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Westminster Poet Wins Second Harriss Poetry Prize


For the second year in a row, a Maryland poet has won CityLit Press's Harris Poetry Prize.  Westminster resident Bruce Sager took top honors from a field of nearly forty submissions from around the country.  Second place went to another local poet, Sam Schmidt, and Kansas City poet Deborah Kroman claimed third place.

Judged anonymously from a final field of ten submissions by Connecticut Poet Laureate Dick Allen, Sager's chapbook Famous will debut at the Baltimore Book Festival.  Allen called the collection a "tour de force."

"Only twice before, in the many times I've judged poetry contests, has a poet's work stood out as strongly as Sager's," he said.

The poem "Walking with my heart," which ends the chapbook, follows:

I put my arm around him.
Old chum, I say,
it’s been years since I’ve seen you
on my sleeve. Is anything
the matter?

My heart looks at me with eyes
weightless as the Buddha’s.
He gestures towards the sea,
the dead things
within it.

Because he has no tongue
he cannot speak.
And after all these years
I know better than
to interpret.

I cannot guess what you mean,
I say, as we turn back,
as we turn to face
where we’ve come from,
our footprints dusty on the esplanade.
Famous will be published by CityLit Press, the imprint of Baltimore's nonprofit literary center CityLit Project.
Sager works as a corporate officer in a systems integration firm. He has been the recipient of Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards in both fiction (2008) and poetry (2011), a Baltimore City Arts Grant in poetry (1987), and the 1986 Arts cape Literary Arts Award in poetry, judged by William Stafford. Prior chapbooks include Nine Ninety-Five (1971) and The Pumping Station (1986).

"Bruce represents exactly the sort of poet we hoped to recognize by establishing this prize," said series editor Michael Salcman. "He's a wonderful writer who was simply interrupted by life, something every artist can understand."

Launched in 2009, the Harris Poetry Prize is named in honor of Clarinda Harriss, eminent Baltimore poet, publisher, and professor of English at Towson University. Harriss, educated at Johns Hopkins University and Goucher College, is a widely published, award-winning poet and she serves as editor/director of BrickHouse Books, Maryland’s oldest literary press.
Salcman, who currently serves as CityLit Project's board chair, judged the first year's finalist. Tom Lux--a former Guggenheim Fellow, National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, and Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner--will judge this year's contest.

More information and complete guidelines can be found here.

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