How do you validate a mans life? This is but one of the questions posed by Ernest J. Gaines novel A Lesson Before Dying, the College of Southern Marylands selection for The Big Read, a National Endowment of the Arts initiative that encourages communities to gather together and discover what happens between the pages.
As part of The Big Read, CSM is sponsoring The Big Read Poetry Contest, which asks local writers to share the journeys they experience beyond A Lesson Before Dying. The contest is open to St. Marys, Charles and Calvert County residents in two age categories: youth (17 and younger) and adult (18 and older).
The Big Read Poetry Contest will be judged by CSM Languages and Literature Professor Erich Hintze. A former CSM student, Hintze is the author of numerous poems and short stories which have or will appear in issues of literary journals such as The New York Tyrant, Phantasmagoria, South Carolina Review, Tight Rope, Sierra Nevada College Review, Amistad, and The Starry Night Review. He has a master of fine arts degree from Goddard College, where he studied creative writing, and he was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the journal Phantasmagoria for his poem, Shopping.
You dont know why or where, but when writing hits you it completes your identity, said Hintze, who noted that a move as a child forced him to express his feelings on the page. For me, writing is life. There is no separation. It is something I have to do, he said.
There are a lot of talented people in our community. By keeping the submissions to less than 24 lines, novice poets will be encouraged to submit their poems and will be competing with more seasoned writers, said Hintze.
According to Hintze, poems should reflect a personal journey the writer experienced through or as a result of reading the novel, A Lesson Before Dying. Writers may submit one to three poems, each 24 lines or less. There are no form requirements. Submissions should be typed, single-spaced, and should not include the authors name. A separate entry form with the authors name, address, phone number, age category and poem title(s) should be included with the submission (http://www.csmd.edu/TheBigRead/WritingEntryForm.pdf) along with a SASE #10 envelope. Submissions should be directed to:
CSM, The Big Read Poetry Prize, Attention: Erich Hintze, Judge, The College of Southern Maryland, Department of Languages and Literature, 8730 Mitchell Road, P.O. Box 910, La Plata, Md., 20646-0910.
Postmark deadline for submissions is March 31.
The Big Read Poetry Contest is just one of the activities planned in association with The Big Read grant, received by the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) in partnership with the public libraries, public schools and the literacy councils of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, as well as with the Office of Aging in St. Marys County, the Charles County Arts Alliance, Naval Surface Warfare Center-Indian Head, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southern Maryland, Southern Maryland Newspapers and the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.
The program is part of a nationwide effort of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read is designed to restore reading to the center of American culture by bringing together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.
For information on The Big Read and local activities visit http://www.csmd.edu/thebigread/.