Philadelphia, PA (February 2019) – Non-profit literary magazine Philadelphia Stories has named a winner of the 2019 Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry.
With his poem “Elegy for Breath,” Carlos Andrés Gómez of New York has won the prize of $1,000, publication, an invitation to submit a chapbook to be considered for publication by PS Books, and an invitation to the Lit Life Poetry Festival, co-sponsored by Philadelphia Stories and the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program.
This year’s contest was judged by M. Nzadi Keita, author of the sweeping, thoughtful, and gorgeous poetry collection Brief Evidence of Heaven which considers the life of Anna Murray Douglass, first wife of Frederick Douglass. Reflecting on her Crimmins selections, Keita notes: “The stunning compassion, honesty, and force of witness in the [selected poems] reinforces and affirms.….how poets solidify our human bonds.” Please find the winning poem, the runners up, honorable mentions, and editor’s choice poems at PhiladelphiaStories.org later this month!
After careful consideration, Keita chose Gómez’s “Elegy for Breath” for first place. The poem, our judge writes:
…puts fragmented testimony, restrained lineation, shifting tones, and layered imagery to the service of its unrelenting, traumatic subject matter. These facets are unshakeable. This poem haunts our very own breathing with a question, both mournful and matter-of-fact: how much, in the U.S.A., does breathing inside a human black body redefine, from birth to death? Focused on the long tradition of American citizens murdered by police, each stanza in this poetic montage answers in a different way. Consequently, [Gómez] extends Alice Walker’s practice of “honoring the difficult” with work that feeds our consciousness, entwining intimacy and challenge, holistic pain and human connection.
In addition to the winner, our judge selected three runners up who will receive $250 each as well as publication in the magazine, a chance to submit a chapbook to be considered for publication by PS Books, and an invitation to attend and read at the Lit Life Poetry Festival and Crimmins celebration on April 6. Philadelphia Stories thanks the family of Sandy Crimmins for supporting these prizes.
Those runners up include Brittanie Sterner of West Philadelphia whose poem “All Objects,” according to Keita, “sharpens our attention to what Mary Oliver calls our one wild and precious life. Each line gives us something to see, puzzle over, wonder into, live inside, and snatch as we wake from sleep and become ourselves.”
Runner up Kimberly Andrews grew up in Allentown and currently lives in Maryland. Keita selected Andrews’s poem “How to Read Whitewater in the Mid-Atlantic Region” saying, “Enthusiasm, inventiveness, and personal philosophy intermingle in this poem. Its adroit nouns vividly hold attention on the river while also managing to complicate the speaker’s many-faceted bonds to this place.”
Former Montgomery County Poet Laureate Chad Frame’s poem “Nine-Year-Old Suicide in Reverse” uses flashback to “[evoke] the vivid, fruitless reach [of a] grieving mind. By deploying skillful assonance and precise diction, the poet calls us to the fragile edge of those seconds where tragedy assembles.” Frame’s poem “Bruce” was also selected by our judge as an honorable mention.
Additional honorable mentions include “Post Rehab” by California-based Claire Rubin and “Phantom Limb” by Fran Baird of Flourtown.
Additional poems from R. G. Evans (of Elmer, NJ), Rebecca Levi (of New York City), and Julia Lattimer (of Boston) will be published as editor’s choices at PhiladelphiaStories.org.
Philadelphia Stories celebrates these winners and Poetry Month at the Lit Life Poetry Festival presented by Philadelphia Stories along with the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program at Rosemont College, April 6. Attendees will enjoy a keynote from our judge, M. Nzadi Keita and master classes with Keita and poet Dilruba Ahmed, judge of this year’s Montgomery County Poet Laureate competition. A series of panels will discuss and reflect on a variety of ideas related to the place of poetry in our lives and the world. We will celebrate the winning poets of the Crimmins contest and the new poet laureate of Montgomery County in an afternoon reception which will be free and open to the public. The day will end with an open mic reading for conference attendees at Wayne’s Main Point Books. For more information about the prize or the awards ceremony, please visit philadelphiastories.org/litlife-poetry-festival.
WINNER OF THE 2019 SANDY CRIMMINS NATIONAL PRIZE IN POETRY
“Elegy for Breath,” Carlos Andrés Gómez (Forest Hills, NY)
“All Objects,” Brittanie Sterner (Philadelphia, PA)
“Nine-Year-Old Suicide in Reverse,”Chad Frame (Lansdale, PA)
“How to Read Whitewater in the Mid-Atlantic Region,” Kimberly Andrews (Chestertown, MD)
“Post Rehab,” Claire Rubin (Oakland, CA)
“Phantom Limb,” Fran Baird (Flourtown, PA)
“Bruce,” Chad Frame (Lansdale, PA)
“Imagine Sisyphus Happy,” R.G. Evans (Elmer, NJ)
“Tapestry Room,” Rebecca Levi (New York, NY)
“Neighborhood Report,” Julia Lattimer (Boston, MA)
“Chugach,” David Hopes
“The Silence of Emma Gonzáles Teaches Us about Language,” Matt Hohner
“I wonder why they never taught us about Sylvia Mendez,” Mercedes Lucero
“Sestina as Kabbalah/Kabbalah as Sestina,” Leonard Kress
“Oceanic Moments Outside a Discount Superstore,” Hayden Saunier