English Department’s Catherine Carter receives top prize at Applewhite Poetry Contest

Catherine Carter, a professor of English at Western Carolina University, is the winner of the 2018 James Applewhite Poetry Prize.

Carter’s winning poem, “Womb-Room,” will be published in the 2019 issue of the North Carolina Literary Review. She also will receive $250 for her first place entry.

The prize is named for the esteemed American poet and retired professor emeritus in creative writing at Duke University. This year, 81 poets submitted 270 poems, a record for both poems and poets entering the competition.

Catherine Carter

“I was very moved by ‘Womb-Room,’ which takes us inside the human body as a speaker considers her inability to bear a child,” said Amber Flora Thomas, the judge who selected the winning poem from finalists. “The speaker finds a plethora of cavernous beauty within herself, which is what we expect from a poet who understands the fertile richness of the imagination. We keep having to remind ourselves that the world she finds is in a human interior; yet, if we pay attention, we find our connection with nature is no great surprise: how we see and experience the earth ends up rooted within our bodies. I care deeply about poems which recognize our connection with our environment and nature.”

Carter’s latest collection of published poetry, “Larvae of the Nearest Stars,” is due out next year. Her honors include publication in Best American Poetry 2009 and winning the Jacar Press’s poetry chapbook contest for her “Mark of the Witch.”

“I believe poetry’s primary purpose is to give pleasure: pleasure to the reader, pleasure to the writer,” Carter said. “Many people don’t believe this until or unless someone shows them, but it’s true: poetry is for pleasure, and joy and meaning. Joy and meaning tend to have some depth to them, and so they sometimes come a little harder than, say, watching ‘The Walking Dead.’ But joy and pleasure and meaning are always relevant. They may or mayn’t keep us alive ― since nothing keeps us alive forever ― but they’re some of the main reasons we want to stay alive.”

Also among the many honors and recognitions from her career, Carter took third place in last year’s Applewhite competition with her poem “Billy Collins Pours Me a Beer.” She earned second place in the 2012 Williams Matthews Poetry Prize from the editors of the Asheville Poetry Review for her poem “The Young,” while her poem “Toast” won the 2009 North Carolina Writer’s Network Randall Jarrell Award.