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The winning poems from the 2023 Fischer & Cantor Prize contests are published below.

2023 Judge Deborah Kelly of Boulder had this to share after judging this year’s entries:

“I want to share my appreciation for everyone who entered the Fischer Prize. It was necessary to balance my criteria. Some poems were more finished, with evident sophistication (word-precision, rhythm, lineation), some were more original, some were especially courageous. I looked for a poem’s imagery and movement, for emotion created by way of senses, preferring poems that were light on adjectives and abstractions, and those that used only necessary clichés, if any.

Because the gift of attention is the gift of love and poetry is nothing if not attention, I hoped to find what the poets attended to, what inquiries they made, what they found. Poets explored foreign countries, relationships (with lovers, family, and other animals), political situations and their meaning, and many personal worries.

Ultimately, I chose Missing Daughters of Chicagoua because the poem explores an unusual set of experiences and relationships while raising questions, questions about the definite and indefinite racial identities of two women and how these changed over time, how their lapsed friendship continues to trouble the speaker’s mind. The poem brings us to times and places by way of detail, the tone amplified by news-making events and intimate memories. The poem gives us cause to care.

I also want to praise Ode to a Bee on the Small of Your Back, the next finalist and one with a different approach. I want to praise the care with which the poet choses observations, chooses every word, and the deliberate structure of the verses. The conclusion is both surprising and relatable to many. This is a skillful work of art. It offers intimacy and insight in ways similar to poems by Dickinson.

There were many poems right on the cusp of “completion,” ones endowed with qualities of those I chose. Thank you for allowing me to read your poems, one and all, and congratulations to all those whose work won recognition.”

Fischer Prize Winner

Mary Ann Crowe for “Missing Daughters of Chicagoua
Mary Ann Crowe moved to Santa Fe (O’gha Po’oge/White Shell Water Place), New Mexico, to recuperate from a debilitating illness. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Up From The Ashes, We Rise (Las Vegas Lit 2023), The Ekphrastic ReviewFlying SouthStories That Need To Be Told 2022, Sin Fronteras, and Miriam’s Well among others. As a visual artist-activist-writer, her essays, art installations and public art projects have addressed gender, the environment, war, and gun violence. Barnard College graduate born in Munich, Santa Fe is her 30th move between Germany, New York, Chicago, and Puerto Rico.

From Fischer Prize judge Deborah Kelly of Boulder: “This poem was chosen for its originality and immediacy.”

Fischer Prize Finalist

Partridge Boswell with “Ode to a Bee on the Small of Your Back
Author of the Grolier Poetry Prize-winning collection Some Far Country, Partridge Boswell is co-founder of Bookstock Literary Festival and teaches at Vallum Society for Education in Arts & Letters in Montreal. He lives with his family in Vermont and troubadours widely with the poetry/music group Los Lorcas, whose debut release Last Night in America is available on Thunder Ridge Records. His Saguaro Poetry Prize-winning chapbook Not Yet a Jedi is also now a thing.

From Fischer Prize judge Deborah Kelly of Boulder: “This poem was chosen for its precision, pacing and relatability.”

Fischer Prize Finalist

Eileen Adele Hale with “The Closing Crack
Eileen Adele Hale was born in Berkeley, California, grew up in New Jersey, and made her way back to California. A lover of horses, trees, and languages, she has published several chapbooks of her poems, including Breathe for the Trees. Her poems have appeared in Onthebus, Canary Magazine, and the anthology News from Inside. She lives with her two cats in the Northern California foothills, on unceded homelands of the Nisenan.

Fischer Prize Finalist

Ken Haas with “The Cypress
Ken Haas lives in San Francisco where he works in healthcare and sponsors a poetry writing program at the UCSF Children’s Hospital. His first book, Borrowed Light, won the 2020 Red Mountain Press Discovery Award, won a 2021 prize from the National Federation of Press Women, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Rubery Book Award. Ken has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has won the Betsy Colquitt Poetry Award, and serves on the Board of the Community of Writers. His poems have appeared in over 50 journals and numerous anthologies. Please visit him online at kenhaas.org.

Fischer Prize Finalist

Sandra Gustin with “Life of Jays
Sandra Gustin, MD, lived and worked overseas and cross-culturally for more than three decades before retiring in Houston. She came to birdwatching in middle age, and to poetry writing later in life. Her work has appeared in Poetry, AAP’s Poem-a-Day series, Bellevue Literary ReviewFive Points and others. She is the author of This Treasured View (Redbird Chapbooks, 2015).

Fischer Prize Finalist

Phil Baker with “She Caught His Arm
Philip Rösel Baker is an Anglo-German poet living under dark night skies in a remote hamlet in East Anglia, UK.  He reads and performs his poems regularly at the Spread Eagle and Arlingtons in Ipswich, Suffolk. His poetry has been published in various newspapers, magazines and anthologies – most recently in On a Knife Edge, a climate change collection published jointly by Suffolk Poetry Society and the Lettering Arts Trust, and Water (Michigan State University Libraries Short Édition). Last year he was long-listed for the International Erbacce Prize and he won the George Crabbe Poetry Prize in the UK.

Cantor Prize Winner

Jacob Sheetz-Willard for “Praying for Rain
Jacob Sheetz-Willard is a poet, teacher, ultrarunner, and backcountry guide who lives in Leadville, Colorado. A graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, his work has appeared in KestrelNew SouthPoetry Daily, and elsewhere.

Cantor Prize Finalist

Donald Mace Williams for “Pikes Peak
Donald Mace Williams is a retired newspaper writer and editor with a Ph.D. in Beowulfian prosody. His second book of poetry, The Nectar Dancer, was published in August, 2023, by Stoney Creek Publishing, which will also publish his iambic translation of Beowulf in March, 2024. Williams lives in Austin, Texas.

Cantor Prize Finalist

José A. Alcántara for “Deep Ecology
José A. Alcántara is the author of The Bitten World: Poems (Tebot Bach, 2022). His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in American Life in Poetry, Poetry Daily, Ploughshares, Bennington Review, Rattle, The Harvard Review, & The Slowdown. He has received fellowships from Fishtrap, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Willapa Bay AIR. José lives in the Roaring Fork Valley and wherever he happens to pitch his tent.

Last year we weren’t able to publish Alcántara’s finalist poem because it has awaiting publication in Rattle magazine. You can see the poem and hear him read it here: https://www.rattle.com/to-a-friend-who-does-not-believe-in-god-by-jose-a-alcantara

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