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Welcome to the Fischer & Cantor Poetry Prize Contests

Fischer Prize

2022 Fischer Prize Winner: Devreaux Baker

A national poetry contest founded in 1997 in memory of the late lawyer, polymath and poet Mark Fischer. Features $1000 first prize and five $250 finalist prizes. Open to English language writers of all ages living in the United States (non- citizens welcome) or U.S. citizens living overseas. The contest helps support our county-wide poetry program, Talking Gourds, and collaborations with the literary community here on Colorado’s Western Slope.

Cantor Prize

2022 Cantor Prize Winner: Wendy Videlock

A Colorado state poetry contest in memory of Mark Fischer’s wife, the late Elaine Cantor Fischer, who was a revered local political leader, supporter of the arts and painter. Open to English language poets of all ages living in Colorado or poets outside of the state writing about events or places in Colorado. Features $500 first place prize and two $100 finalist prizes. Poets are free to enter both contests, although with different poem submissions.


2021 Prize Winners & Finalists



Fischer Prize winner Ja’net Danielo

Ja’net Danielo for “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, 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

Madison Gill of southern Colorado won the Cantor Prize this year, with her poem “Urraca.”  Go here for more about her. While Danielo receives $1000 and Gill $500 in prize moneys, we had five 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.




  • 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”
  • Janet Ruth of New Mexico for “Sacred Datura”

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.”

For 2021, our judge was award-winning poet Donald Levering of New Mexico. Visit his website at

2021 Fischer Cantor Prize Winning Poems

2020 Prize Winners & Finalists

Congratulations 2020 Winners!

The FISCHER PRIZE CONTEST WINNER is Jonathan Greenhause (

The CANTOR PRIZE WINNER is Mark Oreskovich


First:  Melissa Studdard
Second:  Partridge Boswell
Third:  Julie E. Bloemeke
Fourth:  A. Kaiser
Fifth:  V. Penelope Pelizzon


Years ago, in the wonderfully eccentric community of Bolinas, eucalyptus trees bordering the lagoon on the road to town were the subject of intense controversy. Half the residents wanted to cut down this invasive species threatening native habitats, and the other half was horrified at the thought of destroying these stately town guardians. Some loved these trees as they loved the land and ocean, the spirit of this magical place.

Jonathan Greenhause, this year’s winner of the Fischer Prize, considers a similar dilemma in his poem, “Thanks a Lot, Shakespeare, for the Starling” at a time when the world struggles to balance on the shaky “ledge” of climate catastrophes and pandemic challenges. In three short stanzas, he skillfully navigates from the personal to the political to the historic– and finally, back again to the personal with a poet’s sharp eye and profound empathy. With precise language and spot on rhythm, this poem shines among those that espouse the values of preserving the earth, its bird and animal life. Yet Greenhause doesn’t shrink from contemporary contradictions we face in making complex environmental decisions.

A skilled storyteller, he vividly describes a starling building its nest in the center of what could easily be its worst possible climate disaster. But more, he traces the historical roots of how this non-native species was unconsciously introduced to America where it multiplied to over 200 million birds. And when most would toss out the nest, the narrator and family forego daily personal comforts so the bird family can survive. For this isn’t simply a misguided bird story, but the story of how we teach our children by example to pass on what we love and value, even amid paradoxical conflicts and uncertain priorities. And more broadly, the nesting starling becomes an apt metaphor for white America today struggling with a previously unimagined climate crisis after its relentless colonization of native people and their land.

The stately swaying eucalyptus still border the lagoon on the only road to Bolinas. Maybe not the wisest choice when you consider history and a wider view, but a choice based on a love of life, its beauty and mystery. And Greenhause, in the end, consciously chooses that lesson to pass on in his exquisite poem. No easy solutions as we, too, “press our luck upon the ledge.”

Claire Blotter

2020 Fischer Cantor Prize Winning Poems

Archive 2019 and before

In 2019, our Fischer Prize winner was Carlos Andrés Gómez of New York and the finalists were Kurt Luchs of Michigan, John Macker of New Mexico, Rev. Donald Marbury of Maryland,  Phyllis Klein and Susan Browne of California. Our judge was Berkeley Poet Laureate Rafael Jesús González of California.

In 2018, our Fischer Prize winner was Michele Bitting of California, and finalists included Devreaux Baker of California, Elizabeth Jacobson of New Mexico, Claire Blotter of California, and Jose A. Alcantara of Colorado. Our judge was Santa Fe Poet Laureate emerita Joan Logghe of New Mexico.

In 2017, our Fischer Prize winner was Anna Scotti of California and our finalists were Anne Valley-Fox of New Mexico, Jennifer Rane Hancock of Colorado, George Perreault of Nevada, Helen Stevens Chinitz of New York, and James Crews of Vermont. Our judge was the late Denver Poet Laureate Chris Ransick of Colorado/Oregon.

Mark Fischer’s widow Elaine Cantor Fischer, who had for many years supported the Fischer Prize contest, passed away in 2016. Two years later the Talking Gourds added a $500 Cantor Prize to the Colorado poet whose poem ranked highest in the Fischer Prize contest, thanks to a generous donation from the Cantor Family.

In 2019 the Cantor Award Winner it was Renee Podunovich of Dolores and in 2018 it was Jane Hilberry of Colorado Springs.

Contest History

Started in 1997, the Fischer Prize began with the Telluride Writers Guild, at the instigation of Art Goodtimes, was sustained for many years by the Telluride Council on the Arts & Humanities (which became Telluride Arts) and by Elaine Fischer, and most recently was re-energized and expanded by Goodtimes and the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program.

A poetry award named for Mark and Elaine Fischer – two Colorado creatives and champions of the arts. Mark was a brilliant lawyer poet who died young, and Elaine his artist widow who went on to become Mayor of Telluride and a San Miguel County Commissioner for four terms (2000-2016). She passed away Memorial Day weekend 2016.

What started as a county $100 award for local poets, moved to a statewide focus, then a regional Southwestern target audience, followed by a Western U.S. scan and has now widened its scope – making the awards available to poets in the entire country.  The current prize award is $1000 for the winning poem.

New in 2018, thanks to a generous donation from the Cantor Family, we initiated a $500 Cantor Award for the winning poem in the Fischer Prize contest from a Colorado poet. In this way, we honor the Fischers with a national prize, and the Cantors with a state prize.



CommunityFischer Cantor PrizesTalking Gourds

Baker Wins Fischer Poetry Prize

October 6, 2022
The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program announced that Devreaux Baker of Mendocino (CA) has won the 2022 Fischer Poetry…
Fischer Cantor PrizesTalking Gourds

Wendy Videlock the Winner of the 2022 Cantor Poetry Prize

October 4, 2022
The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program is proud to announce that poet Wendy Videlock of Palisade has won this…
Fischer Cantor PrizesTalking Gourds

2022 Fischer/Cantor Prize Winning Poems

October 2, 2022
The winning poems from the 2022 Fischer & Cantor Prizes are published below. Read the full press releases on 2022…
Fischer Cantor PrizesTalking Gourds

2021 Fischer/Cantor Prize Winning Poems

October 7, 2021
2021 Fischer/Cantor Prize Winning Poems (Click each poem title to see the poem.) Fischer Prize Winner Ja’net Danielo for "We…
CommunityFischer Cantor PrizesSpecial EventsTalking Gourds


October 5, 2021
Ja’net Danielo of California wins 2021 Fischer Prize Fischer Prize winner Ja'net Danielo The Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry program…
CommunityFischer Cantor PrizesSpecial EventsTalking Gourds

October Bardic Trails: Renee Podunovich

September 25, 2021
Renee Podunovich set to read at Oct 5th Bardic Trails Zoom poetry series Colorado writer Renee Podunovich will be the featured…