Poetry Society of Tennessee (PST) recently held their 65th Annual Festival and Poetry Contest. The jam-packed afternoon of poetry featured learning, writing, reading, and awards.

Festival Workshop

Prolific poet and educator Jeff Hardin presented an excellent workshop on apostrophe (or address) poems focused on why and how to write them. He outlined a conceptual structure and discussed techniques, including ways to open such poems. Generative writing sessions focused on creating interesting titles and developing effective appositives. Buy a book (or more) and enjoy his work. You can also follow him on instagram for frequent poetry posts: @jeffhardinpoet.

My top take-aways:

  • You can address anything: people, objects, abstractions.
  • Kill your “inner editor” by riffing titles, then write a poem about the one that sparks.
  • Appositives are great to extend how far you can take language … to create unique imagery, to promote deeper meaning in your poems.
  • Consider using address to create a turn and finish a poem (e.g., William Stafford’s “Thinking for Berky“).

Poetry Society of Tennessee Poet Laureate

Each year, the society names a Poet Laureate, someone who has advanced the art and craft of poetry and helped the society fulfill its mission. The 2021-2022 Poet Laureate is Sharon Fox Sweeney, long-time member and founder of the Knoxville branch chapter. Congratulations, Sharon!

Best of Fest Winner

Each year, all of the first place poems in the contest are judged, and one is named “Best of Fest.” Russell Strauss, longtime PST member and former PST and National Federation of State Poetry Societies President, took home Best of Fest for his remarkable modern sestina, “Singing the Roaring Twenties.” Jeff Hardin served as judge.

Poetry Awards

I’m happy for all of my fellow poets who won awards in the contests, especially my fellow Northeast chapter members Howard Carman, Gretchen McCroskey, and Harvey Stone. I’m also ever so grateful and pleased to share that several of my poems fared well:

  • “While I Visit an Art Gallery, Archaeologists Discover What May Be the Oldest Artwork in the World” placed first in the “Why Art?” contest. This poem will be published in a future volume of Tennessee Voices.
  • “tsunami warning” placed second for the Benefactor’s Award.
  • “After & Before” placed second in the Modern Sestina contest.
  • “Ladies’ Night Out for the Linville Ladies’ Book Club” placed third in the “It’s Not Prose” contest.
  • “Once a Week at Unit 216 in Lemon Yellow, 1974” received an honorable mention for the Remembrance Award.

See full contest results here.

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