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2019 Competition statistics:

18% of total poems submitted, 44% of poets made it to the second round (semifinalists)

12% of total poems submitted, 36% of poets made it to final round (finalists)

7% of total poems submitted, 23% of poets accepted for publication



Click here for information about the James Applewhite Poetry Prize competition. The annual deadline for submission is April 30.

Read NCLR Poetry Editor Jeffrey Franklin's tribute to James Applewhite in NCLR Online 2013.


Wayne Johns is the winner of the 2019 James Applewhite Poetry Prize in another record-breaking year of entries. Johns’s prize-winning poem, “Meditation in a Glass House,” will be published in the 2020 print issue of the North Carolina Literary Review (NCLR). In addition, Johns will receive $250 for his first-place entry. Final Judge Allison Adelle Hedge Coke says of the prize poem: “‘Meditation in a Glass House,’ ‘where morning glory takes over the world until the first frost,’ holds a supple presence in embracement of life, in muse of moment. Here, sweet and tender details from the field of view wide open hold such grace, introspection, peace.”

The North Carolina Literary Review established the James Applewhite Poetry Prize in 2011. NCLR Editor Margaret Bauer reports that this year, for the first time, over 100 poets submitted almost 350 total poems, a 26% increase from 2018, which was also a record-breaking year for submissions. Final Judge Allison Adelle Hedge Coke selected the winning poem from 41 finalists by 37 poets (another record), selected for prize consideration by NCLR Poetry Editor Jeffrey Franklin.

Wayne Johns’s first book of poems, Antipsalm, received the Editor's Choice prize in Unicorn Press’s First Book Competition Series and Honorable Mention for the 2019 Brockman-Campbell Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society, given for the best book published by a North Carolina native or current resident. He is also the author of two chapbooks, The Exclusion Zone and An Invisible Veil Between Us, which received the Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, New England Review, Ploughshares, Image, and Prairie Schooner, among others. A former Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction, and Kingsbury Fellow at Florida State University, a recent short story can be found in Every True Pleasure: LGBTQ Tales of North Carolina. He teaches in the Department of English, Communication & Media Studies at Greensboro College, volunteers with the Guilford County High School Poet Laureate program, and is a member of the board of Greensboro Literary Organization, which coordinates the annual Greensboro Bound Literary Festival.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is a Distinguished Professor at the University of California-Riverside. She is the winner of numerous awards, including the American Book Award and the 2015 Wordcrafter of the Year Award, and she was chosen by Juan Filipe Herrera for the 2016 Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellowship. She spent part of her childhood in North Carolina, where she came of age working tobacco fields in Willow Springs. After attending North Carolina State University, Hedge Coke obtained an associate’s degree in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and earned a master’s degree in poetry from Vermont College. Her books include Burn, Streaming, Blood Run, Off-Season City Pipe, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival, and Dog Road Woman. Her poetry has been translated into multiple languages, and she has been an invited poet-writer in Ireland, Scotland, China, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela. Coke is a contributing editor and editorial board member for NYU’s Black Renaissance Noire.

Other finalists were also selected for honors by the judge. Hedge Coke describes her second-place selection, Debra Kaufman’s “The Ghost Girls of Ottawa, Illinois,” as giving a “solemn tribute to a slice of society paying the price of economic deprivation in a working girl’s blues.” Kaufman, who is a Mebane, NC, resident, has been a finalist twice before, as well as a previous winner of the Applewhite Prize. She is the author of three full-length poetry collections.

Hedge Coke calls her third-place selection, Glenis Redmond’s “Racism Squared,” “a fast take on cold, hard facts beneath every single misguided presentation. If the audience is curious about the reason Ford rallied to create square dance as PE, this piece brings it home.” This is Redmond’s second year in a row to receive third place in this competition. A resident of South Carolina, Redmond said in an interview published in NCLR 2019 that her poetry “bloom[ed] during her years living in Asheville, NC.

Hedge Coke also named three poems for Honorable Mention: Valerie Nieman’s “Late Shift,” Marty Silverthorne’s “Monarch,” and Jane Sasser’s “Franz, North Carolina, 1949.” All of these poems will be published in the 2020 print issue of the journal.

Several more finalists have been selected for publication in NCLR Online 2020: J.S. Absher’s “Gentile Bellini,” Emily Banks’s “Credit Where It’s Due,” Anna Lena Philips Bell’s “At Carolina Beach,” Barbara Campbell’s “The Tender,” Michael Gaspeny’s “On the Demise of a Bibliophile,” Jonathan Giles's "My Life in Shreds," John Frank Haugh’s “Baba Yaga After a Bad Tinder Date,” Robert Hill’s “Circus Gone Off Line, Fade to Black,” Gina Malone's "1970," Priscilla Melchior’s “Circumlocution,” Jon Obermeyer’s “Still Life with Monoclonal Antibodies,” Amy Elsie Parkes’s “After the Acquittal,” Tori Reynolds’s “Herd Animal,” Betty Rogers’s “Mount Zion Cemetery,” Mark Smith-Soto’s “Bubbie Jenny and the Lone Ranger,” Melinda Thomsen’s “Old Tractor Equipment,” Eric Tran’s “Treatise on Whether to Write the Mango,” and Marly Youmans’s “The Woman in the Walls.”

The North Carolina Literary Review, produced at East Carolina University since 1992, has won numerous awards and citations. The University of North Carolina Press has been publishing NCLR since 2017. Find submission and subscription information on NCLR’s website.


East Carolina UniversityNorth Carolina Literary & Historical AssociationUniversity of North Carolina Press