Indy 500 Official Poet, Field of 33 Poets Announced

More than 200 poets from across the world and from ages 8 to 85 submitted an Indy 500-themed poem for a chance to be named the Official Poet for the…

More than 200 poets from across the world and from ages 8 to 85 submitted an Indy 500-themed poem for a chance to be named the Official Poet for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Internationally touring performance poet Adam Henze of Bloomington, Ind., won the contest and Mike Murphy, a writer and poet from Baltimore, Md., received second-place. Judges also named 31 poems “honorable mention” to create a starting field of 33 poems – just like the race itself. All 33 poets have been invited to read their poems at a First Friday Porch Party event on May 6 at Indiana Humanities. The event is free and open to the public.

The contest, sponsored by Indiana Humanities and the 100th Running Host Committee, revives a tradition from the 1920s, when an official poem was included in the race day program. This year, the poetry contest is an initiative of the Arts, Culture & Youth Committee of the 100th Running Host Committee. The purpose of the Arts, Culture & Youth Committee is to create cultural connections between the race and the community, promoting conversation and education around the 100th running.

“We are excited to celebrate this iconic year by incorporating the power of poetry into one of Indiana’s most cherished traditions.” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities.

Judges for the contest included best-selling author John Green, former Indiana poet laureate Joyce Brinkman, spoken word artist January York and Dr. Joseph Trimmer, emeritus professor of English and director emeritus of the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at Ball State University. Entries were scored blindly and selections were based upon theme, syntax, imagery, tone and rhythm.

“I loved reading through the outstanding range of submissions – there were those that evoked the race-day experience for 300,000 fans, and then those that recreated a specific memory for one person with detail and personality,” said Green, who serves as co-chair for the 500 Festival Host Committee this year. “It was incredible to see the connections people here in Indy have with the race and to see that it reverberates across the world and across generations.”

As the winning poet, Henze received a cash prize of $1,000 and two tickets to the race, and he’ll have the opportunity to read the poem at the track during qualification weekend. In addition, the poem, titled “For Those Who Love Fast, Loud Things,” will be featured in the official 2016 program.

Henze is an educator and Ph.D. student at Indiana University and is the director of an academic summer camp for high school writers. He said the goal of his submission was to create a 500 anthem all Indy Car fans would be proud to identify with.

Second-place winner Murphy was one of a number of entrants from outside Indiana, and received a $500 prize. Read all of the winning poems at www.IndianaHumanities.org/500poet and see a list of the field of 33 poets and their hometowns, below.

The poetry reading will be held May 6 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Indiana Humanities’ office (1500 N. Delaware Street, Indianapolis), and will be part of the public kickoff of Porch Parties in honor of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Entrance is free, but guests are encouraged to register at http://500poetryreading.eventbrite.com.

Across the street, the Harrison Center for the Arts invites residents to celebrate on the “porch” of the City Gallery during the First Friday event from 6-10 p.m. Attendees will enjoy live music by Ray Wyatt and Jay Elliott, food trucks, vintage race cars, appearances by local celebrities and even a 500-themed art scavenger hunt.

Porch Parties, made popular in Indianapolis by the Harrison Center for the Arts, are simple gatherings that bring families, friends, neighborhoods and communities together. Hoosiers are invited to host their own celebrations across the state as a way to foster civic pride and engagement in Indiana’s signature event. Visit http://porchpartyindy.eventbrite.com to learn more and register a Porch Party.

The field of 33 includes:

Melissa Aughe – Speedway, Ind.

Richard Carpenter – Chesterfield, Ind.

Marissa Coon Rose – Muncie, Ind.

Michael Courtney – Bringhurst, Ind.

Abi Douglas – Indianapolis

Lisa Fipps – Kokomo, Ind.

Jenny Froehle – Indianapolis

Marc Harshman – Wheeling, W.Va.

Joseph Heithaus – Greencastle, Ind.

Adam Henze – Bloomington, Ind.

David Hoppe – Long Beach, Ind.

Lisa Johnson – Brownsburg, Ind.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – Carmel, Ind.

Jenny Kalahar – Elwood, Ind.

Sarah K. Ginter – Indianapolis

Micah Ling – New York

Kevin McKelvey – Indianapolis

Tracy Mishkin – Indianapolis

Mike Murphy – Baltimore, Md.

Adam Phillips – Boise, Idaho

Anna Saikin – Missouri City, Texas

G.E. Schwartz – West Henrietta, N.Y.

Andrew Scott – Indianapolis

Joanna Oltman Smith – Brooklyn, N.Y.

Nanette South Clark – Italy, Texas

Paul Spite – Valparaiso, Ind.

Andrew Stautz – Indianapolis

Matt Tapp – Westfield, Ind.

Shari Wagner – Westfield, Ind.

Evan Walters – Lebanon, Ind.

Jennifer Walton – Indianapolis

Brandy Wilkinson – Fishers, Ind.


Read the winning poems here.