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Ja’net Danielo of California wins 2021 Fischer Prize

Fischer Prize winner Ja’net Danielo

The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry program is happy to announce that Ja’net Danielo of Long Beach (CA) has won the 24th annual Fischer Prize with her poem, “We Thank the Veteran for His Service,” originally published in Newtown Literary (Spring/Summer 2020).

“What a remarkable variety of subject matter and style was included,” noted this year’s judge Donald Levering of Santa Fe. “Among the top poems were elegiac, love, and nature poems in free verse, fixed rhyme, and Gertrude Stein-esque echo-associations form. There was a range of diction from words out of botany to Spanish to profanity, the speakers varied from in-your-face personal to detached academic. In all, a cornucopia of verse.”

Originally from Queens (NY), Danielo moved to the West Coast, where she now teaches at Cerritos College. She has a chapbook out The Song of Our Disappearing (Paper Nautilus, 2020) and hosts her own website.

Michelle Bitting, our 2018 Fischer Prize winner, had this to say about Danielo’s chapbook, “The poems in her debut collection … are breathtaking in their rich and fulsome physicality… pitch-perfect songs that burn brightly through crucial and complex human concerns of death, grief, longing.”

Cantor Prize winner Madison Gill

Our Western Slope neighbor Madison Gill of Montrose has won the 24th annual Cantor Prize with her poem, “Urraca.” Gill has performed at literary events and university-level conferences around Colorado and has published in print and on-line with Sledgehammer Literary Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Tiny Spoon, Tempered Steel and others.

“Fantastic,” Colorado State University Pueblo poet and professor Juan Morales called the selection of his former student. “Madison has always shown herself to be a strong poet, who works hard. Her poem are full of strong lines, tenderness, and compelling themes, and I appreciate her use of natural imagery and wonderful landscapes.”

Gill will receive $500 and a slot in the virtual Bardic Trails poetry Series run by the Wilkinson Public Library in collaboration with the Talking Gourds program, most likely in July of 2022.

Previous winners of the Cantor Prize include Prof. Jane Hilberry of Colorado College in Colorado Springs (2018), selected by Santa Fe Poet Laureate Emerita Joan Logghe of Española; Renee Podunovich of Dolores, selected by Berkeley (CA) Poet Laureate Rafael Jesús González (2019); and Mark Oreskovich of Pueblo, selected by performance poet Claire Blotter of Marin County in California (2020).

While Danielo receives $1000 and Gill $500 in prize moneys, we had five Fischer Prize finalists who will receive $250 each.

One of this year’s finalists, Partridge Boswell of Vermont, was a finalist last year as well. His poem this year was “Pop a Wheelie.” Boswell is Co-founder of Bookstock Literary Festival and troubadours widely with the poetry/music group Los Lorcas, whose debut release Last Night in America (2021) is available on Thunder Ridge Records.

Other finalists include Stephanie Bailey of California for “The Patron Saint of Letting Go,” Bianca Darby-Matteoda of California for “bird cry,” Mitchell Untch of California for “Eden,” and Janet Ruth of New Mexico for “Sacred Datura.”

Bailey wrote a series of plays about the comedic pitfalls of romance in a small town that was performed by a cast in Taos, New Mexico, and her work has been featured on Live Taos.

Darby-Matteoda splits her time between Los Angeles and Telluride. She recently completed her MFA in poetry at NYU after a decade in the festival and events industry.

Untch calls himself an “emerging writer” with poems in many publications, including the Beloit Poetry Journal, Mudfish, Massachusetts Review and Paris American.

Ruth is an ornithologist by trade. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world, and she was a Finalist for the 2018 NM/AZ Book Awards.

***Read winning poems HERE.***

All seven Fischer Cantor Contest prize winners will be featured at the Bardic Trails virtual poetry readings the first Tuesday of the first six months of 2022. Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library will be hosting the free events.

“I’m delighted with how the Telluride Institute has grown this contest. Where it once attracted a few dozen local entries, now it attracts some of the best poets writing in America today,” noted Talking Gourds co-director Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. “And I love how it honors all poems, not just previously unpublished poems.”

The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry program continues its decades-long tradition of offering a national Fischer Prize contest in honor of the late attorney/poet Mark Fischer, who died in the ‘80s, and more recently a Colorado Prize honoring his wife — politician/painter Elaine Cantor Fischer, who passed away four years ago.

As the Talking Gourds poetry program is undergoing a reorganization, there is a discussion about separating the 2022 Fischer and Cantor Prize contests. We expect to begin accepting submissions in January. To keep abreast of changes, check out our website for the latest information on the contests.

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