Lyric Poet Wins Nation’s Top Honors for Classical Poetry

NEW YORK – February 1, 2020 – The Society of Classical Poets has awarded the coveted 2020 First Prize to Joseph Charles MacKenzie of Bernalillo, New Mexico (southwestern United States) for Best Poems of 2019. The Society’s annual competition is regarded as one of the world’s most competitive for the sheer number of entries received and the quality of its judges. Classical poetry is the most difficult to compose, as it requires a broad, humanistic education as well as specialized knowledge in literary history, philology, euphony, and prosody. It is also the most popular and best loved form of poetry, appreciated from age to age for its timeless beauty and truth.

J. C. MacKenzie in Recitation
J. C. MacKenzie in Recitation

MacKenzie garnered the sought-after First Prize for three love poems inspired by his wife: “Villanelle,” “Song of the Rose,” and “Rimini.” Of the three, “Villanelle” gained prominence last October when the emerging label, MacKenzie and Hall, released the poem as a video featuring music arranged and vocalized by D. G. Hall of On Fire Productions.

The poet’s acceptance statement reads:

“I am privileged to be the first New Mexican to receive our nation’s top honor in classical poetry and would like to express my profound gratitude to this year’s judges, Dr. Joseph Salemi and James Sale, for the tremendous distinction they bring to the prize; to America’s foremost champion of formal verse, Evan Mantyk, for establishing so significant a competition; to my fellow lyric poet, Bruce Edward Wren, a dear and faithful friend; to my beloved mentor and teacher, Samuel Gilliland, the last bard of Scotland, and, above all, to my beautiful wife, Elizabeth, for inspiring the winning poems.”

MacKenzie, a New Mexico native and recent Pushcart Prize nominee, is the only American to have won the Scottish International Open Poetry Competition, (see: The Times Literary Supplement, London, January 27, 2017), an honor he received at the ancient Robert Burns Club in Irvine, Ayrshire, in 1994. His recent collection, “Sonnets for Christ the King” (MCP Books, 2018) is critically acclaimed in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain where MacKenzie is known as the “Bard of Brexit” for his work supporting the United Kingdom’s successful withdrawal from the crumbling European Union.

MacKenzie’s verses have appeared in major venues such as The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), The Spectator USA (New York and London) and most recently, The Telegraph (London).

2020 First Prize Winning Poem: “Villanelle”


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