The Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry: Celebrating Risk and Invention in Poetry

[img_assist|nid=7110|title=Sandy Crimmins|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=66|height=100]Sandy Crimmins’ poem “Spring” appeared in the first issue of Philadelphia Stories in 2004 and she performed at our launch party. She served on the Philadelphia Stories board from 2005 to 2007. In the ten years since we debuted, Sandy’s voice and vision have fundamentally shaped Philadelphia Stories.  Sandy was a poet who performed with musicians, dancers, and fire-eaters, and one of her proudest accomplishments was celebrating the work of her vibrant poetry community. In this spirit, Philadelphia Stories hosts the annual “Sandy Crimmins National Poetry Prize” to celebrate poets of all backgrounds, experience, and styles.  Thanks to the generous support of Sandy’s family, we are proud to offer the following contest prizes:

● The first-place winning poet will receive a $1,000 cash award for an individual poem, an invitation to an awards event in Philadelphia and publication in the Spring issue.
● Three runners up will receive $100 cash awards for individual poems as well as publication in our Spring issue.
● The winning poet and runners up are invited to submit chapbooks to be considered for publication by PS Books.
● All submitted poems may be selected by the editors for publication in our Spring issue.

Contest Submission Guidelines:

1. Submission deadline: CLOSED FOR 2017. 
2. We will only consider work previously unpublished in print or online.
3. There is a $12 reading fee for every submission. [All entrants will receive a complimentary one-year membership to
Philadelphia Stories — a $20 value.]
4. Simultaneous submissions are also accepted; however, we must be notified immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere.
5. Poets currently residing in the United States are eligible.
6. Submissions will be accepted via the website. If you have any trouble uploading to the site, please email
7. We will accept up to five pages of poetry. You may submit one 5-page poem, five 1-page poems, or any other combination within the five-page restriction. No more than one poem per page.
8. All submissions should use a 12 pt font and standard typeface (not Comic Sans or Impact, etc.). Author’s name should appear on each page (this will be removed for the screening process).
9. You may enter multiple submissions of up to five pages for the additional fee of $12 per submission.

[img_assist|nid=20799|title=Steptoe|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=57|height=78]ABOUT THE 2017 JUDGE: Lamont B. Steptoe is a poet, publisher. and photographer born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A Vietnam veteran, Steptoe is a graduate of Temple University’s School of Communications.  Winner of an American Book Award and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Steptoe is the author of twelve poetry collections and editor of two collections by his late mentor South African poet, Dennis Brutus.  In 2006 Steptoe was inducted into the International Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent by the the Gwendolyn Brooks Center in Chicago. He has read his work in Nicaragua, India, Holland, France and Lithuania.  His most recent poetry collections are Crowns & Halos, Oracular Rumblings & Stiltwalking and Meditations in Congo Square. 


[img_assist|nid=20476|title=Wisher|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=67]ABOUT THE 2016 JUDGE: Yolanda Wisher is a Philadelphia-based poet, bandleader, and educator. A 2015 Pew Fellow, she is the author of Monk Eats an Afro (Hanging Loose Press, 2014) and the co-editor with Sonia Sanchez of the anthology, Peace is a Haiku Song (City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, 2013). Wisher was born in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and raised in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where she was named the first poet laureate in 1999. A Cave Canem graduate, she received an M.A. in Creative Writing/English from Temple University and a B.A. in English and Black Studies from Lafayette College. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including GOOD Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ploughshares, Fence, and Harriet: The Blog. As a teacher, radio host, and founder/director of the Germantown Poetry Festival (2006-2010), Wisher has utilized poetry as a conduit for community-building and youth empowerment for over fifteen years. Wisher directed the Art Education department of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program from 2010 to 2015, and is currently a Founding Cultural Agent and the Rhapsodist for Wherewithal for the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture.

The winners of the 2016 contest were: First prize: Towels at Sunset by Robin Kozak; Runners up:Big Mama’s by Patrick Swaney; The Rules by Courtney Kampa; Ascension Day Planting, North Philly by Patrick Cabello; Honorable Mentions: A Point on a Map by Valerie Fox; The Weight and Dimensions of my Prayers: Honorable Mention by Irène Mathieu.


[img_assist|nid=19345|title=2015 Poetry Winners|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=308|height=133]Pictured at left: PS Executive Director Christine Weiser, Sandy Crimmins’ son Matthew Sullivan, PS Poetry Editor Courtney Bambrick, Winners Kathryn Ionata, Kelly McQuain, Emily Rose Cole, PS Editorial Director Carla Spataro, winner Autumn Konopka, and judge Jeffrey Lee.

Judge Jeffrey Lee shares his reflections on the winning poems:

Emily Cole — Winner: “Self-Portrait as Rapunzel” stood out with its excruci- atingly particular surrealist imagery and its fearlessly heartbreaking themes. There is a sureness of style and a surprising sense of familiarity about this noir-vision fairytale and “coming-of-age” (read: losing-of-youth) story in a world that could have been painted by Frida Kahlo (i.e. Frida Kahlo if she were channeling Anne Sexton).

Nadia Sheikh — Runner up: Tough Bitches. The voice of the poet is very strong in this poem, and she conveys powerful ambivalence about being female right away, which is interesting. But the theme is far more deep and troubling for the poet as she seems to see herself more androgynously but feels—even against her own will—attracted to a woman who is more feminine and beautiful, i.e. the way most of our society sees these things.

Lauren Boulton — Runner up: Childhood of Wicked Steps
. In its core, this poem reminded me of Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz,” which I believe has become one of the inevitable myths of our (dysfunctional) time, and I was also reminded of many fairy tales that explore the terrors of childhood.

Kathryn Ionata — Runner up: Yield Signs Don’t Exist. This poem has a very compelling voice and a nice detached sense of dark irony and humor about itself. The style is very sharp and succinct, and the ending works intuitively very well. She captures a kind of life with great acuity.

About the 2015 Judge: Jeffrey Ethan Lee’s towards euphoria was the co-winner of the editor’s poetry chapbook prize from Seven Kitchens Press (2012). His dramatic poetry book, identity papers (Ghost Road Press, 2006), was a 2006 Colorado Book Award finalist. His first full-length poetry book, invisible sister (Many Mountains Moving Press, 2004), was a finalist for the first MMM Book Prize. He won the 2002 Sow’s Ear Poetry Chapbook prize for The Sylf (2003), created identity papers (audio CD with Toshi Makihara and Lori-Nan Engler) for Drimala Records, published Strangers in a Homeland (chapbook with Ashland Poetry Press, 2001), and poems, stories and essays in North American Review, Xconnect, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Many Mountains Moving, Crosscurrents, American Poetry Review. He currently directs, edits and publishes poetry books through the Many Mountains Moving Press, which he began to serve as a volunteer after 2005. He has a Ph.D. in British Romanticism and an MFA in poetry from NYU.

Rae Pagliarulo is a proud Philadelphia native currently working in the nonprofit development field. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post Blog, as well as West Chester University’s Daedalus: A Magazine of the Arts. She served as the magazine’s assistant editor and was awarded its “Best Short Work” award in 2003. She holds a BA from West Chester University, and is happily working towards her MFA in Creative Writing at Rosemont College.

[img_assist|nid=11471|title=|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=59|height=57]Kayla Hilliard graduated from Temple University in 2010 with a B.A. in History. She works as a case manager for school therapeutic support services in the city of Philadelphia and sometimes writes poems on her lunch breaks. Kayla resides in South Philly with her two cats and expatriate husband.

Honorable mentions go to Paul Weidknecht for “Seen (with Explanations & Digressions),” Suzanne Cleary for “Nancy,” and Liz Solms for “Small Rooms, Seven Summers.”

[img_assist|nid=10751|title=|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=57|height=56]About the 2014 Judge: Daisy Fried is the author of three books of poems, Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice (Pittsburgh, 2013), My Brother is Getting Arrested Again (Pittsburgh, 2006), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and She Didn’t Mean to Do It (Pittsburgh, 2000), which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Award. She teaches in Warren Wilson College’s low-residency MFA program and lives in South Philly.

Ciick HERE to read the full press release.

2013 Winners

[img_assist|nid=10012|title=Debora Fries|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=69|height=100]First place: Debora Fries’ “Marie in America.” Debora receives a $1,000 cash award, an invitation to our happy hour PARTY LIKE A POET event April 19, 2013 at the Center for Architecture in Philadelphia, and publication in the Spring 2013 issue. Poetry Editor Courtney Bambrick calls the winning poem “an evocative and transformative piece that exemplifies a commitment to storytelling through image and momentum.”

Second place: Kelly Andrews’ “Asterism.” Kelly receives a $250 cash award and publication in the Spring 2013 issue.

Three honorable-mention winning poets receive publication in the Spring 2013 issue. These are: Debora Gossett Rivers, Amy Small-McKinney, and Nissa Lee.

[img_assist|nid=9397|title=Dottie Lasky|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=68|height=81]About the 2013 Judge: Dorothea Lasky is the author of three full-length collections of poetry: Thunderbird (forthcoming, Wave Books, 2012), Black Life (Wave Books, 2010), and AWE (Wave Books, 2007). She is also the author of six chapbooks. Born in St. Louis, her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the MFA program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and also has been educated at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University. She has taught poetry at New York University, Wesleyan University, Columbia University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Heath Elementary School, and Munroe Center for the Arts.

Click HERE for a press release about the 2013 winners of the contest.

About Sandy Crimmins

Sandy Crimmins served on the Philadelphia Stories board from 2005 to 2007. Sandy was a poet who performed with musicians, dancers and fire-eaters at bars, bookstores and festivals.  After earning a master’s in fine arts from the University of Ohio, Sandy moved to New York and became a stage manager for several theaters, and, in 1985, married Joseph Sullivan. Four years later, she earned a master’s in nonprofit management from the University of Detroit. She, her husband and their two sons moved to West Mount Airy in 1989, and she began to write poetry and fiction focused on family issues. Her short stories and poems were published in a variety of journals, and her book, String Theory, was published by Plan B Press.

About the 2012 Winners (read a full release HERE):

[img_assist|nid=8525|title=Jeanann Verlee|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=56|height=69]FIRST PLACE: Jeanann is a former punk rocker and author of Racing Hummingbirds, which earned the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal for poetry. 

SECOND PLACE: Steven Harbold. Steven is a writer and editor living in South Jersey. He is a graduate of Rowan University. Steven wins the second place prize of $250 and publication.

HONARABLE MENTION: Alexander Long. Alexander’s third book, Still Life, won the 2011 White Pine Press Poetry Prize.

The winning poems, judged by poet Major Jackson, appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Philadelphia Stories.

Click here to see a slideshow from the 2012 awards celebration. 

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