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Marylander Wins First Annual Harriss Poetry Prize


Laura Shovan mines gems from the everyday caverns of life.  From these moments Shovan collected Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone, inaugural winner of the Clarinda Harriss Poetry Prize.

The 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. She also serves as editor and director of BrickHouse Books, Maryland's oldest literary press.

In rounds of blind judging, Shovan’s entry topped submissions by finalists from Oregon and Washington state.  Nearly forty writers entered CityLit Press's first chapbook contest, which was judged by physician, critic, and poet Michael Salcman.

"Laura enlivens her quotidian subjects—the carpet rolls in the title poem, the pussy willow bud in 'The Listening of Plants,' and the dogwood petal in 'Because We Were Rushing to Catch the Bus'—with a shrewd and powerful use of metaphor, a critical strategy all too often neglected in contemporary work," Salcman said.

Shovan grew up in New Jersey. She is an honors graduate of the Dramatic Writing Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. During her first career as a high school English teacher, Shovan was active in the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s Poetry Program, studying with Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Madeline Tiger, Renee Ashley, and Laura Boss. She coordinated poetry readings by award-winning teens at the 1996 and 1998 Dodge Poetry Festivals. Since 2002, Shovan has been an Artist-in-Education for the Maryland State Arts Council, leading poetry workshops for school children.

"For me, this collection tells a story about the transition from childhood to parenthood," said Shovan.  "I hope the poems speak to those moments when something—a strange scrap of memory, an odd comment from a child—compels us to stop and pay complete attention to the sensory world."

Shovan will read with Maryland Poet Laureate Stanley Plumly at CityLit Festival on April 17 at Pratt Library.

Shovan Photo: Jennifer Lewis

Read the complete press release by clicking on the link below.

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