A PROJECT OF THE POET LAUREATE OF VIRGINIA
call for submissions
The period of submissions is now closed, but I invite you to read on and learn about the anthology, now in press.
We all have a poem with our name on it—not a poem that we've written, but a poem that seems addressed to us with unique immediacy, as if the poet had been thinking of us when he or she wrote the poem. When we find such a poem, the connection is intimate, and we keep the poem close at hand.
Not every poem speaks to us; not every poet has something to say that resonates within us. After all, poetry is an intimate dialogue between the poet and the reader. In the course of that dialogue, the poet eventually recedes, and all that is left is that nearest poem echoing inside the reader, in a chamber that is enlarged and deepened by shared sounds and acquired meaning.
Events as proximate and transformative as this don’t happen all the time. This is what makes each of them such a valued commodity. When they do happen, they matter.
The Nearest Poem Anthology project is aimed at creating a testimony to the immediacy of poetry and its closeness to everyday life.
Here's what the anthology will contain:
Over a hundred poems, each one selected and submitted by a citizen of Virginia, alongside a brief but persuasive essay, by that reader, on why the poem holds a special meaning for him or her.
Contributors come from all regions of the Commonwealth and represent a wide range of professions and avocations, as well as ages and experiences. The youngest contributor is a 7th grader (unless one considers, and I should, a 4 year old, whose grandmother submitted a poem they often read together); the oldest is 97. Some contributors are well-known Virginians, others are appreciated in the more intimate circles of their lives.
The poems selected also represent a varied range of styles and ages; poems from the 17th century appear near poems by 21st century poets. About half of the poems are in the public domain; the other half represent contemporary writers.
although the period for submission is closed, i hope you will wonder about your "nearest Poem". if you don't have one, Here are some tips on how to find that poem with your name on it, the poem that could have been written for you:
Many of us already have our "nearest poem", a poem that accompanied us at a crucial time in our lives or that pushed us to think differently—and more deeply—about decisions we were making. We may have a poem that we return to often, because it allows us to reassess our life, when we most need it, or because it re-energizes us. There may be a poem we keep close at hand, because it brings us peace, or another poem that fulfills an unspoken longing, every time we read it. If you have not yet discovered your poem, I invite you to embark on a poetic search.
In addition to local libraries, book stores, used-book exchanges, home libraries of friends and colleagues, etc.—there is (of course!) the web with its innumerable antennae. Remember that the poem you select does not have to be written by a Virginian; it may derive from any place and any era (as long as it is in English or in an English translation). Feel free to cast your net far and wide. Indeed, by visiting a mere handful of well-chosen sites, you will have countless poems at your fingertips, poems you will be able to read or even listen to, through web recordings.
Online journals and online versions of literary journals abound, and they are far too many to mention here, but I would highly recommend the following poetry sites:
Everyone has a poem with their name on it. My hope is that The Nearest Poem Anthology will encourage you to discover yours.
If you would like a brochure of The Nearest Poem Anthology project, you can download a pdf file here.
Sofia M. Starnes
Poet Laureate of Virginia