Ellery wins Raynes Poetry Competition
April 21, 2014
“Shekinah.” a poem by Chris Ellery, professor of English, has won first prize in the Second Annual Alexander and Dora Raynes Poetry Competition.
More than 300 poets from across the United States submitted poems for Jewish Currents’ competition on the theme of “Union,” and the poems were judged by poet and playwright Joan Larkin. The winning poems will appear in the Spring issue of Jewish Currents magazine (published May 1).
Joan Larkin says of Ellery’s poem:
Chris Ellery’s “Shekinah” makes a world actual, bringing to vivid life the friendship between two boys, Arab and Jew, in Bethlehem just before the partition of Palestine. Both the sense of looming catastrophe and the mutual ease and affection that dissolve barriers are embodied in the sights, smells, and tastes of the ancient city. The poem explores family and brotherhood simply and beautifully; the reference to the archetypal story of Cain and Abel emerges unselfconsciously, without literary straining, just as the speaker’s loss of the friend he calls his brother is represented without sentimentality. This poem’s memorable images and emotion move me.
Forty finalists from the competition will be featured in a new collection to be published in May by Blue Thread, the book imprint of Jewish Currents. The anthology will be available for purchase and signing at a special event celebrating the competition on May 20, which will also feature poetry, music and refreshments. The event is cosponsored by Jewish Currents and the Forward, and is free to the public.
The Alexander and Dora Raynes Poetry Competition was made possible through the generosity of Helen and Henry Staley, retired academics in Albany, New York, and is named in enduring tribute to Helen’s parents, who were long-time creative activists in the progressive Jewish movement.
Further information about Ellery’s poem and prize, along with an interview with Ellery, are here.