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SHJ Issue 13
Fall 2015

Kowit’s Korner: An Introduction [+ the Kowit Prize]

Compiled by Clare MacQueen

Photograph of Steve Kowit
Vintage photograph of Steve Kowit

Founding Editor Duff Brenna conceived of Kowit’s Korner as an ongoing memorial to our dear friend and esteemed colleague Steve Kowit, who served so generously and with such enthusiasm as our Poetry Editor for five years: In eleven issues, he published 371 works (primarily poems, but several essays as well) by 152 authors.

Steve passed away on the second of April 2015 (far too soon!), and we dedicated our 12th issue to commemorating his life. Since July 2015, that issue has been available as a print anthology as well—Steve Kowit: This Unspeakably Marvelous Life (Serving House Books)—and includes not only a good number of Steve’s poems and essays, but also many tributes and accolades from folks who joined us in celebrating his life and mourning his passing.

Here in SHJ-13, Kowit’s Korner includes three tributes (two poems and a 1900-word article/obituary) as well as a new poem from Steve’s final collection Cherish, released in October by the University of Tampa Press.

We are actively soliciting additional tributes, to be published online in Kowit’s Korner [for our next issue of SHJ]. These can be poems, prose poems, essays, anecdotes, etc. Photographs may be considered as well. Please see our guidelines for email addresses and other submission details.

Tributes will be solicited on an ongoing basis. And, thanks to the generosity of William Harry “Bill” Harding, publisher of the San Diego Poetry Annual and president of the San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild (SDEAG), our Kowit’s Korner in SHJ-16 (Spring 2017) will also feature the winners of the first Steve Kowit Poetry Prize.

“The Kowit”

On the night of 17 October, Bill Harding officially unveiled news of “The Kowit” at DG Wills Books in La Jolla, California—Steve’s favorite local bookstore where he had read a number of times. On the 17th, local poets and members of the public read from the Poet Laureate of San Diego’s final collection of poetry, Cherish, published posthumously. His widow Mary Kowit was there as well, making the event especially poignant.

Acclaimed poet, editor, and teacher Steve Kowit passed away on the second of April, 2015 at the age of seventy-six. He was the author of five full-length collections of poetry, and a popular guide to writing and appreciating poetry, In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop. The guide is used as a teaching manual in workshops, colleges, and universities across the country.

Numerous awards have been conferred on Kowit, including among others:

  • National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry
  • Two Pushcart Prizes
  • Atlanta Review Paumanok Poetry Prize
  • Oroborus Book Award
  • San Diego Book Award
  • Tampa Review Poetry Prize in 2006 for The First Noble Truth
  • Theodor S. Geisel Award in 2007 for The Gods of Rapture

Details provided by Bill Harding:

The Steve Kowit Poetry Prize will be awarded annually by The San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild to the poet whose poem best represents Kowit’s spirit: a combination of passion, close observation, humor, generosity, and irreverence.

Submissions for the inaugural Kowit Prize will be open from July, 2016 through 31 December 2016, and can come from any poet anywhere. In subsequent years, submissions will be open from October first through December 31st. The call for submissions will be made through a variety of channels, including Poets & Writers. A special email address, and an entry form with guidelines, will be created for submissions.

Prizes: The winning poem will receive $1,000. Second place = $250. Third place = $100. Honorable Mentions = no cash award. All of the selected poems will appear in print in a special section of the San Diego Poetry Annual. Winners will also receive a complimentary e-book copy of the annual.

All entrants may also submit other poems for publication in the San Diego Poetry Annual, without fee, following the established SDPA submission guidelines. Please visit for details.

The awards will be officially announced each March first, when the San Diego Poetry Annual is published. The awards ceremony will take place each April, which is National Poetry Month.

[For details about judges, entry fees, awards ceremonies and readings, and establishment of scholarships, please download the PDF expanded version of this notice.]

Fund-raising efforts are underway. Among the early donors to SDEAG for the award: American Book Award-winning poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan, editor of The Paterson Literary Review, which awards the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize annually, on which the Kowit Prize is modeled.

San Diego State University and Southwestern College have also committed their support.

Donations from individuals may be made directly to the San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild, whose website includes a PayPal button. Anyone with questions can direct them to sdeag1 [at] gmail [dot] com.

We believe that, because of who Steve Kowit was and how he represented the best in all of us, and because of those we have hand-picked to administer this award, and because of the involvement of two major academic institutions, “The Kowit” will instantaneously become the premier award in poetry for our region.

On behalf of my co-editors at Serving House Journal, we’re pleased and grateful that Bill Harding and the SDEAG have acknowledged the “time and love” that went into Steve’s work at SHJ. And we are deeply touched and honored that they believe “The Kowit should have a home of sorts” here as well. Please join us in helping to support this wonderful tribute to Steve’s memory!

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury