During times such as these, poetry is often one of the vehicles that reminds us of the importance of bearing witness. Mount Island’s Lucy Terry Prince Prize has come to a close and we are excited to announce our grand prize winner, Brittny Ray Crowell’s “Blood Petition: A Prayer of Reckoning.” The runner up poems are: “The Big Day” by Jordan Charlton and “Can You Taste the Ivory Coast Chocolate?” by Mervyn Seivwright. These poems will be published in our summer 2020 issue, and in our 2021 print anthology, Revive!

This historic prize was designed to honor the life of Lucy Terry Prince, a Guilford landowner, community organizer, orator, and the first known African-American poet in English literature, known for “Bars Fight,” a poem that documents a raid that takes place in Deerfield, MA in 1746. 

The prize’s inaugural  judge, Major Jackson, is a celebrated poet whose most recent poetry collection, The Absurd Man, is followed by many others such as Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems.

Jackson has made his final decisions among the following list of poems that have been selected as finalists by the editorial team at Mount Island. This was a blind contest, which means we’ve chosen without having any identifying information of the poet who has submitted. The finalists included:

  • Brittny Ray Crowell: “Blood Petition,” “Your Navel Cord’s Well,” and “Down 59”
  •  LN Bethea: “where i’m at,” “Poor White Man,” and “Black on Me”
  • Mervyn Seivwright: “Can You Taste the Ivory Coast Chocolate?,” “Stick, Hook, and a Pile of Yarn,” and “Red Stripes on the flag”
  •  Sarah Audsley: “Still Life with the Watermelon Seeds”
  • Jordan Charlton: “The Big Day,” and “When/I Know”

We would like to also thank the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and Vermont African American Heritage Trail for their sponsorship support of this prize. 

As we all continue to figure out how to engage with the world during this time, it is encouraging to continue to support the work of those who are bearing witness as stated by Mount Island’s founder and Editor-in-Chief, Desmond Saunders Peeples, 

“There’s no better time to honor the legacy of Lucy Terry Prince than 2020, the year of our Black Spring. I’m proud as a peach that we’ve brought rural people of color from around the country together in the name of a Black woman who made her home a sanctuary for her community in colonial Vermont—and that in doing so, we are able to tangibly support three exceptional Black writers here and now.”

Meet the winners

First Place: Brittny Ray Crowell for “Blood Petition: A Prayer of Reckoning”

Brittny Ray Crowell is a native of Texarkana, TX. She received a B.A. in English from Spelman College, and an M.A. in English from Texas A&M-Texarkana. Her work has been published in The West Review and the anthology Black Lives Have Always Mattered. Her work focuses on hidden mythologies of the contemporary South as seen in her current poetry manuscript Haint, an exploration of  home in the wake of trauma. She is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Houston where she serves as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast

1st Runner Up: Jordan Charlton for “The Big Day”

Jordan Charlton is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska. He also works with the Nebraska Writers Collective, working with both high school youth poets and incarcerated writers through the programs Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains and Writers’ Block.

2nd Runner Up: Mervyn Seivwright for “Can You Taste the Ivory Coast Chocolate?”

Mervyn R. Seivwright has appeared or has forthcoming published works in AGNI Literary Magazine, The Trinity Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Montana Mouthful Literary Magazine, iō Literary Journal, The Stirling Spoon, The Scribe Literary Journal, Flights Literary Journal, Rigorous Magazine, Prometheus Dreaming Cultural Journal, and Toho Journal. He has received recognition as a Semi-Finalist for the Midwest Review‘s Poetry Contest, Z Publishing’s Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets 2019, and has a poem commissioned by the British Museum, Ipswich, United Kingdom. Mervyn holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, Louisville KY. He is from Jamaican heritage, born in London, England and while he currently lives in Schopp, Germany.