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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Kowit’s Korner: Issue 16

Compiled by Clare MacQueen

Photograph of Steve Kowit Vintage photograph of Steve Kowit
Vintage photo of Steve Kowit copyrighted 1983 by Joan Levine Gannij and reproduced here by her
permission; photographs of Steve Kowit in SHJ reproduced with permission from Mary Kowit.

Founding Editor Duff Brenna conceived of Kowit’s Korner as an ongoing memorial to our beloved colleague Steve Kowit, who served so generously and with such enthusiasm as our Poetry Editor for five years: In eleven issues (2 thru 12, Fall 2010 thru Spring 2015), 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 also been available as a print anthology—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.

Thanks to the generosity of William “Bill” Harry Harding, publisher of the San Diego Poetry Annual and president of the San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild (SDEAG), our Kowit’s Korner in this issue, SHJ:16, features the winners and Honorable Mentions selected for the inaugural Steve Kowit Poetry Prize.

We also include a few tributes to Steve in SHJ:16, and we will continue to solicit additional tributes to be published online in Kowit’s Korner in future issues. These can be poems, prose poems, essays, anecdotes, etc. Photographs will be considered as well. Please see our guidelines for email addresses and other submission details.

“The Kowit”

On the night of 17 October 2015, Bill Harding officially unveiled news of “The Kowit” at DG Wills Books in La Jolla, California—Steve’s favorite local bookstore where he had held readings 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

We deeply appreciate that Bill Harding and the SDEAG have acknowledged the “time and love” that went into Steve’s work at Serving House Journal. 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 supporting and spreading the word about this marvelous tribute to Steve’s memory!

Details provided by William 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 will be open from 15 June through 15 October. The call for submissions will be made through a variety of channels, including Poets & Writers. For a submissions entry form and the guidelines, please visit and scroll down to “Steve Kowit Poetry Prize.”

The judging panel for the 2017 Kowit Prize includes Robt O’Sullivan Schleith and Clare MacQueen.

[O’Sullivan Schleith is a poet, performer, and decades-long promoter and organizer for literary arts in the San Diego region, including the original San Diego Poetry Slam. He captained San Diego’s first team of poets to the National Poetry Slam, and he is the host of Poets, INC (Inland North County) and The Escondido Arts Partnership Literary Series. He has served as regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual since 2008.]

[MacQueen is an associate editor and the webmaster here at Serving House Journal, editor-in-chief and webmaster of KYSO Flash online, and the founder of KYSO Flash Press. She also serves on the Advisory Board of The Best Small Fictions, consulting on haibun stories and tanka tales. And she is among the co-editors of Steve Kowit: This Unspeakably Marvelous Life (Serving House Books, 2015).]

Prizes: The grand-prize winning poem will receive $1,000. Second prize will receive $250, and third prize, $100. There is no cash award for Honorable Mentions. 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. For details, please visit

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

Fund-raising efforts are ongoing. 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.

“...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