Sandy Crimmins National Poetry Contest 2018 Press Release

Winner Announced in 2018 Sandy Crimmins National Poetry Contest

Philadelphia, PA (February 2018) – Non-profit literary magazine Philadelphia Stories has named a winner of the 2018 Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry.

With her poem “Spear Side (Patrilineality),” Chelsea Whitton 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 drew more than two hundred submissions of up to five poems each, and the Philadelphia Stories board chose seventy-five strong contenders, from which poetry editor Courtney Bambrick selected twenty-four finalists to send to judge Dilruba Ahmed, author of the prize winning collection of poems, Dhaka Dust. After careful consideration, Ahmed chose Whitton’s “Spear Side (Patrilineality)” for first place. About the poem, our judge writes:

[this] crown of 5 loose sonnets…[evokes] a rich and complex understanding of the gifts and burdens…passed along from father to child from generation to generation. [Whitton offers] both tenderness and sense of tragic foresight, [as well as] an element of uncertainty or instability…as the poem gestures meditatively toward the nature of grief, and the emotional and psychological exhaustion it creates over time….[Whitton’s poem] depicts…the inheritance from the father’s side: a gift of love across generations in the form of hard work and persistence.  The poem…[acknowledges] in the final section that not all fathers are heroic or even good. Nevertheless, the poem reminds us that our familial heritage gives us our bearings, grounds us in a sense of history, and helps us navigate the present skies, however precariously the stars may have been arranged by those before us.

Selecting a winner was not an easy task for Ahmed. She reflects on the process, noting:

choosing a winner, the runners up, and the honorable mentions was much harder than I could have anticipated, in large part due to the quality and depth of the submissions received.  This year’s pool of submissions included a wide range of topics that were–by turns–personal, public, allegorical, and universal.  The content of the poems ranged from social media to mortality to bodily harm. Poems about mothers, fathers, uncles, lovers, and the gifts and burdens of family histories. Poems grappling with the trauma of constant messaging that tells you that your skin color and hair texture are wrong. Poems about the brutal murders of unarmed African American boys.  Poems that drew me in with their intimacy, and those that elevated human experience to the level of archetype….Each poem had a distinct gift to give in terms of both craft and content, making my job of selecting just a few pieces a very challenging task.

In addition to the winner, our judge selected three runners up to receive $100 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 7.

Those runners up include Lizabeth Yandel for her poem, “I Have a Father, I Have a Thousand Fathers” which, Ahmed notes, “depicts a multifaceted and sometimes contradictory portrait of fathers.  By constructing a relentless list of widely varying versions, the poem rises above the personal and moves toward a timeless, archetypal notion of the father.”

Ahmed says that Carlos Andrés Gómez’s poem “Race Was Not a Factor” “weaves powerfully between showing and telling while meditating on the senseless shooting of teenager Michael Brown…. The tone of urgency gives way to despair as the speaker regards [his] nephew and bleakly considers their shared future.”

The poem “Afters,” by LaSalle University professor Elizabeth Langemak, offers “surprising metaphors and similes…[which] enact the speaker’s attempt to make sense of a post-surgery self.”

Honorable mentions include Sakinah Hofler for two poems: “The Last Time I Hung Out with  Baby D and Them” and “naps.” “The Last Time…” “conveys the speaker’s experience of holding a gun for the first time, an experience vividly depicted against the troubled backdrop of Newark…. In the midst of this resistance and resignation, the speaker comes to realize how easily one might succumb to the temptation of violence.”

And the poem “naps” “vividly portrays an African American girl’s complicated longing for features deemed beautiful by dominant Western culture…. Ever-aware of the constant scrutiny by others, the speaker struggles to feel “equal” while grappling with a sense of self-worth that has come to be rooted in the perceptions and judgment of others.”

Philadelphia area professor, editor, and poet Lisa Grunberger’s “Secrets” “powerfully conveys a restrained grief—first giving a glimpse of tender interactions between father and child as the father’s life draws to a close, then moving to everyday shared moments in which the unspoken weighs as heavily as what is spoken, silences that resonate with the “stubborn” pistachios that “have secrets / they can’t bear to share with us yet.”

A sestina beginning with a line from Sylvia Plath, Melissa Stein’s “Clerestory” “establishes a haunting tone in part through its cyclical repetition of disturbing diction.  Words such as enemy, scars, and blood work together with gripping imagery to convey an allegory of trauma and a longing for recovery.”

Additional poems from Alicia Askenase and Cortney Lamar Charleston will be published at

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 7. Attendees will enjoy a keynote from our judge, Dilruba Ahmed, master classes with Ahmed and poet and journalist John Timpane, and a series of panels discussing and reflecting on a variety of ideas related to poetry. 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. For more information about the prize or the awards ceremony, please visit

About the Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize:

The seventh annual Sandy Crimmins National Poetry Prize is a national poetry contest made possible by the generous support of Joseph Sullivan. The prize is named for his late wife, who served on the Philadelphia Stories board from 2005 to 2007. Sandy was a poet who performed with musicians, dancers, and fire-eaters at bars, bookstores, and festivals. Her short stories and poems were published in a variety of journals, and her book, String Theory, was published by Plan B Press.

About Philadelphia Stories:

Philadelphia Stories is a nonprofit literary magazine that publishes literary fiction, poetry and art from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and distributes free of charge to a wide demographic throughout the region. Our mission is to develop a community of writers, artists and readers through the magazine, and through education programs, such as writer’s workshops, reading series, and other affordable professional development programs for emerging writers and artists. Philadelphia Stories celebrated its 10th Aniversary in 2014.


Chelsea Whitton, “Spear Side (Patrilineality)”


Lizabeth Yandel, “I Have a Father, I Have a Thousand Fathers”

Carlos Andrés Gómez, “Race Was Not a Factor

Elizabeth Langemak, “Afters”


Sakinah Hofler, “The Last Time I Hung Out with  Baby D and Them”

Sakinah Hofler, “Naps”

Lisa Grunberger, “Secrets”

Melissa Stein, “Clerestory”


Alicia Askenase, “Also They Have Families, Too”

Cortney Lamar Charleston, “I Consider a Twitter Follow”


Alicia Askenase, “Every day she makes the bed the floor falls away”

Savannah Cooper-Ramsey, “Double Slit Experiment”

Alexandria Delcourt, “The Marcos Highway”

Chad Frame, “Cracking a Safe at the Bottom of a Lake”

Melissa Frederick, “While I Lie with the Beehives”

Bill Garten, “If I had five hearts how many would I give you no need to answer now”

Carlos Gomez, “Flesh & Blood”

Ted Huddleston, “Sunday Best”

Elizabeth Langemak, “No Song”

Cammy Pedroja, “Ants Eating Poison”

Cammy Pedroja, “Waving a Long While”

Cammy Pedroja, “Exposure”

Viviane Vives, “The Cities and the Dead”

Sean Webb, “American Genesis”