Prizewinner of "Helen Kay Chapbook Poetry Prize" in 2019

Ellen Hirning Schmidt

I teach writing in Ithaca, NY, summer workshops at Star Island, NH, and workshops each semester at Cornell University. After retiring from work in a crisis center in 2006, I felt like a cartoon character walking off a cliff into thin air without a plan. But within a few months, I designed Writing through the Rough Spots, a course enabling participants to create clarity about challenging life situations. My students, 18 – 85 year old, range widely – athlete, author, chaplain, ex-felon, hairdresser, musician, physician, prison guard, restaurant server, scientist, therapist… and come from across the US and 15 countries. I’ve written poems for most of my life, but only became interested in sharing them publicly when I turned 70. Less than two years later my poems appeared in Passager Poetry Contest Issue, The Avocet, Poetry Quarterly, Caesura, and The Healing Muse.
My experience as a manuscript editor has been primarily with memoir, poetry, fiction and YA fiction. www. WritingRoomWorkshops.com

​I hope my poems will nurture other’s spirits as writing them has nurtured mine.

Winner of the 2019 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize

Oh, say did you know by Ellen Hirning Schmidt

Read Oh, say did you know

The poems in Oh say did you know reflect on the exterior world, the political and civil landscapes surrounding us all, as well as on the navigation of the interior. My poems traverse where the two meet. Keen observations from the natural world provide metaphors for these parallel terrains.
My poems juxtapose the impact of loss with gratitude for what we keep. The cycles of nature offer sturdy and stirring metaphors. Observations of daily life as well as imaginings are gleaned from growing wisdom that comes with age combined with a fresh outlook.

​Ellen Schmidt has that rare ability to make her personal voice express the universal experiences in all of our lives. She takes the seemingly mundane world of our relationships with family, friends and nature and finds, in them, the insights that allow the reader to question and appreciate what had once been taken for granted.
–Joel Savishinsky, Author of Breaking the Watch: The Meanings of Retirement in America, winner of the Gerontological Society of America’s book of the year prize.

These poems peek at doom and dance with delight, always shining with Ellen’s hope, gratefulness and big heart. She infuses some humor, helping to make this a warming brew. What we drink from her poems is enriching and enjoyable.
​–Barbara Lydecker Crane, author of Zero Gravitas, Alphabetricks, and BackWords Logic

With great wisdom and humanity, Ellen Schmidt gives us poems that teach and celebrate and mourn and encourage. Unafraid of the dark in these fearful times, she is “armed to the teeth with Hope.” I feel lucky to be among her readers, taken care of within her poems – “oases of kindness [where] reason’s tender shoots can burst forth.”
–Mary Azrael poet and editor of Passager Books

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