March 05, 2008

Joseph wins top prize in poetry competition

by Andrea Hahn

Allison Joseph

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Those who need a poetry reading fix even when there isn't a poetry reading scheduled need despair no more.

Online poetry readings are sometimes a feature of poetry contests, as is the case with a recent contest Allison E. Joseph, director of the creative writing program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, won.

Joseph, no stranger to the winner's circle of poetry contests, won the third Elizabeth R. Curry Prize in Poetry from SLAB, otherwise known as the Sound and Literary Art Book of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. The next issue of the journal features all the winners, including, of course, Joseph's poem, "What Poetry Is." An audio sample featuring her reading of that poem goes on the Web site.

Joseph is also a past winner of such contests as the Propper Prize in Poetry, the John Crowe Ransom Prize, the John C. Zacharis First Book Award, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award and the Academy of American Poets (three times), just to name a few.

She said entering poetry-writing competitions isn't just about the winning, though. It's also about supporting the small press publications that sponsor the contests.

"I look at them as literary lotteries," she said, noting, though, that she wins poetry contests more often than she wins the scratch-off kind of lotteries.

"I enter them because they are a way of supporting the small press, which, as an editor myself, I'm very committed to doing," she said. "There's no pressure, because if I win, I win. If I don't, well, there is always another contest."

The Elizabeth R. Curry Prize comes with a $500 cash award as well as publication in the journal and a spot in the audio portion. The contest judge was Lance Larsen, 2007 National Endowment of the Arts Literature Fellow. When the new issue is ready, Joseph's reading will be at and follow the links through audio.

To hear more Illinois poets, Joseph noted, check out the "Bread and Steel: Illinois Poets Reading from Their Works" CD project edited by current Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein at