The finalists in the Mountain Xpress 2011 Poetry Prize contest read their winning verses on Friday, April 8, at the Masonic Temple downtown. What a time it was — an attentive crowd of spoken and written-word enthusiasts filled the third-floor auditorium of the 1913 building. James Cox, James Davis, John Eells, Jessica Claire Newton, Randal Pride, Andrew Procyk, Jesse S. Rice-Evans, Jessie Shires, Brian Sneeden and Tamsen Turner earned the honor of reading. Their prize poems will be published in the April 20 issue of Xpress.
Sneeden claimed top honors in the contest, which was judged by Xpress staffers in the first round, and Asheville Poetry Review’s Keith Flynn for the final round. His poem, “The Temple,” won the poetry prize.
In more somber news, by Friday, April 8, the possibility of a federal-government shutdown figured in news and press releases in the Asheville area. Rep. Heath Shuler dispatched word that he had asked U.S. National Park Service Director John Jarvis to keep the Blue Ridge Parkway remain open. In his letter, the Shuler urged Jarvis “to take into account the tremendous economic impact that the closure of this road will have on local communities in North Carolina and Virginia. Businesses in these communities have struggled to keep their doors open through the economic recession, and are relying heavily on the surge of tourism dollars that the warmer weather we are currently enjoying will bring to the area. The closure of the Parkway, even for a single weekend, will have an enormous affect on these local firms and the regional economy.”
As the Congressional debate wore on, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported, “Smokies, Parkway Through Asheville Would Close During Federal Shutdown. … Unless Congress passes a spending bill by midnight today, you can forget about that trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Carl Sandburg Home. All would close, including the park roads, in the first wave of service and benefit cutoffs. Beyond the annoyance to tourists, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway are major economic engines for the Western North Carolina economy and are among the most visited national parks in the country.” According to the Citizen-Times, about 500 federal workers in Buncombe County would be furloughed during a shutdown and “Federal employees who continue to work, including soldiers, wouldn't be paid.”
Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, meanwhile, announced that they wouldn’t “take a paycheck if a budget impasse forces the federal government to shut down,” according to the Associated Press.