COLUMBUS, Miss. – Charles (C.T.) Salazar is honored to have his poem recognized as one of the eight best in the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ Intro Journal Project.

C.T. Salazar

“I feel incredibly lucky. I know competitions like this pull in way more than eight `prize worthy’ poems, and the judges have to decide from a stack of genuinely phenomenal writing,” he said. “I don’t know that I personally would pick mine after reading the submissions. I can’t wait to read other winners.”

The Intro Journals Project is a literary competition that showcases new work by students enrolled in AWP member programs. Program directors are invited to nominate students’ works, which are selected for publication in participating literary journals with national circulation.

A Columbus native, Salazar is in his second year of Mississippi University for Women’s low residency master’s of fine arts in creative writing program. His poem, “Lover the Lord Has Left Us,” will be published by Tampa Review later this year.

Salazar described his poem about a ship that hits a baby whale and how different members of the crew react to it.

“A lot of the setting and feeling of the poem comes from my own time in Maine. I was lucky enough to spend a few nights on a sailboat a while back.

“There are different characters, and they all respond to the tragedy in a different way, much like a person arguing with himself. The crew collectively name the whale Samson, after their ship’s name, Delilah. The title is inspired from a verse out of the King James,” he explained, referring to Judges 16:20. “The verse is about Samson charging the battlefield and sure of himself to be victorious. The verse ends: `but he did not realize the Lord had left him.’ Other than that one allusion, it’s not really a religious poem at all.”

Dr. Kendall Dunkelberg, director of creative writing at The W, said, “We are very proud of C. T. for this national recognition. He is a serious poet, and clearly his poems compare favorably to those from the top creative writing programs in the country. We look forward to great things from C. T. This is not his first publication, and certainly won’t be his last.”

Salazar said he was drawn to The W’s creative writing program because of its personalized feel. “There are not a lot of people here compared to other universities. I’m surrounded by incredible artists and thinkers and doers. Photographers, painters, digital artists, poets, fiction writers, historicists, future nurses and future school teachers. Really it’s overwhelming how fantastic everyone is and will be.”

Currently, there are 25 students enrolled in the program, which started in August 2015. Salazar said he was impressed with the professors in the program. “They are great writers. What it’s like to read their books and know they’re grading my writing is both spectacular and challenging. I’m growing past where I thought I would stop growing…The time they put into me tells me they have faith in me, and truly believe in me.”

Salazar, who is also known locally for organizing regular poetry nights in Columbus and Starkville, also credited his classmates for his recent honor.

“So many of my classmates had a hand in helping me shape this poem, and they’re all so talented and dedicated,” he said. “It used to be that Walt Whitman or John Keats or John Steinbeck or Mary Shelley were my favorite writers, but now I’m encountering knock-down brilliant writing from my classmates pretty much daily just by sharing this MFA with them. We’re inspiring each other every day.”