Poetry Life, Sarasota’s annual poetry festival featuring nationally recognized and local poets, has announced the student and adult winners of its poetry contests

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Poetry Life, Sarasota’s annual poetry festival featuring nationally recognized and local poets, has announced the student and adult winners of its poetry contests. Three categories of contestants include adults, college and middle/high school students. Gaining in popularity and recognition, the number of Poetry Life poet submissions has increased every year since its inception, This year student entries totaled 196. The adult category is new and with 160 submissions is off to a great start. Judges are MFA creative writing/poetry students from Vanderbilt University with oversight by author, poet and Associate Professor Rick Hilles. The process is blind judging, so that only the work is seen. Winners are invited to join celebrity Poets Laureate Billy Collins and Marie Howe, and Pulitzer Prize poet Tracy K. Smith throughout the May 1-2 events taking place at Florida Studio Theatre (FST). All are ticketed events open to the public.

We could not be more pleased with this year’s submissions and winners,” replied Georgia Court, founder of Poetry Life and owner of Bookstore1. “We had entries from almost every middle and high school in Sarasota County. College entries came from throughout the state and the adult entries were from across the country. It’s been a very exciting year, which will be evident in the readings throughout our festival.”

In the adult category, first and second place was won by Deirdre G. Callanan, of Nokomis and Cape Cod, Mass. She has a lifelong love of reading and writing poetry, which began at six years old. Her career has been in writing as a feature and travel reporter for newspapers and magazines in Milwaukee and Washington DC. She is presently working on a book called Bait, Beer and Raggedy Hearts about the North Jetty Fish Camp on Casey Key, parts of which have been serialized in the Venice Gondolier. Third place winner was Karla Linn Merrifield of North Ft. Myers and Brockport, NY. Merrifield is a professional poet who has published 11 books of poetry. She often holds poetry workshops and participates in poetry readings. The winners of this category are invited to join Billy Collins, Tracy Smith and Marie Howe on stage at FST’s Bowne’s Lab for lunch and an audience discussion about life as a writer. The event begins on Friday, May 1st at 11:30 am. Cost is $35.

In the college poet category, first place was given to Laura Hackett from Florida Southern College; second place was Cari Robaldo from Ringling College of Art and Design and third place went to Allya Yourish, New College of Florida. As first place winner, Laura Hackett receives a $100 cash prize and will read her poem, Everything is Sinking, at Live on Stage where the celebrity poets will read from their work at FST, May 1st at 7:00 pm. Cost is $25. The second and third place winners will also be at this event.

Fifteen selected middle and high school winners will read their poetry on Saturday May 2nd at 1:00 pm during the Young Voices Poetry Reading, held in FST’s Bowne’s Lab. They are Chandler Powell from Booker High School; Cailey Cantrell, Aren Lipmann and Meredith Worthley from Sarasota Military Academy; Jillian Alexander and Jonathan Dreier from Student Leadership Academy; and nine students from Booker Middle School: Thaleia Dasberg, Akila DavisShaw, Jordan Febish, Dominique Golder, Zeban Kaiser, Ava Plank, Payton Saturen, Jamila Walker and LaShaughn Walters. Poet Laureates Billy Collins and Marie Howe will also be on hand to share their insights with the young poets. Tickets are $15.

The final event of the weekend is a Community Favorite Poem Reading, held in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret at 4:00 pm. People from throughout the community have submitted their favorite poems to Poetry Life and those selected will be read, followed by discussion about what makes these poems so special. In addition to Poets Laureate Collins and Howe, local celebrities journalist Charlene Hunter-Gault, New College President Donal O’Shea and two FST actors will be among the readers. This final tribute to poetry is always a great closing event. Tickets are $15.

All events are open to the public and tickets can be obtained through the FST box office by calling 941-366-9000 or online at www.FloridaStudioTheatre.org.

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