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CITYLIT PRESS: Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone


Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone

Winner of the First Annual Harriss Poetry Prize
Laura Shovan
ISBN 978-1-936328-02-4
5x8 Chapbook, 51 pp.
Retail: $9.95
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From the Introduction by Harriss Poetry Prize founding editor, Michael Salcman...

In her winning manuscript, “Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone,” 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. As Robert Frost so famously said, all of poetry is simply metaphor, meaning one thing and saying another. In the child’s world, the log pile of carpet rolls become “mountains” to be scaled, her mother’s accent “fits like an egg in her mouth,” the pussy willow buds are “cat toes walking up a mottled branch,” and, most wonderfully, the child inserts a bud into “the foyer of [her] ear.” This is the word-surgeon’s sure anatomical magic; so too the author’s subtle command of poetic rhythm and a wide variety of poetic forms, from ghazal and free verse to triolets and prose poems.

Laura is also expert at transitioning her tenses and creating surprise in the reader through misdirection. In the opening poem of her manuscript, called “Driving Home From the Poetry Festival, 1996,” her memory scrolls back from the title’s journey to a drive her mother took years before. The second stanza begins “My mother, with me big in her belly” and suddenly we are made to experience the critical decision that saved their lives that night; a mysterious voice cries “Pull over.” Whose voice is it, the internal voice of motherly intuition or the voice of the future poet in utero? The voice recurs with increasing urgency, transforming a memory poem into an ars poetica and successfully elaborating the complexity of William Stafford’s model, the pregnant doe. There are many wonderful moments like this. From its zen-like title to the powerful conclusion of the very last poem, “Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone” was the biggest and most imaginative submission in every way; it has now become a beautiful book.

About the Poet

Laura 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, Laura was active in the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s Poetry Program, studying with Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Madeline Tiger, Renee Ashley, and Laura Boss. Laura coordinated poetry readings by award-winning teens at the 1996 and 1998 Dodge Poetry Festivals. Since 2002, Laura has been an Artist-in-Education for the Maryland State Arts Council, leading poetry workshops for school children.

She has taught for the Maryland Humanities Council’s “Totally Ekphrastic: Picturing America through Poetry” program, CityLit Project’s “Write Here, Write Now” workshops, and the G/T Summer Institutes in Howard County, Maryland.

Laura has written articles and essays about education, parenting, learning disabilities, and the arts for Baltimore’s Child, the Baltimore Sun, and other publications. Her poetry has appeared in many journals, including the Global City Review, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Lips, Little Patuxent Review, and Paterson Literary Review. She has earned two Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards honorable mentions.

Laura is actively involved in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), with credits in Highlights! for Children and Shoofly audio magazine. She lives in Howard County, Maryland, with her husband and two children. 

Contact Information

Laura Shovan at

CityLit Press at

Cover Design

Gregg Wilhelm

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