Back to Network News

Charlotte Writer Wins Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition

Mary Alice Dixon of Charlotte has won the 2024 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition for her poem “Prick of the Dark in Swain County Cemetery.” Dixon will receive $200 and publication in storySouth.

Final judge Logen Cure said, “I chose this poem because it stuck with me after first reading it. It is unmistakably North Carolinian, with its setting in Swain County and gorgeous depiction of ‘old / mountain offerings / to the dead.’ I was struck by the use of ‘holy’ as a verb in the opening, and I have continued to consider the questions in the second stanza: ‘How, after all, / can grief be / a thing graspable? / Or holy be / a thing held?’ The closing lines of this poem do not neatly resolve these questions; rather, the speaker offers a moment of connection, reflecting the complex reality of grief.”

Dixon grew up in Carolina red dirt mixed with Appalachian coal dust and her grandmother’s mountain lore. She has been a professor of architecture and landscape history, an advocate for abused children, and a door-to-door encyclopedia seller, though not all at the same time. She is also a Pushcart nominee and 2023 NC Poetry Society Poet Laureate Award finalist. Her writing is in Broad River Review, Kakalak, Litmosphere, Main Street Rag, moonShine Review, Northern Appalachian Review, Pinesong, 2024 Poetry in Plain Sight, and elsewhere. Dixon lives in Charlotte, where she is a longtime hospice volunteer who teaches Grief Writing Workshops. These workshops include found poems, blueberry scones, and hand painted healing stones. She often walks in cemeteries, talking to ghosts, including those of her dead cats, Alice B. Toklas and Thomas Merton.

Cure named “A Toucan’s Beak Retains Its Colors Years After Death” by Jackson Benson as Runner-Up, and “Moving Sidewalk” by Lee Stockdale as Honorable Mention.

Benson (They/Them) is a poet based out of Hillsborough. A graduate of the Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, they have been published in The Cellar Door and The Daily Tar Heel. Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, they live with their spouse and two cats, Churro and Satan. By the end of the year, they will also share a home with their firstborn child, who may someday forgive their parents for having a birthday near Christmas.

Stockdale’s debut collection, Gorilla, was published in 2022 by Main Street Rag. His poetry has won the United Kingdom National Poetry Prize, the Sidney Lanier Poetry Prize, and other prizes. His poems have appeared in Poetry ReviewThe Guardian, Kakalak, Ekphrastic Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Asheville and loves airports.

The Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition accepts one-poem submissions and honors poet and critic Randall Jarrell, who taught at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for nearly eighteen years. He was a 1996 inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame who left behind nine books of poetry, four books of literary criticism, four children’s books, five anthologies, a bestselling academic novel, a translation of Goethe’s Faust, Part I, and a translation of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, produced on Broadway by The Actors’ Studio. 

The competition is administered by Terry L. Kennedy, Director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

storySouth is an online literary journal dedicated to showcasing the best poetry (and fiction and creative nonfiction) that writers from the “new south” have to offer. Facilitated by the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at UNCG, storySouth aims to prove that “the internet is not just a medium of flash and style; that excellent writing can attract attention without programming gimmicks and hard-to-read fonts.” storySouth believes the American South today is a “mix of traditional and new, regional and international.”

Cure is a queer poet and educator. She curates Inner Moonlight, the monthly reading series and podcast for The Wild Detectives in Dallas. She’s an editor for Voicemail Poems. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her debut full-length poetry collection, Welcome to Midland (Deep Vellum Publishing 2021), was shortlisted for the Reading the West Book Awards. She lives in Texas.

The non-profit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.