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ODU – Poetry Society of Virginia – Academy of American Poets 2010-2011 COLLEGE POETRY PRIZE Winners

Mar 28 2011

The MFA Creative Writing Program thanks all the fine poets who participated in this year’s College Poetry Prize, Co-sponsored by the MFA Creative Writing Program, the Poetry Society of Virginia, and the Academy of American Poets. The College Poetry Prize is one of the longest running poetry prizes offered to college students in the nation; many of our best poets received a College Poetry Prize as their first literary recognition in their careers. We hope you will send us your best work again next year!

Sarah Goughnor (Undergraduate Winner) and Wendi White (Graduate Winner)

Honorable Mentions:
Sarah Goughnor and Elizabeth Dwyer (Undergraduate); Wendi White, Jeffrey Turner, and Heather Weddington (Graduate).

Adrian Matejka


The 2010-2011 contest was judged by Adrian Matejka. Matejka’s first collection of poems, The Devil’s Garden, won the 2002 Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books. His second collection, Mixology, was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series and was published by Penguin Books in 2009. Mixology was subsequently nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He is the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and fellowships from Cave Canem and the Lannan Foundation. His work has been featured in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2010, and Ploughshares among other journals and anthologies. He teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he is the William and Margaret Going Endowed Professor for 2010-11.

Below are Matejka’s selections with comments:



“Thin Ice” by Sarah Goughnor is a lovely mediation on personal history and the way it relates to memory. What is so wonderful and surprising about the poem was the clarity of image. Moments like “My feet would glide over the glossy ripples / in the frozen water” and “I kept walking on thin ice just by believing I could” are engaging in their imaginary and stunning in their fragility, like the very ice itself.

Honorable Mentions:

“Mango” by Sarah Goughnor — The attention to detail and the tactile moments in this poem are striking. The imagery is reminiscent of one of my favorite William Matthews poems, “Onions.”

“Décor” by Elizabeth Dwyer — Really powerful allusions and surprising resolution in this poem. The tone reminds me of some of Charles Simic’s earlier writing.

“September, closet raider” by Elizabeth Dwyer — I love the play with tropes and emotional clarity in this poem. The tone is insistent while still maintaining its imaginative narrative.



“Galilei’s Glass” by Wendi White is a graceful and balanced poem that ruminates on our “proper position” in this sometimes unimaginable universe. The poem is full the kinds of linguistic revelations that bring the reader close like “the sidelines of the firmament” and “Jupiter festooned with moons.” Through these imaginative images, the poem reminds us to praise the smaller moments because it is through them that we understand the bigger world.

Honorable Mentions:

“Benediction” by Wendi White — This is a lovely poem of appreciation and reverence. The individual images are powerful and the linear rhythm is nearly a song in itself.

“Punctual” by Jeffrey Turner — I really appreciate the associative connections in this poem and the playfully expansive diction. It reminds me of some of Mary Jo Bang’s work in that way.

“Chosen Ancestry” by Heather Weddington — The way this poem weaves the historical and personal into one narrative is really wonderful. It draws its intellectual strength from the exterior and the emotional power from the poet’s insides.


Elizabeth Dwyer


Elizabeth Dwyer (two Undergraduate Honorable Mentions) is a senior at Old Dominion University and studies English with an emphasis in creative writing. She plans to attend graduate school and hopes to become a college Professor. She agrees with what T.S. Eliot has said about how genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.


Sarah Goughnor


Sarah Goughnor (Undergraduate Poetry Prize Winner plus Honorable Mention) is a native of Herndon, Virginia and a sophomore at Old Dominion University. She is majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing, and hopes to minor in vocal performance. The College Poetry Prize is the first writing award Sarah has received since the sixth grade, and is a deeply appreciated boost to her self-confidence.


Jeffrey Turner (Graduate Honorable Mention) grew up in Plymouth, MA. He completed a baccalaureate degree in philosophy at Dickinson College. He is a first year MFA Creative Writing student at Old Dominion.

Heather Weddington (Graduate Honorable Mention) is a third year student in the MFA Creative Writing Program, and the recipient of the Sutelan Scholarship. In summer 2010 she received a work-study scholarship to the Juniper Writers Instutite at the University of Massachussetts in Amherst.

Wendi White


Wendi White (Graduate Poetry Prize Winner) comes to Norfolk, Virginia after an odd assortment of sojourns in Austin, Boston, Mexico, Guatemala, The Philippines, and originally, The Adirondack Mountains of New York. She was drawn to Tidewater by a siren song promising crab cakes and fried oysters on a regular basis. At home she keeps one husband, two sons, a dog named Charlie, and too many books to count.


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Kristin Naca Q&A with John-Henry Doucette

Mar 11 2011

John-Henry Doucette, an MFA student at ODU, got the chance to interview poet-in-residence Kristin Naca last June on issues of craft in relation to her book of poems, Bird Eating Bird. John recently posted portions of that interview on his blog–check it out.

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Mar 11 2011

Kristin Naca, our writer-in-residence this semester, will be on campus next week. Check out the news posting for more.

Old Dominion University visiting poet-in-residence Kristin Naca, the author of “Bird Eating Bird,” will give a poetry reading and book signing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 17, in the University Village Bookstore.

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Senior Scholar Lecture: Sheri Reynolds

Mar 07 2011

Sheri Reynolds, one of our professors in the MFA Creative Writing Program, will be giving the College of Arts and Letters Spring 2011 Senior Scholar Lecture this year on Tuesday, March 22, 2011. She’ll be giving the lecture, titled, “A Story Untold: One Writer’s Exploration of Anxiety and Imagination” in the Burgess Room (9024) of the Batten Arts & Letters building (BAL).

The reception will begin at 3:30 and the lecture will start at 4.

We’ll see you there, right?

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This time tomorrow,

Feb 01 2011

the pilgrimage of the ODU MFA faculty and students to DC for AWP 2011 will be well-underway. You can find us at table F31 in Hall A (check this nifty map if you want to hunt us down more efficiently). You can also catch our MFA faculty at the “Barely South: Writers from the MFA Program at Old Dominion University” panel, which will be held on Thursday, February 3rd from 1:30-2:45PM in the Hampton Ball Room located in the Omni Shoreham’s east lobby (details @ Facebook).

Speaking of the MFA faculty–we’ve got a real treat for you; drop by our table on Friday for book signings. You can catch John McManus, Luisa Igloria & Blake Bailey at 11AM, and Sheri Reynolds, Mike Pearson & Tim Seibles at 2PM.

If all else fails, just look for the cool kids.

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Why, aren’t you a crafty bunch?

Jan 17 2011

Welcome, you street-smart, word-wily masterminds–BSR’s timely craft issue is here. Way back in October, we had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of the readers for the 33rd annual ODU Literary Festival; not only did we have the good sense to sit down, shut up and silence our cell phones, but we also talked our way into a real coup–craft interviews with almost all of the authors who came in for the event. While we were at first inclined to spirit this treasure-trove off to our very-own deserted island, we’ve instead decided to share it with the lot of you. So go on, quit wasting time–hit up the craft-interview bonanza (plus poems, stories and excerpts from the visiting writers!)

P.S. Those of you with submissions in, now that our third issue is in the bag, we’ll be turning our attention towards pending notifications.

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Pushcart nods in the ODU family

Dec 03 2010

Congratulations to ODU MFA Alumna Princess Perry on receiving a Pushcart nomination from Kweli Journal and current MFA Creative Writing Program Director Luisa Igloria on her nomination from Asia Writes.

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The MFA Creative Writing Program at ODU

Nov 30 2010

Behind the production of the Barely South Review are the students and faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. If you’ve thought of joining us, we encourage you to look closely at our outstanding faculty roster in the different genres – core faculty members Sheri Reynolds, John McManus and Janet Peery (fiction), Luisa Igloria and Tim Seibles (Poetry), and Michael Pearson (Nonfiction). We also have a Writer-in-Residence Program which brings one writer of national reputation to campus each semester for two weeks. Writers-in-residence have included Bonnie Jo Campbell, Blake Bailey, Brian Turner, Denise Duhamel, Maribeth Fischer, Greg Bottoms, Kent Nelson, Richard Jones, Eloise Klein Healy, Sandra Scofield, Earl Swift, and Marilyn Chin.

Applicants to the MFA Creative Writing Program must have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0 AND a minimum of 24 credit hours in English with at least a B Average. The GRE is also required. Students who have not yet completed 24 undergraduate hours in English may be admitted provisionally and make up the required number of undergraduate English credits at ODU.

Admissions & program links:
General (degree) admission process
Non-degree admission process
Additional Program information

The MFA Creative Writing Program at ODU typically has 10 competitive, funded assistantships (which include tuition waivers — in the past we have been fortunate to have the waivers cover most if not all of the tuition) from the College of Arts and Letters.

Students must indicate at the time of application to the program that they are interested in applying for funding. Students who eventually wind up in these positions must be registered for a full graduate load (9 credits a semester). Typically, assistantships are for teaching (at least 1 class per semester); or for working in the Writing Tutorial Services; other assistantships are research assistant positions. Again, please note that these numbers are average and may vary from academic year to year depending on the availability of college funds. Assistantships require 20 hours of work per week.

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ODU placed on list of top underrated MFA programs

Oct 14 2010

Seth Abramson’s list of 27 underrated creative-writing MFA programs was published over at The Huffington Post last week. ODU made the cut, as did VCU.

See what Seth had to say in his article, The Top 25 Underrated Creative Writing MFA Programs

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Ernest Rhodes to Read From “A Coal Miner’s Family at Mooseheart,” Sept. 21 at the University Bookstore

Sep 17 2010

At age 95, Old Dominion University Professor Emeritus of English Ernest Rhodes has published a memoir of growing up in an orphans’ home-school in Illinois, and will give a reading from the book at noon Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the University Village Bookstore.

In “A Coal Miner’s Family at Mooseheart,” Rhodes recalls the period 1919-39, and particularly the years starting in 1926 when, as an 11-year-old, he and his three siblings moved with their recently widowed mother from a small coal-mining town in West Virginia to the City of Children at Mooseheart, Ill., a unique home-school near Chicago run by the Moose fraternity, which still operates today.

Read more at:

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