Tag Archives: #Poetry

Summer Poetry Contest: $500 Prize

The Julia Peterkin Award for POETRY:

South 85 Journal seeks submissions of previously unpublished poems of 50 lines or fewer for for the annual Julia Peterkin Literary Award for Poetry from June 1 to August 15 each year. The winning selection will receive $500 and publication in the Fall / Winter issue of South 85 Journal. Contest finalists will also be named and their work published alongside the winning selection.  Submissions are read blind by an outside judge.

This year’s judge is Ashley M. Jones.

Ashley M. Jones is Poet Laureate of the state of Alabama (2022-2026). She received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University (FIU), where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She is the author of three poetry collections: REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press, 2021); dark // thing (Pleiades Press, 2019), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry; and Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press, 2017), winner of the silver medal in poetry in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Her poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including CNN, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Prelude, and The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, among others.

  • Submit up to three unpublished poems of 50 lines or fewer. 
  • All submissions will be read blind. Please do not include personal information on your manuscript or file. Submissions that include identifying information will not be considered.
  • The winning poem will be awarded a cash prize of $500.
  • Four semi-finalists will also be named and published in South 85 Journal.
  • Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but please withdraw your entry if your poem is accepted elsewhere. Partial withdrawals are allowed.
  • Multiple contest submissions will be considered as long as a separate submission fee is paid for each contest entry.
  • Work may be submitted in both Flash Fiction and Poetry categories as long as the submission fee is paid for each contest entry.
  • All winners must be over 18 years old and reside in the U.S. in order to claim cash prize.
  • Please use 12 point, standard font. We suggest Times New Roman.
  • We consider only previously unpublished work.
  • Current and former South 85 Journal staff members are not eligible for participation.
  • Current Converse College students and Converse MFA alum are not eligible for participation.
  • Results will be announced in October.
South 85 Journal does not publish work which has been previously published either in print or online. We acquire exclusive first-time Internet rights only. All other rights revert to the author at publication. Works are also archived online. We ask that whenever an author reprints the work that first appeared on our pages, South 85 Journal be given acknowledgment for the specific work(s) involved. Only the main contest winner will receive a prize.

Submit Here

[Lately when sorrows come]

by Susan Laughter Meyers

                                                —with a line from Sappho

Spring 2012

Lately when sorrows come—fast, without warning—
whipping their wings down the sky,
I know to let them.
Not inviting them, but allowing each
with a deep breath as if inhaling a wish I can’t undo.

Some days the sky is so full of sorrows
they could be mistaken for shadows of unnamed
gods flapping the air with their loose black sleeves:
the god of head-on collisions,
the god of amputated limbs,
the god of I’ll-dress-you-in-mourning.

Is the buzz in the August trees,
that pulsing husk of repetition, an omen?
I hear it build to a final shaking. I hear it build
louder and louder, then nothing.
Like a long, picaresque novel that’s suddenly over.
Like the last inning of kickball until the rain.

What falls from the sky is not always rain
or any kind of weather. Call it precipitous.
I’m fooling myself, of course. Wearing sorrow
is nothing like skin shedding water.
It’s more like the weight of a cloak of crows.

And yet the sun still shines on the honey locust
arching its fringe over grass. Lit, too,
the pasture and its barbwire strung from post
to leaning post. See how the stump by the road
is rotting and how the small yellow leaves, twirling,
catch light on their way to the ground.

Susan Laughter Meyers, of Givhans, SC, is the author of Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press), winner of the inaugural SC Poetry Book Prize, the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her poetry has also appeared in The Southern ReviewBeloit Poetry Journal, and other journals, as well as Poetry Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column. Her blog is at http://susanmeyers.blogspot.com.

Humakind Needs Larger Birds

by Justin Jannise

Winter 2022

Humankind needs larger birds:
red-tailed hawks scaled up
to pterodactyl proportions;
twelve-story great white egrets,
spear-sharp bills puncturing
our roofs like giant stilettoes;
a helicopter hummingbird or two
always hovering, thirsty for us
to make just one wrong move.
We need more natural predators
to humble us into greater regret,
more meaningful action. We share
too little of the terrestrial burden
that camels, mules, and antelope
bear. Let the crow outgrow
our bomber planes. Let the great
horned owl outsmart us.
And let them be, as we are,
locked doors unto themselves,
their hearts grand ballrooms
of sinew and mystery, their brains
locomotive engines of synapse
and being their own worst enemy.

Justin Jannise is the author of How to Be Better by Being Worse, which won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions, Ltd., in April 2021. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Best of the Net, Copper Nickel, Yale Review, and New Ohio Review. Recently a recipient of the Imprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry and the Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast, Justin lives in Houston, where he is pursuing his Ph.D.

Delta Summers

by Cody Smith

Summer 2016

So much of those summers scraped against cypress groves as we
paddled the pirogue and prayed against storms. The mud-bogged
Catahoula Lake bank would swallow James Larry’s pickup like
an egg in a snake’s throat. Days ended the same: heat showers,
catfish pliers and fillet knife in my hand, my father in his work
shop fumbling the knobs of an acetylene tank, him trying to talk
to me through the blue-pointed whirl of blowtorch, hunkering
down to his work, hood pulled over his face, his flame gutting
metal, labor and whatever wisdom I didn’t hear sifted through
the chokecherry, lifted crows from their perch in the red oak,
folded wasps and dirt daubers back into their nests while
momma and grandpa cooked yesterday’s catch in the fry shed
out back, the sizzle of cornmeal hitting grease, wet air battered
by fish musk, fried okra, the wild jasmine vine that ran the front
porch posts, and the lit citronella candles calling the dusk home.

Cody SmithCody Smith is a Louisianian studying poetry in the Northwest where he’s an MFA candidate at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers. He spends most days lamenting creole food, sea level, and humidity. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Louisiana LiteraturePermafrost, Glass Mountain, Cactus Heart, Belle Reve, among others. He is the editor-in-chief at The Swamp Literary Magazine.

Remnants

by Holly Day

Summer 2019

The snail shell lies on its side on the ground
empty save for a few dried curls of flesh, the weight
of something solid somewhere deep inside.

I place it in the middle of my palm, feel that sad, solid weight
what’s left of a snail tricked out of the shadows
by afternoon thunderstorms and cool, summer nights.

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander, and The Nashwaak Review. Her newest poetry collections are A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press), In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.), and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy (Alien Buddha Press).

Driving to the Blackberry Valley Transfer Station on Inauguration Day

Greenville, South Carolina, January 20, 2009

by Gilbert Allen

Maybe a seven-minute ride. Turns out
a lot of us white guys are here today,
pickups mostly, stuck with American flags
like Band-Aids over bumpers, back windows,
in honor of the history behind us.

Hauling two months of litter and beer bottles
from my blue luxury sedan, I must
appear to be a lost investment banker
hiding the bender he’s still getting over.
The guy beneath the HERITAGE NOT HATE
cap smiles. “Looks like you had yourself a time.”

He smells like he’s biodegradable.
I toss Buds into the dumpster, one by one,
so he’ll gimp off before my box is empty.

It works. It’s only me, as I repop
my trunk, and drag bag to the garbage bays
to fortify the artificial hill.
Mission Accomplished. Although I’ll be back,
sooner or later, with another load
of crap my cat and I want to be rid of,
filling what cavities our land still holds.

Gilbert Allen lives in Travelers Rest, SC, from where he frequently proceeds south (and north) on I-85. He’s the author of five collections of poems, including Driving to Distraction (Orchises, 2003), which was featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. Since 1977 he’s taught at Furman University, where he’s currently the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature.blog

High Noon at the Hopi Gas Station

John Nizalowski

Spring/Summer 2018

Reservation dogs
of uncertain breed
sleep in the gas
station parking lot.
A stiff hot wind
blows empty packs
of Camels, Hershey
bar wrappers, and
an empty Coors can
across the rippling tar.
Low, flat-bottomed
cumulous clouds rest
on the sky’s glass pane,
reflecting the red sands
of the desert below.

To the south, ancient
stone cities stand atop
narrow bluffs and solid
mesas. Old priests with
parrot feather staffs
celebrate deep, dusty
time in secret kivas.
Every day is a god,
each star a prayer.

While here at the station,
the register dials up the
cost in digital numbers –
99 cent Coke, three
dollars in corn chips,
and twenty-five in
gasoline – the smell
of colonial commerce.

 

John NizalowskiJohn Nizalowski is the author of four books: the multi-genre work Hooking the Sun; two poetry collections, The Last Matinée and East of Kayenta; and Land of Cinnamon Sun, a volume of essays. Nizalowski has also published widely in literary journals, most notably Under the Sun, Weber Studies, Puerto del Sol, Slab, Measure, Digital Americana, and Blue Mesa Review. Currently, he teaches creative writing, composition, and mythology at Colorado Mesa University.

Before the Sting

by Lynn Marie Houston

Winter 2016

The postman leaves a cage of babies,
angry ones who rattle, buzz, and hum,

babies who are hungry, who kick segmented legs
through the open spaces in a metal screen.

I feed them generous blasts of sweetwater
from a spray bottle, I mother them. I shake them

out of a hole in the shipping box and into
the hive I’ve made. Within weeks,

the foragers are already teenagers
wearing orange, pink, and white

from the yard’s blooms. As I lean in close
to watch them leave the hive and return with

nectar and pollen, one of them passes too close,
entangles herself in my hair. I feel her wings

against my scalp, legs tugging fine strands,
the painful knot of us—mother and child.


Lynn Marie Houston PoetLynn Marie Houston
holds a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Her first collection of poetry, The Clever Dream of Man (Aldrich Press 2015), won the 2016 Connecticut Press Club prize for creative work and went on to take 2nd place in the nationwide competition sponsored by the National Federation of Press Women. Poems and essays by her have appeared in journals such as Painted Bride QuarterlyOcean State ReviewWord RiotSqualorly, and many others.

Evening in Haidar’s Basement

Marlin M. Jenkins

Spring/Summer 2015

When I give him that look, he asks why I think it’s weird for him to rap along with the radio. He looks back at his game on the TV as I shake my head, place my hand on his shoulder. We were the first in school to begin to grow beards. We will order pizza with halal pepperoni; he will ask about my mother, what it was like for her to re-marry. My mother has not made Arabic food since she converted and met her husband at church. His mother rolls grape leaves on the front porch, wet like his gelled hair. She whispers to the neighbors. When he asks his questions, he stares into the hybridity in my arteries. I stare at the hair on his arms, compare the tight curls on my head, the curve of his nose.

Poet Marlin JenkinsMarlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit, graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, and will be attending University of Michigan’s MFA program this fall. His writings have found homes in River Styx, Yemassee, and Midwestern Gothic, among others. You can find him online at marlinmjenkins.tumblr.com and @Marlin_Poet.

Our Lady Reaper

by Brit Graham

Fall 2016

Why is death
rarely a woman?

Eyes rend and tear.
Mouths gape, jaws have forgotten
their function. Idolized
is she, amongst the strobing lights
and fluorescent bulbs.

But, we’re rarely pretty when
stripped of our hearts, when
the camera shifts below
our hips, when flesh and jaw
dangle, longingly attached
to their former structure.

She’s shucking her glossed
leather gloves, flicking light
from shadow. She’s tugging
each gloved finger, peeling back
it’s black casing, a second
skin. Her sash blinds
in the stuttering lights, freed
from its bindings. Her hips
dip and roll in their easy crash
and saunter of angst-laced bass.
The precise pitch a perfect fever
to settle deep in the bones.

Glacial heels slam and crack
against the stage, her glove
drifts to the floor.

Why is death never a woman?

Why is she only aching
when she creates a life
for you? This body half loved
by you, this body spinning
a new life for you and
loving it more because that
budding body is half of you
too. Why is does she ache while
she’s creates a body
to sustain you?

Her robe parts, a scar
cleaves her soft belly
in two. The hood
of her robe, peaked over
her brow sheathes
pitted sockets and mangled
maw. Scuffed heels pierce
the sleek pedestal in which
she was raised. Her ease
fractures with rigor
mortis, her gentle serial
suicides laid as stepping
stones for the ferrying.

Her hood falls, long locks
moth eaten, much like
the webs she’s weaved.
The lies piled upon curled
silk, spun from ashes
and grief.

Why is she
not our harbinger
of death? The androgynous
shape the same
as any cut
from the stripped
fineries of living.

Photo of poet Brit GrahamFor now Brit Graham traverses the tundra that is South Dakota, while tripping over things while stargazing in the all too brief summer months. She is the crux of an ongoing love affair between the Pacific and Atlantic. She managed to pry an MFA in Poetry from the grasp of Converse College. You can read her poetry things in publications like Devilfish Review, The Night Owl, RealSouth Magazine, and The OWL.