Mississippi Poetry Society
Mississippi Poetry Society  


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Affiliated with the National Federation of State Poetry Societies

Mississippi Poetry Society is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and is the official poetry society of Mississippi.  

The MPS is a group of professional and aspiring poets dedicated to promoting poetry, educating the public, assisting our poet and writer members in areas of greater writing skill and publication awareness.   Among our activities and opportunities are meetings, readings, workshops, contests, festivals and community outreach.

MPS was founded in 1932 with eleven charter members at Belhaven College in Jackson, and was first called Belhaven Poetry Society. Miss Elizabeth Newman, head of the English Department at Belhaven, was the first (honorary) president. Its objectives were: “to make citizens’ poetry conscious, to awaken in young people the desire to write poetry, to collect and preserve in anthologies the best poetry produced in Mississippi, and to bring it to the attention of readers outside our own borders.” The first elected president was Anne-Elise Roane Winter, who designed the MPS emblem, a shield with three silver stars on a dark blue vaulted sky, bearing the Latin phrase, “Ad Astra,” (toward the stars). The first meetings were held in the Municipal Art Gallery in Jackson. William Alexander Percy of Greenville, cousin and adoptive father of Walker Percy, was an early member.

Mississippi Poetry Society holds an annual Spring Contest each year. Cash awards are provided by sponsors who donate prize money and specify the particulars of the contest they wish to sponsor.  The contests are open to the public, and prizes are awarded at our Spring Festival.  We invite sponsors for our annual spring contest.  

Each year MPS publishes a journal of its winning contest poetry. 

Michael Shelton
Mississippi Poetry Society
2018 Poet of the Year

Michael Shelton

    Poet of the Year Chairman Elaine McDermott of The Mississippi Poetry Society announced  recently retired Starkville Christian School English and Spanish teacher John Michael Shelton as the 2018 Mississippi Poet of the Year on Friday, granting him the opportunity to have a book of his poems published.

    Shelton began writing poetry 34 years ago. Through poetry, Shelton was able to earn a degree in English at Mississippi State University in 1994 and moved on to earn his teaching certification. Shelton's first poem was named "Alone" and it was about his son. Since then, he has written over 5,000 poems, and that's one of two that he can remember completely.  Shelton's mother challenged him to either do something with his poetry or stop writing. He applied for and was awarded the Eugene Butler Scholarship of Creative Writing. When he was awarded the scholarship, he was told “Your life is about the change.” English professor Price Caldwell gave him the scholarship if he made a promise to further the love of poetry in others."That's when I decided to use my degree to teach, so I could keep that promise," Shelton said.

    When Caldwell died, he attended the funeral and Caldwell's wife asked him to read a poem he had written about her husband. "It was one of the most surreal moments I've ever lived," Shelton says. "I got to say thank you to the man who changed my life. Not many people can say that."

    Since earning his degree at MSU and his teaching certification, Shelton taught at Northwest Junior High School in Meridian, Hebron Christian School in Clay County and retired from Starkville Christian School in May. He now describes himself as a full-time writer. He is currently president of the Mississippi Poetry Society and also coordinator of their MPS student contest.

    Shelton said he was astonished when he got the news Friday morning. Since posting the news on Facebook, he has been invited to do two book signings and readings and had nearly 500 responses to his post. Congratulations, Michael! His chapbook, The Dragon in the Tree House, will be released April 7, 2018 at the MPS Spring Festival.

*Thank you to staff writer Sarah Raines of the Starkville Daily News for much of the above information taken from an her interview of Shelton.


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