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HoCoPoLitSo Announces Inaugural Ellen Conroy Kennedy Poetry Prize

HoCoPoLitSo has created a poetry prize in honor of co-founder Ellen Conroy Kennedy (1932-2020). The winner’s poem will be  published on HoCoPoLitSo’s website and the winning poet celebrated with a press release, on social media, in a blog interview, and featured in our annual report. 

We welcome submissions from poets of all ages and in all styles, including experimental, traditional, and short narrative poems. Each poet may submit one to three previously unpublished, original poems to total no more than 60 lines or three pages. HoCoPoLitSo-appointed judges will consider each poem separately and without identifying author information to select one winning poem of exceptional quality.

Entries must be submitted September 30, 2021. Each poem will be judged separately and read anonymously. The reading fee is $10. The winner will be notified by November 15, 2021. HoCoPoLitSo Board Members and staff are not eligible. Click here for the submission link.

Kennedy, a National Book Award finalist, co-founded the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society in 1974 and served as chief executive officer until 2005, bringing literary luminaries including Saul Bellow, Edward Albee, Isaac Bashevis Singer, W.S. Merwin, Henry Taylor, Lucille Clifton, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Stanley Kunitz, Derek Walcott, Allen Ginsberg and more to Howard County.

“Ellen’s brilliant, discerning love of literature, especially contemporary poetry, inspired the creation of this annual contest in her name. She delighted in nurturing and showcasing new voices who can move, inform, and connect our community through verse,” says Tara Hart, HoCoPoLitSo Co-Chair.

Proceeds will support HoCoPoLitSo’s live literary programs. HoCoPoLitSo’s mission is to cultivate appreciation for contemporary poetry and literature, to celebrate a culturally diverse literary heritage and to broaden exposure to the literary arts. The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s award winning writer to writer interview show, available on YouTube, has been viewed worldwide over 666,000 times. HoCoPoLitSo is supported in part by the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County Government, the Community Foundation of Howard County, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Columbia Film Society, Dr. Lillian Bauder, and individual donors.

Click here to SUBMIT YOUR WORK.

Seamus Heaney, HoCoPoLitSo Remembers His Visits to Columbia

SeamusHeaney - bySean O'Connor

Picture of the Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney at the University College Dublin, February 11, 2009. Photographer: Sean O’Connor.

The many who heard Seamus Heaney during his three HoCoPoLitSo visits to Columbia (1982,1988 and 1994), the last not long before his being named Nobel Laureate for Literature, are saddened to learn of his recent death at age 74.

We treasure the memories of hearing him read his poems no less than the acquaintance we made with his warm and generous person. From his 1982 visit to our 4th Evening of Irish Music and Poetry, we recall the place, our companions, his voice and afterwards the many books he signed and annotated for long lines of admirers.

FieldworkSignedbySHFrom 1988 we prize our “Afternoon with Seamus Heaney” video. He read from his poems, talked with his friend George O’Brien, and responded to questions from a Smith Theater audience. Edited down to one hour, this TV program aired locally in Maryland in January 1989.

The circumstances of Heaney’s third visit in 1994 were dramatic.  Close to 700 advance tickets sold for his evening appearance at the Interfaith Center in Columbia, but a winter blizzard had closed even the Kennedy Center in Washington. Traffic in the region was paralyzed, and only a few highways were passable.  Nonetheless, about 230 people, some hiking through the snow, arrived to hear him. Earlier in the day a skeleton crew opened the Howard Community College TV studio, this time to record a half hour interview with Heaney reading several new poems – hosted by Roland Flint. The one hour 1988 program aired again in 1995 to celebrate our favorite Irish poet’s Nobel Prize.

Ellen Conroy Kennedy
Founder, Director Emeritus

A few Seamus Heaney links:

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