News Flash! One of My Poems Was Nominated for a Pushcart Prize

Pushcarts in January are in short supply in small Minnesota towns. Local readers might recognize the iconic “Book Bike” in the new atrium of the Northfield Public Library, parked under Rob Hardy’s engraved lines celebrating the spirit of our community. I share this image to celebrate another manifestation of community: I learned in the early days of this year that one of the poems I published last year was nominated last autumn for a Pushcart Prize.

When your work is nominated for a Pushcart Prize you know two things absolutely: first, that there is at least one professional out there who truly believes in what you’ve done; and, second, that the odds against actually winning are steep–Rocky Mountain steep. Himalayan-steep. (In poetry, for example, for the 2015 (the 39th anthology, and the one I have consulted) more than 4,000 poems were nominated but only 31 were prize winners. (A further 25 cited for Special Mention but not reprinted.)) My own poem made it only to the first level of nomination.

Both of these facts make each year’s Pushcart Prize announcement a very big deal to writers, celebrating as it does the incredible wealth of fine and inventive writing (poems, fiction, essays) that is published each year in the United States by small presses. Established in 1976 (the year I stumbled onto life-changing volumes of poetry by Howard Nemerov and Sylvia Plath in the Beloit Public Library,) the Pushcart Prize is the brainchild of a disillusioned Doubleday Editor, Bill Henderson. His enduring idea has been to identify each year some of the best work published by non-commercial presses in the previous year. Nominations come from a legion of editors (each journal is allowed a total of six across all genres) and from former Pushcart Prize recipients. The founding editors included such diverse sensibilities as Buckminster Fuller and Anais Nin. Nominations for 2017 closed on December 1, and the 2018 anthology is already available through Amazon or better yet, through your favorite Indie Book Store! Mine is Content Bookstore here in Northfield. Proceeds help to fund the next year’s project.

By creating an anthology of prize winners, as well as a non-profit structure to support it, Henderson continues to draw attention to vibrancy, diversity, and vigor of the good writing we all our doing. Part of the fun of each anthology is archival, for each includes a comprehensive list, alphabetized by last name, that includes the winning genre, title, and year.Last year, I spent months reading aloud all 500 of Amy Clampitt’s poems, and  I like knowing that her work is represented by two poems, “The Reed Beds of the Hackensack” (VIII) and “Grassmere” (X). Similarly, Richard Wilbur, another poet whose work has influenced my own, is represented by “Hamlen Book” (VIII). One can’t help noticing who else is not here, truly fine poets Here is a summary, with some quotes from Henderson, published by Poets & Writers three years ago, titled “Pushcart Prize Turns Forty.”

Knowing full well the great leap required to move from “nominated” writer to “prize winning writer,” I am savoring this unexpected validation. In the past forty-two years, something like 250,000 pieces of writing have been nominated. According to my humble and statistically unsound calculations, tens of millions of other fine essays, poems, and stories were not. (I have my own list of work I would champion retrospectively if I could, and surely you have yours. Perhaps that could be the subject of a future post.) But…They were written. They were published. They were read. It is thrilling to realize that excellent work is all around us, waiting for us to discover it.

My nominated poem can be accessed through the post I did in June (which includes a link to the issue of The Orchards in which “To a Former Friend, Whose Affections Are Withdrawn” was published.)

Wishing you a surprising day of joy,   LESLIE


News Flash! I’m Reading at Content Bookstore–Thursday, May 5, 2016

Content Bookstore Facade

At a recent visit to a key Northfield literary hub, Content Bookstore, it was exciting to see my new book, Still Life with Poppies: Elegies displayed on their shelves during National Poetry Month.Content Bookstore Shelf Two

Content Bookstore Shelf One

To have my own work mere inches from such literary luminaries and personal heroes as Pablo Neruda and Mary Oliver was a delight I shall not soon forget.

Next week, I will be the featured reader on Thursday, May 5, at Content Bookstore’s monthly poetry series. I hope you will be able to come. The reading starts at 7:00 p.m., but if you are early there are plenty of enticing books to browse and comfortable places to sit. After my reading, there will be an open mike period when you are welcome to read one of your own poems, and I will be signing copies of my book.

Content Book Store Card by Kevin Cannon

Also, tomorrow (April 30) is Independent Bookstore Day, and Content is celebrating in style. They have a whole day of special events planned for readers of all ages. Why not plan to stop by and share in the fun? It’s on my calendar!

Happy Reading,


Content Logo

Northfield Sidewalk Poetry 2016–Winners and Readings Announced

Julia and Rusty Pump

The 2016 winners of Northfield’s Sidewalk Public Poetry Contest have been announced!  (Clicking on the above link will allow you to see the names of the winners AND their poems.)

The poet I know best is pictured above near the inspiration for her winning poem–a neighborhood icon.

And in April, National Poetry Month, there will be two chances to hear the poems read by and discussed by the poets. First, on Friday, April 15, 2016, many of the poets will be guests on KYMN’s(1080 AM) weekly radio show, ArtZany!, hosted by Paula Granquist. The show airs from 9:00 to 9:40 a.m. every Friday and is rebroadcast on Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. The past shows are archived and be accessed on line anytime at the link above.

Second, on Friday, April 28, 2016 at 7:00 p,m., the 2016 Sidewalk Poets have been invited to read their work at Content Bookstore — Content is Northfield’s independent bookstore located at 314 Division Street.

Can you believe it? This is Northfield’s 6th annual celebration of Sidewalk Poetry. This partnership of the Arts and Culture Commission, the Friends of the Library, the City, and SEMAC (with funding from the Minnesota Legacy Fund) has born amazing poetic fruit. Look for new impressions of old favorites around the renovated Northfield Public Library later in the year. Come August, join other poetry lovers at Bridge Square for the annual capstone celebration–stay tuned for a date on that.

And finally, don’t forget that many Northfield businesses and organizations, especially along Division Street, participate each year in the Northfield version of National Poem in Your Pocket Day! This year, it’s Thursday, April 21. Look for the red boxes, and be sure to take a poem home in your own pocket! Here is a photo from the very first Northfield celebration back in 2013.

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2013

Have a Great April!