Suzannah L. Cockerille of New Bern has won the 2021 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition for her poem “Aproned Literacy.” Cockerille will receive $200 and publication in storySouth (an online literary journal dedicated to showcasing the best poetry (and fiction and creative nonfiction) that writers from the “new south” have to offer.
Suzannah L. Cockerille began writing poetry in college while pursuing an architecture degree from Virginia Tech. She has been a semi-finalist in the North Carolina Literary Review’s James Applewhite Contest and a finalist in the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Poet Laureate Contest, won first place in the NCPS’s Thomas McDill Contest, received an Honorable Mention in the NCPS’s Joanna Catherine Scott Award, and has received additional recognition from various contests and journals. The Charlottesville, Virginia native lives in New Bern. She is the vice-president of Nexus Poets in New Bern.
Final judge Jennifer Militello said, “I spent much time with the wonderful array of poems sent: sorting, reading, rereading, making piles, taking notes. “Aproned Literacy” was the one poem in the batch that my mind most often returned to. It grabbed me from its powerful first moment—a quietly commanding, Biblical assertion–and sustained that level of energy throughout. The initial precision of biscuit makers as ‘humble-budgeted, quiet scientists / of the breakfast table’ drew me in. From there, the poem took a series of definitive steps, such as the leap from the ‘clinical trials / at Sunday dinners’ to an image of children clamoring for the result. I loved its expansive use of a seemingly every day subject, its textured treatment of language, and its measured pacing and music, as well as the sense it gave me as a reader of being in a church of comfort, worshipping at the altar of physical and emotional sustenance. The central metaphor in “Aproned Literacy” rests under the umbrella of its title and within each smaller, cautious stitch. Its mode of execution matches its intent, and I admired the sense of it as a form of ‘ars poetica’—as it is a poem about making, made with the same attention and exactitude that serves as its subject. The overall effect of the poem is one of being sated even as other, more perfect hungers open up.”
Militello named “Black Wool Coat on a Hook” by Catherine Carter as Runner-Up and “The Best Way to Know Trees” by Lucinda Trew as an Honorable Mention.
The Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition accepts one-poem submissions and honors poet and critic Randall Jarrell, who taught at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for nearly eighteen years. He was a 1996 inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame who left behind nine books of poetry, four books of literary criticism, four children’s books, five anthologies, a bestselling academic novel, a translation of Goethe’s Faust, Part I, and a translation of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, produced on Broadway by The Actors’ Studio.
Jennifer Militello is the author of The Pact (Tupelo Press, 2021) and Knock Wood, winner of the Dzanc Nonfiction Prize (Dzanc Books, 2019). She also is the author of four additional collections of poetry: A Camouflage of Specimens and Garments (Tupelo Press, 2016), finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and the Sheila Margaret Motton Prize; Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), named one of the top books of 2013 by Best American Poetry and runner-up for the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award; Flinch of Song, winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award; and the chapbook Anchor Chain, Open Sail.
The competition is administered by Terry L. Kennedy, Director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The non-profit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.
Submitted by Charles Fiore, Communications Director, North Carolina Writers’ Network