Art Alliance Writers’ Workshop Announces Winners of First Poetry Prize

March 11, 2020

The Art Alliance Writers’ Workshop is a place where emerging writers can hone their craft alongside talented faculty; earlier this year, poets participated in the workshop’s first poetry contest. The prize was awarded to Naz Bowman ’20 (Creative Writing) and Thea Brown, with Jaymie Hommel ’20 (Creative Writing) selected as an honorable mention.

The award celebrates the work of C.K. Williams this year and is presented in conjunction with Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde, which highlights the Philadelphia avante-garde scene from the 1950s through the ’70s. In the call for submission, poets were asked to gather inspiration from the exhibition or Williams’ writings, including his 1968 book of poetry A Day for Anne Frank.

We reached out to the poets about some of their other sources of inspiration. Brown’s winning submission is part of a larger manuscript called Loner Forensics, which she calls an “urban surrealist Spoon River Anthology that’s engaged with grief, utopia, institutional violence and love,” referring to Edgar Lee Masters’ 1914 work. Other influences for Brown included “Alice Notley’s The Descent of Alette, interactive fiction computer games from the late ’80s and parallel universes.”

For Bowman, music was a major influence on their work. “The way that lyrics in songs, even more so than lyric poetry, can create tiny holes into places without taking up much space, is something that I try to emulate,” they said. Bowman explained that the poem they submitted “was an attempt at taking the way music approximates things and turning [it] into a scroll or tab of thoughts throughout a day.” 

In addition to a $100 prize and publication in an upcoming issue of Horsethief magazine, the prizewinners were given the opportunity to collaborate with Book Arts and Printmaking MFA students Sarah Moody and Sara Moose-Torres to design original letterpress broadsides of their poems. The broadsides will be displayed at The Art Alliance in early April.