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ODU Graduate Tara Burke among Honorees in National Poetry Contest

Not even a full year out of Old Dominion University's Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program and Tara Burke has already secured a top award in a national poetry contest.

The Split This Rock Poetry Festival recently selected Burke's "Fall" as the second prize winner in its 2013 poetry contest. Mark Doty, who won the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry, judged the competition. Burke was awarded $250 and free registration for the 2014 festival in conjunction with the recognition.

Burke completed her M.F.A. last spring and also holds a graduate certificate in women's studies. She has served as poetry editor for Barely South Review, the M.F.A. program's student-staffed online literary journal, and taught English composition and literature classes last semester at ODU in addition to an LGBT-centered creative writing course at The Muse, a Norfolk nonprofit community writing center.

"It's a big deal - for me, at least," Burke said. She noted that Doty is one of her "heroes" in the writing community and the award is important because it signifies other writers are beginning to take notice.

"I'm legit," Burke quipped.

Luisa Igloria, the M.F.A. graduate program director, said the award marked a significant distinction for Burke.

"We're going to see a real boost in her career as a writer," she said. "We're very proud she has gotten this feather in her career this early on."

Burke remains in Hampton Roads, although she said she is taking a break from teaching to focus on her writing. Her goal is to get a book published soon. It will be based on her M.F.A. thesis manuscript, but will also include some "long poems" inspired by trips Burke took with the ODU women's studies department to South Africa and Senegal in 2011 and 2012, respectively, she said.

"Tara is a passionate advocate for all the subjects she writes about," Igloria said, of her former student. "She has a vibrant personality and brings that dynamism to her writing."

To read Burke's winning selection "Fall," visit Split This Rock.

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