The Town of Pelham Public Library Announces Winners of the Fifth Annual James J. Nicholson Political Poetry Prize

The Town of Pelham Public Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 5th annual James J. Nicholson Political Poetry Contest. The winners include Meredith Trede of Sleepy Hollow, whose poem Commentary took top prize in the adult category.

A poetry reading and reception will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, at the Pelham Public Library. It will feature readings by Meredith Trede as well as Joshua Mehigan, who served as judge of the adult category.

Joshua Mehigan’s poems have been featured in many periodicals, including PoetryThe New York Times, and The New Republic. Mr. Mehigan’s first book, The Optimist (Ohio Univ. Press, 2004), was winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and one of five finalists for a 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He lives with his wife in Brooklyn, New York, where he works as a teaching fellow at Brooklyn College. Mr. Mehigan is also the recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and is currently an Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellow at theGraduate Center of the City University of New York (2010–2014).

About his selection of Mrs. Trede’s winning entry, Mehigan said: “Commentary is a smart, surprising poem whose concision and plainspokenness conceal a sharp critique not only of political commentary but also, implicitly, of policy, politics, and political dialogue, in general. The poem works on a couple of levels to produce the kind of dryly absurd satire that is now rare in contemporary poetry. The poem’s speaker, a TV or radio commentator (or maybe all TV and radio commentators), delivers a detailed and yet completely empty report on some ominous international developments. But, all the while, the poet also artfully uses a multiple-choice device to offer two or three choices for each of the commentator’s key phrases, separated by slashes.”

The latest, just in: a vital, oil/fruit-giving
ally/adversary, reeling/recovering from
looting/swindlers, sympathy for this
side or that, we have/withheld aid.

Mehigan continued: “It quickly becomes clear that the level of discussion is extremely limited, usually to overly simplistic either/or alternatives. By the poem’s end, the reader is reminded strongly of all the ways in which this generic commentator and these generic ‘choices’ might remind us of our present-day political reality, which is polarized to an extent that can seem to render commentary, democratic policy-making, and simple discussion impossible.”

The annual James J. Nicholson Political Poetry Prize competition was established by Pelham resident Peggy Nicholson and her children in memory of their beloved husband and father. For the fifth consecutive year, the competition has awarded top political poetry submitted in the adult category, open to any resident of Westchester County age 18 or older, and in the student categories, open to students at Pelham Memorial High School and Pelham Middle School.