Letter From the Poetry Editor

Philadelphia Stories is proud to share the winning poem in this year’s Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry! The poem, “Aphorism 31: The Immortality Box” by John Blair of San Marcos, TX was selected by the 2023 Crimmins judge, J.C, Todd. Blair will receive a prize of $1000 and an invitation to attend a hybrid reading and reception celebrating winners. Of this poem, Todd writes:


[T]he measure of the lines and the impeccable diction and syntax of the poem’s single, long sentence lead me through science into image, song, ritual, and finally prayer that “we say even when we don’t.” In a remarkable juncture of language and imagination, this continuous, sinuous motion of sound, sense and image creates a vessel shaped to its contents.


Philadelphia Stories awards two runners up selected by J.C. Todd with a $250 prize. Partridge Boswell of Woodstock, VT, is recognized for “That Vonnegut Thing,” described by Todd as a “deeply humorous poem of mourning” that is “unerringly structured for the speaking voice as it slips from bits of story and conversation that bound his parents into bits of quotes from novels that bind him and his friends.” Shabnam Piryaei of Berkeley, CA is recognized for “Learn to Tell Time!” which Todd describes as a “poem…on a vision-journey to deconstruct time, to stop or slow its perpetual forward motion in order to study ‘the simultaneous’ in which the irreconcilable beauty and violence of life coexist.” Todd also recognizes as honorable mentions the work of Corinne Newbegin of Tarzana, CA; Leena Joshi of Oakland, CA; Robb Fillman of Macungie, PA; and Liya Chang of Swarthmore, PA. Overall, judge J.C. Todd noted that the poems “engaged and surprised me with their range of human concerns and situations, their formal and free verse prosody, and their leaps into new sensibilities.”

Many of the poems here refer to writers and poets: Anne Sexton, Kurt Vonnegut, Audre Lorde, Carolyn Forché, Yusef Komunyakaa, and others. Reading these poems, I was moved by the ways we build communities through time and location. As writers, we balance isolation with connection, and digging into favorite books, websites, and magazines allows us to find friends and teachers and nemeses to write to and from and after.

Philadelphia Stories thanks J. C. Todd for her work and care in the selections of these poems. We also thank Joe Sullivan for his support of this contest and his enduring friendship with Philadelphia Stories. We must recognize Elijah Aharon for his consistent, helpful, and organized communication with our poetry editor, poetry screeners, and poets in his role as contest coordinator. We are forever grateful to Carla Spataro and Christine Weiser for their development of this community of writers and readers, and we celebrate the new leadership of editorial director, Trish Rodriguez and executive editor, Yalonda Rice. Above all, Philadelphia Stories thanks the poets who trust us with their work; your poems remind us that community is built through screens or over pages as well as through physical proximity. Each year, I feel our community of writers and readers deepen and expand, so thank you!



“Aphorism 31: The Immortality Box,” John Blair (San Marcos, TX)



“That Vonnegut Thing,” Partridge Boswell (Woodstock, VT)

“Learn to Tell Time!,” Shabnam Piryaei (Berkeley, CA)



“as a river,” Corinne Newbegin (Tarzana, CA)

“Test Site for a Memory Surface (I am Expelling This),” Leena Joshi (Oakland, CA)

“The Weight of Loss,” Robert Fillman (Macungie, PA)

“apparent death,” Liya Chang (Swarthmore, PA)



“Foxes & Hounds,” Jonathan Greenhause (Jersey City, NJ)

“It’s Not True What They Say about Thunder,” Erica Abbott (Clifton Heights, PA)

“The Reading,” Karen Rile (Philadelphia, PA)



“The Fawn,” Julie DeBoer (Seattle, WA)

“Prayer Beads,” Shakiba Hashemi (Aliso Viejo, CA)

“The Earth Remembers Seven Sorrows,” Marjorie Maddox (Williamsport, PA)

“Held Before Me as Blessing and Weapon,” Jen Karetnick (El Portal, FL)

“A Woman Was Running Along the Hudson,” Ayla Schultz (Brooklyn, NY)

“The Snake and the Eagle,” Ana Martinez (Shelter Island, NY)

“Song of a Suicide Addict and His Idols,” Ethan Altshul (West Chester, PA)