, slant-rhyming musicality,” Hummel wrote. “I also admire how the poem's syntax moved from complexity to a painful, candid simplicity, and the end sent me back to the beginning to appreciate it all over again.”
Gaspeny will receive a $200 prize from the North Carolina Writers’ Network, the contest’s sponsor, and his winning poem will be considered for publication in the literary journal The Crucible. Gaspeny is a poet and fiction writer living in Greensboro. His work has appeared in Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz and Literature, Cave Wall, and Main Street Rag. He won the O. Henry Festival Short Story competition in 1998. For many years, he reviewed books for the Greensboro News & Record. A former reporter and retired High Point University professor, Gaspeny has also received the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Volunteer Excellence for his work with hospice. He’s married to the novelist and essayist Lee Zacharias; they have two sons, Al and Max.
Hummel also named “My Kitchen” by Sandra Ann Winters and “Then Wear the Gold Hat If That Will Move Her” by Dannye Romine Powell as runners-up.
Currently teaching at Stanford University, Hummel is the author of the novel Wilderness Run (St. Martin's) and the chapbook City of the Moon (Harperprints). Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in Poetry, The Missouri Review, New England Review, Narrative, and Creative Nonfiction. Her awards include the Penelope Niven Creative Nonfiction Award (2009), runner-up for The Iowa Review Creative Nonfiction Prize (2010), and a Pushcart Prize (2011). This year, she is coordinating and teaching in the Creative Nonfiction program at Stanford University.
This year’s preliminary judge was David Bruzina, whose poems have appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines including storySouth, The Greensboro Review, and Waccamaw. He received his Ph.D in creative writing from Ohio University and teaches reading, writing, and rhetoric at the University of South Carolina - Aiken.
The Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition honors the work and legacy of the poet and critic Randall Jarrell, who taught at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for nearly eighteen years. The competition is administered by Terry L. Kennedy and the graduate program in creative writing at UNCG, and is open to any writer who is a legal resident of North Carolina or a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Visit www.ncwriters.org for more information on this and other contests.