Literary Hook: Deadline June 1 for Rock River Poetry Contest entries

The entries for The Rock River Poetry and Prose Contest have started to arrive. Don’t be left out.

Poets and prose writers are invited, and encouraged, to enter The Rock River Poetry and Prose Contest. Winners will receive $100 for poetry and prose. Honorable mentions will be published in The Rock River Times. Send one to five unpublished poems or one to three short prose (story, essay, memoir), SASE, cover sheet and $10 to The Rock River Times, 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101 by June 1.

Friday, May 12, more than 50 people gathered for the premiere of Moon Journal at Rockford Barnes & Noble. Thanks goes to Sherry Zabikow, Community Relations director, for coordinating the space, podium, microphone, punch, cookies and scones for the big turnout. And a special thanks goes to the Rockford Area Arts Council and City of Rockford for the City Arts Grant that helped to make this issue a big success. This edition of Moon Journal has virtually sold out!

Reading from their prose and poetry were Cinda Thompson, Peoria; Olivia Diamond, all the way from Whitefish, Mont.; Kathleen Hermitage, Evanston; Charley Schwartz, Highland Park; and Mary Ber, Arlington Heights. In addition, several Rockford writers read, including Beth Palm, the new co-editor of Moon Journal; Karen Gines; Dorothy Bock; Tracy Winkler; Mary Ann Presman; Mary Caskey, nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Moon Journal; and Carolyn Bailey, a Rockford favorite.

This edition of Moon Journal explored the theme of community, spanning family, ecological and global issues, nature, Hurricane Katrina, women’s communities, religious communities and political communities. A blend of essay, short fiction and poetry combined to create a lively and interesting representation of various communities. The readings were well received, and each reader gave a dignified and clear reading. Afterward, the writers autographed each other’s copies, chatted, and some stayed for the regularly scheduled open mic.

Speaking of open mics, a couple of weeks ago, I promised a little review of the Burning Word Festival held on Whidbey Island, Wash.—though I must admit I was more smitten with the beauty of the island itself than the poetry. As it happened, the trees were blooming, the rhododendrons were ablaze, resident eagles regularly swooped down to the bay for food, and Mount Baker shone gloriously across the bay. The setting of Burning Word is the Greenbank Farm in the middle of Whidbey Island, accessible only by ferry from the mainland.

On the main stage were the big names of the region, most notably Tess Gallagher, author of Willingly, and wife of the late Raymond Carver. In the open mic cottage (which is just what it was) were featured readers from the Washington Poets Association as well as round-robin readings from participants. I was lucky enough to be invited as a featured reader. Upstairs was a small press book fair, mostly Washington State University and small presses. There was also a workshop tent for poets who wanted to do some writing or revising. Greenbank Farm also has a café, coffee house and wine-tasting room to enjoy between events.

One of my true joys is combining a poetry event with a spectacular place. I love to travel, and of course, I love to read my work whenever I am asked. In addition, the concept of a one-day festival of words, just enough to satisfy without overwhelming, creates a pleasant venue. We can look forward to the Wordfest this fall, sponsored by our own public library. More about that when the time draws near.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

From the May 24-30, 2006, issue

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