Professor Takes First Place in International Poetry Competition
Robin Davidson Earns Top Spot in River Styx Journal Contest
By Mike Emery
Each year, poets from around the globe submit new works to the literary journal River Styx for its International Poetry Competition. In 2020, a submission from Houston addressed themes of survival and resilience in the face of a natural disaster (a familiar topic within our community) and took top honors in this noted literary competition.
The winning poem in the 2020 International Poetry Competition “A Spell for Becoming Lace” was written by the University of Houston-Downtown's very own Dr. Robin Davidson, Professor Emeritus of English. Winners were recently announced, and Davidson’s first place work will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal.
“A Spell for Becoming Lace” was applauded by competition judge and poet Lee Ann Roripaugh as “a poem that sings a song of acquiescence and resistance, of dissolution and perdurability in the face of natural disaster.”
“It is a poem of transformation, in which home, family, and place are rendered into mesh by the violence of a hurricane, then reclaimed through the associational lacework of making and unmaking,” stated Roripaugh in her assessment of the competition entries. “What endures in the powerful lines of this poem is the glorious and lovely architecture of bones, of survival, of love.”
“A Spell for Becoming Lace” was written last year as Davidson, like most Americans, found herself homebound during the pandemic. While COVID-19 put the brakes on many activities across the nation, artists like Davidson remained particularly productive.
“These days I do not send out my work for publication as often as I should, and I’ve rarely entered contests in the past few years,” Davidson said. “However, during the pandemic year at home, I have written more regularly and decided to try sending out new work and applying for a few different prizes—the River Styx 2020 International Poetry Contest among them.”
The first-place prize is meaningful for Davidson, a former Houston Poet Laureate, but even more significant is the opportunity to create new works that touch readers. According to the UHD Professor, the process of creating poetry can be just as rewarding as earning any award.
“Part of a poet’s job, like any writer, whether creative or scholarly, is believing that one has something meaningful to share with a readership,” she said. “Publishing, giving readings, entering contests are all part of that process of engaging readers. I think most of us have realistic expectations about winning contests. When one does actually win a prize, not as a finalist but as the first-place recipient, yes, it feels like a kind of validation—not of one’s genius or a poem’s great worth so much as a confirmation that you may be growing as a writer, that your work has been deeply meaningful, even to a single reader.”
The recent prize, announced on the eve of National Poetry Month, has been another recent high point for Davidson. Earlier this year, “Dear Ms. Schubert” was published by Princeton University Press featuring the poetry of Ewa Lipska translated from the Polish by Davidson and Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska.
Her winning poem in the 2020 International Poetry Competition will appear in issue 105 of River Styx.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.