Norton Girault Literary Prize in Poetry

Barely South Review is proud to host the Norton Girault Literary Prize, an annual award competition alternating among the genres of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. The inaugural prize was offered in 2012 in Fiction. We accept submissions for the prize during the spring semester and announce and print the winners in each fall issue. In the spring 2019, we will be accepting prize submissions in fiction.

NORTON GIRAULT served on cruisers and destroyers in World War II and the Korean War. After retiring from the Navy as a captain, he taught English at Norfolk State University for 15 years. His stories, poems and essays have been published in Crescent Review, MSS, Snake Nation Review, Timbuktu, Long Story, and other magazines. He’s been a scholar at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and a guest at Yaddo Writers’ Colony. A vital member of the Hampton Roads literary community, he has participated in Old Dominion University writing courses for many years.

The 2018 Norton Girault Prize judge was LUISA A. IGLORIA, who is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of the chapbooks Haori (Tea & Tattered Pages Press, 2017), Check & Balance (Moria Press/Locofo Chaps, 2017), and  Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015); plus the full length works Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015.

Luisa A. Igloria wrote the following about our prize winners:

First Place

Rochelle Potkar | To Daraza

This poem takes readers on the Thar Express through a tapestry of stops, from the “Zero-point station– / final point of immigration…” through towns where travelers wait in freezing queues for visas. The speaker’s destination is Daraza, birthplace and shrine of Sufi poet Sachal Sarmast or Sachu; once a regal state, now a village outside of Pakistan. Traveling in fits and starts and often stalled “in this train for the poor” where “[m]any don’t fill forms or know to signature,” the speaker reads lines from Sachu’s verses. But the magic that happens does not come with arrival at the imagined mecca; rather, it is in the poem’s plain and unadorned but generous accounting of everyone else on the train, each with his or her own reasons for pilgrimage:

A married daughter who misses chow mein from Hyderabad, India.
A childless Bhilwara millworker travelling to see his nieces.
A Kashmiri shawl merchant visiting his father’s grave.
An Indore jeweler’s parents live on both sides.
A Bollywood hopeful who loves India, more than her parents.
A Nalanda tailor adopted by an Indian uncle for a better life.
A clerk from Palanpur…

Rochelle Potkar reminds us that epiphanies exist in “the explicit march of reminiscence,/ or just plain exaltation: a levitation.” And more, that the condition of both search and fulfillment is unceasing, as in her paraphrase of Sachu: “If I interpret love for all times, a hundred resurrections will pass; and yet my commentary will not end.”

Honorable Mention

Liz Robbins | And Life Grants My Wish

In this taut poem, the poet skillfully overlays lyric and narrative threads into the same braid. In just a few lines, she charts the hot arcs of longing felt similarly by both mother and daughter at the juncture of their youth and sexual awakening: “I recall my mother in her forties/ saying how great the teen years…/ Now I stand where she once/ did, searching for the path back…/” And now [that] she looks back from the ledge of having “…grown/ so good at adulthood, [she has] nothing/ to confess.” It is at this precise hinge, this volta in the poem, that the speaker unbuckles herself from the safety or complacency implied in being able to say that becoming an adult is the state of having seen or done it all. She declares herself open again to life’s wrecking ball and pendulum swing: “Help me find trouble/ again, so that I may recover/ from it.” The cigarettes, the beer, the young men in trees are gone—but life itself remains the most alluring and dangerous lover of all.

Return to Fall 2018 Volume 10.1