The 2017 Contest

The work submitted to Philadelphia Stories for this year’s Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry was ambitious and exciting. Poems were beautifully crafted, deeply felt, and provocative. In discussing many of the poems that he selected, judge Lamont Steptoe referred to the way that they interacted with history and with our current moment. At times sharp and pointed, at others lush and expansive, this batch of poems shows readers how vital and powerful poetry can be to navigate the heartbreaks and frustrations of life as well as to celebrate its great and small glories.

The winner of the 2017 Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry selected by judge Lamont Steptoe is Chicago-based poet Nancy L. Davis for her sprawling poem “Firestorm: Checagou.” Collaging song and poetry excerpts, Davis pits progress against exploitation in a broad, sweeping poem. Steptoe writes that the poem “resonates with origin/history/past present and future.” Nancy L. Davis receives $1000 and an invitation to join us at the LitLife Poetry Conference at Rosemont on April 1, 2017.

Runners up receive $100 each as well as an invitation to join us at the LitLife Conference. They include Los Angeles poet Alejandro Escudé for his poem “Content Warning: Pantoum,” Liliana Lule of Skokie, IL for the poem “adoctrinado,” and E.A. Bagby, also of Chicago, for the poem “Extinction (I).”

Judge Lamont Steptoe also selected as honorable mentions the poems “Duffey” by Will Jones, “The Diameter of a Ringling Bros. Circus Ring” by Gail Comorat, “Changes to Your Itinerary May Affect Your Fate” by Hayden Saunier, and “Northbound Train” by Kathleen O’Toole. These poets are also invited to join us April 1 at Rosemont College. Their poems can be found on our website at

In addition to the winning and placing poems selected by Lamont Steptoe, we are also publishing “editor’s choice” poems from finalists Carlos Gomez, Harvey Soss, Maggie Lily, and Scarlet Gomez. These, too, can be found at We hope that some of these poets will also join us in April.

More than two hundred poets sent us poetry submissions for this year’s Sandy Crimmins Prize. Our poetry board sifted through the submissions narrowing down the bounty to about eighty individual poems from which I selected a few dozen for judge Lamont Steptoe to select winners. It is a long, but rewarding process. We at Philadelphia Stories appreciate the poets who generously share their work with us and encourage local writers to continue to do so. We thank Joe Sullivan for his continued support of this contest. We also thank Nicole Mancuso, contest coordinator and assistant poetry editor, for everything she does to keep the contest moving smoothly.


From Lamont Steptoe:

WINNER: “Firestorm: Checagou” — “resonates with origin/history/past present and future.”

RUNNER UP: “Content Warning:  Pantoum” — “documents our current history of ethnic profiling and it’s tragic outcome. 

RUNNER UP: “God is hiding at the corner of my mouth” — “opens up discussion about spiritual and ethnic identity  and a as well as where we find ourselves in history.” 

RUNNER UP: “Extinction (I)” — “ is fascinating for it’s ability to explain existence from our subatomic origins to our modern day world global in its vision.”

HONORABLE MENTION: “Northbound Train” — “speaks to how the act of traveling can elicit memory and history and resolutions for the future.”

HONORABLE MENTION: “Changes to Your Itinerary May Affect Your Fate” — ”brings up issues of fate destiny and history.”

HONORABLE MENTION: “Duffey” — “speaks to the issues of veterans returning from war and how they face post war issues of health and aging.”

HONORABLE MENTION: “The Diameter of a Ringling Brother’s Circus Ring” — “Given the fact that this circus will perform here in Philadelphia for the last time this year and the concern which has resulted in the sensation of elephants in circus acts [this poem] speaks to humanity’s growing empathy with other species and how humans do not have all the answers and must now and forevermore be more attuned  to what nature has to teach us.”