Adult Contest

Meet the 2022 Contest Winners

You can hear the winners read their winning poems at the Kentucky State Poetry Society’s Annual Poetry Conference.

Chaffin/Kash First Prize, for “Inheritance”

LUCIE BROOKS is a writer and educator. She grew up bouncing between Owenton and Louisville, KY, where she resides today. Her work examines family, place, the natural world, whiteness, and the opioid epidemic. You can read her in Taunt, Catapult, and Manifest Station. She is currently working on a novel inspired by the forests of Kentucky.

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“Inheritance” struck me immediately for its daring, intelligence, poignancy, and the skillful way it incrementally unveils the emotional and historical truths via the speaker all the way to its very last words. It is a dark and painful, but important poem that deserves a wide audience.

-Frank X Walker, 2022 Chaffin/Kash Contest Judge

Chaffin/Kash Second Prize for “The Women of Appalachia”

SYLVIA AHRENS is the author of several poetry collections, the latest being Reckless Pilgrims (Broadstone Books). She lives in Lexington, KY, and writes under the name Allison Thorpe.

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Where the previous poem marched down the page, “The Women of Appalachia” moved like a creek and proved to be a sonic masterpiece from the “sing like the hills on fire.” The poem’s capacity to both lift up and carry an authentic Appalachian cultural motif fully invested in the land and the people all the way through with fresh and original images was impressive. What a beautiful poem.

-Frank X Walker, 2022 Chaffin/Kash Contest Judge

Chaffin/Kash Third Prize, for “Scary Movies from Mini-Mart”

AMY LE ANN RICHARDSON was born and raised in Morehead, KY. She grew up running through the hills with cousins and walking barefoot through her parents’ garden letting her imagination run wild. Her love of stories led her to earn her Bachelor’s in English from Morehead State University (’07) and MFA in Writing from Spalding University (’09). She currently resides and works on her farm in Carter County making art, writing poems and stories, growing veggies, and making maple syrup.

I found “Scary Movies from Mini-Mart” quite striking because of its ability to authentically conjure up youthful innocence while recalling a traumatic experience. The easy way it moves down the page towards its revelatory exit after being complicated by the juxtaposition of the reality of horror vs fictional horror is really quite stunning.

-Frank X Walker, 2022 Chaffin/Kash Contest Judge

Grand Prix First Prize, for “Justin Introduces Sex, Faulkner & Godzilla”

LINDA BRYANT DAVIS is a journalist and poet from Berea, Kentucky. She runs Owsley Fork Writers Sanctuary in Berea. She is a co-host, alongside Kevin Nance and Jay McCoy, of Kentucky Writers Roundtable on RadioLex. Her chapbook, Swingset Confessional, was published in 2022 by Act of Power Press.

A portrait for a beloved teacher, this poem is sure of itself from the first line. Its subject, Justine, is dynamic as the voltas of each line break. She is god-fearing but not afraid to teach youngsters about sex, as taken with the high literary likes of Faulkner as she is with low-brow horror films. Justine has range, and so does this poem. Its speaker is honest and not afraid to admit when they are “completely baffled” or “didn’t get it.” This poem poses no such problem—as clear as Justine’s whispered imperatives to the speaker, the final line, “try reading it a forth,” beckons to us to begin the poem again and again, traveling back and forth with the speaker from Eastern, Kentucky to Huntington, from memory to memory.

-Joy Priest, 2022 Grand Prix Contest Judge

Grand Prix Second Prize, for “In the aftermath”

BILL BRYMER is from Louisville, KY. He holds a MFA from the University of Arizona. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Barely South Review, Yearling, Pegasus, and Poetry South.

When we enter this poem, we know that some sort of storm has taken place. It is unclear whether it is an existential disaster, accumulating clutter over the years like neglected trauma, or a natural disaster, like the tornadoes that tore through Western Kentucky last December. What matters is the exquisite attention the poet pays to a scene of “aftermath.” The poem moves us through sheer description: “the orange petals / of a broken flower pot,” “on the oil-stained concrete, a dead bird,” the “chill breeze blowing the loose strands / of vinyl holding together the patio chair,” before asking us to say “goodbye to all that, again and again.”

-Joy Priest, 2022 Grand Prix Contest Judge

Grand Prix Third Prize, for “Because I am a daughter, I am a moon”

CHLOE COOK hold a BA in English from Northern Kentucky University, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of Loch Norse Magazine. She is the author of one chapbook, Surge (dancing girl press), and her writing is featured or forthcoming in The Journal, Tule Review, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Atlanta Review, Ghost City Review, Pegasus, Horned Things, and Oakland Arts Review, among others. She is currently a poetry MFA student at the University of Florida.

The power of this poem works through its quiet precision and quirky logic. The speaker is a daughter, and therefore a moon, thinking about her dad, but she “know(s) he wants suns.” The poet “tell(s) the truth of him / in languages he cannot speak” because the fugitive language of poems often eludes our loved ones when we need to be honest to ourselves about them. Here we are shown the imagination of longing, textured through the kind of invisible listening only a daughter can do when she is “just enough light snaking through the curtains to be of notice.”

-Joy Priest, 2022 Grand Prix Contest Judge

You can hear the winners read their winning poems at the Kentucky State Poetry Society’s Annual Poetry Conference.

Meet the 2022 Contest Judges

2022 Chaffin/Kash Prize Judge

Frank X Walker

Frank X Walker, a native of Danville, Kentucky, is a founder of the Affrilachian Poets and the first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate. He is the author of eleven collections of poetry, several of which have garnered awards. Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers was awarded the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Poetry and the Black Caucus American Library Association Honor Award for Poetry. Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York won the 2004 Lillian Smith Book Award, and Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride, which he adapted for stage, won the Paul Green Foundation Playwrights Fellowship Award. Other honors include a 2004 Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry, the 2008 and 2009 Denny C. Plattner Award for Outstanding Poetry in Appalachian Heritage, the 2013 West Virginia Humanities Council’s Appalachian Heritage Award, as well as fellowships and residences with Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Kentucky Arts Council. In 2020 Walker received the Donald Justice Award for Poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His most recent collection is Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems. 

2022 Grand Prix Prize Judge

Joy Priest

Joy Priest is the author of HORSEPOWER (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), selected by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as the winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a 2019-2020 Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, and the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from the American Poetry Review. Her poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and The Atlantic, among others, as well as in commissions for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Her essays have appeared in The Bitter SouthernerPoets & WritersESPN, and The Undefeated. Priest received her MFA in poetry with a certificate in Women & Gender Studies from the University of South Carolina. She has facilitated poetry workshops with incarcerated juvenile and adult women, and has taught creative writing, comedy, gender & sexuality, and African American Arts & Culture at the university level. Joy is an Inprint MD Anderson Foundation Fellow and a doctoral student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Houston. She is currently editing an anthology of Louisville poets for Sarabande Books.

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