English Faculty Member Wins Poetry Award from Literary Magazine

September 11. 2014 -- What started out as a lark has led CNM English and creative writing instructor Erin Adair-Hodges to a major poetry award from the prestigious Georgia Review, the literary magazine of the University of Georgia.
July 16, 2015

Her poem, titled “Of Yalta,” is the winner of the second annual Loraine Williams Poetry Prize and will be printed in the magazine’s spring 2015 issue. Adair-Hodges will receive $1,000 in prize money.

“I discovered I loved poetry when I took a poetry workshop as a lark as an undergraduate student at New Mexico State (University),” Adair-Hodges said.  “I always thought of myself as a fiction writer, but after that workshop I realized I might be able to write poetry.”

She drifted from poetry when, after college, she taught English abroad in Prague in the Czech Republic, and later at Menaul School in Albuquerque.

She then studied for her master's degree in Fine Arts at the University of Arizona where she was named the 2004-2005 Poetry Fellow. Over the next six years, poetry nearly disappeared from her life when she started working full time at the CNM Montoya Campus, had a baby and served as arts editor for the Alibi.

“I stopped writing poetry,” Adair-Hodges said. “I questioned why poetry was necessary in my life and why I was necessary to poetry. Did poetry need my voice?”

Her interest was rekindled in 2012 after having conversations about writing poetry again with then CNM colleague and poet Gary Jackson. She began associating with local poets, particularly CNM English instructor Rebecca Aronson, who was “incredibly supportive of my work and insisted it should go somewhere and be seen,” she said.

This spring she attended a conference on composition in Indianapolis where she connected with other poets and writers, returning determined to give herself one year to be a poet and see if it was going to work.

“I was scared to try my best and not have it be very good,” Adair-Hodges said.

The conference inspired her to treat her poetry with serious respect and expect family members to recognize poetry writing wasn’t just a “hobby or passing interest but a central part of who I am.”

She writes on borrowed time, squeezing in 45 minutes when her 3-year-old son watches cartoons or eats breakfast. She never writes for any longer than an hour at a time.

Earlier this year Adair-Hodges decided to send her poetry out for reviews. She submitted poems to five different literary journals. Three came back with rejection letters. The fourth was an email from the Georgia Review saying she won the contest.

“I was so surprised,” she said. I didn’t think the first acceptance would come right out of the gate."

Her winning poem, which is embargoed until it appears in the Georgia Review, is about Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, a Russian short story writer and playwright who is considered to be the father of the modern short story.

Much of her work centers around gender identity in 21st Century American culture. She writes about her family – her parents, their parents and their parents – and what it’s like to be a parent. She does this to pass on her family history to her son, she said.

Adair-Hodges is close to finishing a draft book of poetry, which she will send to contests and the presses next year.

“Two years ago I would never have thought I would have a book of poetry, but it’s really happening,” she said.