A POETRY AWARD NAMED FOR MARK & ELAINE FISCHER
WELCOME TO THE FISCHER/CANTOR PRIZES
Founded in 1997 to honor a beloved Telluride poet who died young, the 23rd Annual Fischer Prize is a national poetry contest open to English language writers of all ages living in the U.S. or to U.S. citizens living overseas. All styles and subject matter are welcome. Deadline for the contest is the last day of August each year. Winners are announced in October. Prizes include $1000 first place award, and five $200 finalist awards.
For 2021, our judge will be award-winning poet Donald Levering of New Mexico. Visit his website at www.donaldlevering.com.
In 2020, our Fischer Prize winner was Jonathan Greenhause of New Jersey and the finalists were Melissa Studdard of Texas, Partridge Boswell of Vermont, Julie E. Bloemeke of Georgia, A. Kaiser of New York, and V. Penelope Pelizzon of Connecticut. Our judge was performance poet Claire Blotter of California.
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 2020 Mark Orestevich of Pueblo won the Cantor Award. In 2019, it was Renee Podunovich of Dolores and in 2018 it was Jane Hilberry of Colorado Springs.
THOUGHTS ON “THANKS A LOT, SHAKESPEARE, FOR THE STARLING,” JONATHAN GREENHAUSE’S FISCHER PRIZE-WINNING POEM
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.”
CONGRATULATIONS 2020 Winners!
The FISCHER PRIZE CONTEST WINNER is Jonathan Greenhause
The CANTOR PRIZE WINNER is Mark Orestovich
FISCHER PRIZE OUTSTANDING FINALISTS
First: Melissa Studdard
Second: Partridge Boswell
Third: Julie E. Bloemeke
Fourth: A. Kaiser
Fifth: V. Penelope Pelizzon
HISTORY OF THE FISCHER PRIZE POETRY CONTEST
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.