Fiction Department Collection and State Library Resources

Poetry Contest

Poetry Contest winner 2017 collage

Congratulations to Stephen Zerance, whose poem, "True Crime," won the 2017 Enoch Pratt Free Library / Poet Lore Poetry Contest. This contest was judged by Poet Lore.

Honorable mentions go to James Carroll, for "Morning Glory," Dewey Fox, for "Virga (Rapid City)," and Robert Schreur, for "Leaving Baltimore."

There were 261 poems submitted to the 2017 Poetry Contest, representing 80 cities and towns and 21 counties in Maryland (20 counties plus Baltimore City)

Stephen Zerance is the author of the chapbook Caligula’s Playhouse (Mason Jar Press, 2016). His poems have appeared in West Branch, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Assaracus, and Knockout, among others. He has also been featured on the websites of Lambda Literary and Split This Rock. He received his MFA from American University, where he received the Myra Sklarew award. His first debut will be appearing from Indolent Books in 2018. Stephen lives in Baltimore.

Here is the winning poem:


In the home invasion, the husband meets the baseball bat. The three women go up
with the house. For thirty minutes the police watch, do absolutely nothing. Everyone

wants the outcome to be so different. The case could’ve been prevented at many turns -- the rape,
strangulation, pouring of gasoline. I’ve been watching true crime, still not afraid

of strangers. The killer is usually family, close, loved, known. When the beauty queen
was discovered bludgeoned, garroted, body on stage -- the fingers all pointed

inside the house. I’ve tried to rationalize abject crime, my fascination. Both have always
been around. I love the idea of what is impossible for myself. When I pop the razor

from under my tongue and think it over -- the simplest explanation -- I revolve
around danger. Talking to strangers, a white mane grows out my feet -- it’s hard to keep

a story straight. The horses want to get loose. In the home invasion, the mother says
they’re nice men to the bank teller. She returns to the rape, strangulation, pouring

of gasoline. The story all at once is pointless. There is a luxury of being alive. In my life
there’s nothing wrong. I want to light it on fire. I’m a weapon with no safety.

When I enter a room I must go off.


Reading and Publication

On Tuesday, August 15, at 6:30 p.m., the four contest finalists will read in the company of special guest Teri Ellen Cross Davis at the Maryland State Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, 415 Park Ave., Baltimore MD 21201. Please join us!

"True Crime" will be enlarged for display in a Central Library show window in the summer, and along with the runners-up will be published in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Poet Lore, available through Poet Lore's e-store and at the Central Library.

Interested in past winners?

Check out the poems that won in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Thank you to everyone who entered the Poetry Contest!