Ray Wins Prestigious PSA Award

Lawrenceville English Teacher Maggie Ray is one of four winners of this year’s Poetry Society of America (PSA) Chapbook Program competition.

Lawrenceville English Teacher Maggie Ray is one of four winners of this year’s Poetry Society of America (PSA) Chapbook Program competition. Her chapbook, “Superstitions of the Mid-Atlantic,” was chosen as a winner of the Chapbook Fellowship.

Every year, the PSA organizes different poetry-related competitions and issues a number of prestigious awards. According to the PSA website, the organization’s goal is not only to support new and upcoming poets, but also to “build a larger and more diverse audience for poetry” and “encourage a deeper appreciation of the vitality and breadth of poetry.”

In 2003, the PSA launched the Chapbook Fellowship, a program intended to publish selected chapbooks to help upcoming writers reach new audiences. The program also includes a $1,000 grant. Chapbooks are different from full-length publications as they are relatively shorter collections of poetry, usually around 40 pages long. The application deadline for the 2020 fellowship was from October 1, 2019, to December 23, 2019, and the winners were announced this past October. While the Chapbook Fellowship is open to anyone living in the U.S. who has not published a full-length poetry manuscript in the past, only four submissions are selected as winners.

When discussing the application process, Ray emphasized that one does not need prior experience or a large amount of time on his or her hands to enter submissions in a PSA program. According to Ray, the process of entering a chapbook is “extremely simple,” as it only entails “printing it out, putting it in the mail, then sending it off to wait nine months.”

Ray’s chapbook, “Superstitions of the Mid-Atlantic,” is composed of poems written on a variety of different topics. Describing her poems, Ray said, “Some of them are dystopia, and others are autobiographical—just poems digging into a lot of different things.”

In regards to her process of coming up with ideas, Ray said that “all of life is kind of [her] material.” To write her chapbook, she found inspiration in everyday events and extracted ideas and material from her own life as well. Ray also did “a lot of reading, particularly...a ton of contemporary poetry,” which furthered her understanding of poetry and inspired her own writing.

With the support of the fellowship, Ray is planning to further develop her career as a poet by continuing to write and publish poems and chapbooks. She has already started working on a full-length book manuscript and will be “writing and revising a lot over the next year.”

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