Berwyn Moore Honored with John Ciardi Prize for Poetry

Posted: January 4, 2018

 “Sweet Herbaceous Miracle,” a collection of poetry by Gannon University Professor of English Berwyn Moore, is the winner of the prestigious 2017 John Ciardi Prize for poetry awarded by BkMk Press. 

The prize, awarded annually to a book-length collection of poetry, includes a monetary award as well as published by BkMk Press. Housed at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, BkMk is affiliated with New Letters, a literary magazine with a longstanding commitment to national writers.

“This is a very prestigious prize and I’m very honored to receive it,” Moore said.

The title of the collection is drawn from a poem entitled “Rapture” that that drew from an experience Moore had as a small child.  “We were at a lake.  My sister, who was 2, had wandered into the water and my dad, who was distracted on the beach, went in to rescue her,” Moore said. “There are images in the poem of things that rise (that’s where the rapture comes from), including ants crawling out of a banana and getting caught in an updraft. To this astonishing scene, a character in the poem exclaims, ‘sweet herbaceous miracle.’”

Moore knows a thing or two about herbaceous miracles. Her enthusiasm led her to buy a copy of John Gerard’s “Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes,” a landmark illustrated book about botany first published in London in 1597.

“I wanted to explore the history and folklore of herbs,” Moore said. “I loved Gerard’s description of herbs and how to use them and the imagery of the herbs and flowers in the book made their way into my poems as a motif.”

The collection is Moore’s third, following “O Body Swayed” in 2009 and “Dissolution of Ghosts” in 2005. Moore believes that “Sweet Herbaceous Miracle” is her best work yet.

“It’s very gratifying to have this collection of poems cohere into a book and to have the affirmation that other poets and critics are saying ‘Yes, this is a good collection. It’s worthy of publication, it’s worthy of this award.’ That’s thrilling to me,” Moore said.

The Ciardi Prize is just the latest in a long list of honors for Moore.  She was honored with the James Dickey Prize for Poetry in 2015 and the 2007 Magliocco Prize for Poetry from Bellevue Literary Review. She served as the inaugural Poet Laureate of Erie County, Pennsylvania, from 2009 to 2010.

Her poems have won awards from the Bellevue Literary Review, The Pinch Literary Journal, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, and Negative Capability Press and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her poetry and prose has appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Journal of the American Medical Association, Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review and Public Health Reports.”

“Sweet Herbaceous Miracle” will be published by BkMk Press in fall 2018.

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