Tor House Poetry Prize




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2013 Prize For Poetry Awards

Click on a poem title to read the poem, on a poet's name to read his/her bio.  Prize winners for past years can be viewed on prize pages for past years, available here.

We are pleased to announce that the 2013 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry, an honorarium of $1,000, is awarded to:

Andrea O'Rourke
Atlanta, Georgia
for her poem
"Men From Camps"

 Honorable Mentions, each with an honorarium of $200, are awarded to:

Eric Berlin
Lysander, New York
for his poem
"Pygmalion's Objection"  

Keiko Lane
Berkeley, California
for her poem
"Listening to Miles Davis…."  

Mark Rubin
Burlington, Vermont
for his poem
"J. Alfred's Left Eye"  

Gabriel Spera
Los Angeles, California
for his poem

Final judge for the 2013 competition was poet Kim Addonizio .

The annual Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry is established as a living memorial in honor of American poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962).  The Prize is underwritten by Tor House Foundation Board member John Varady with additional support from Honorary Board Member Allen Mears.  This year we received over 1,400 poems from 45 states, the District of Columbia, and six foreign countries.

The 2013 Prize Winning Poem   

Men From Camps

Andrea O'Rourke


The world tried to find you on the map, maybe.

It's as if you slipped through some fault line, except

you did—dropped into pits, after squads fired in shifts.


Somewhere in the mists by the mountain tracks

and the guts of woods, the hairy blueweeds skirr

above the landfills of your remains—


your thin rooted arms, the fingers parched veins

of juniper, beech, needles of Bosnian Pine. The tilt

of your dried-moss heads wedged low in collarbones,


your turtled backs under sashed wrists: rope,

torn cloth, copper wire now loose. The missing.

Your hollow-drum eyes glare from behind blindfolds,


don't look up, or down. No more the truckloads of men,

the drills across barbed yards, the watery bean stew

before loading the bodies. No more hangars, or the smell


of the stalactites of blood under the execution stage.

Just you, your bits, femurs detached in transit, sticks

on the ground someone studies, identifies, like plants.



Andrea O'Rourke's poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Missouri Review, Barrelhouse, Raleigh Review, Verse Wisconsin, Poet Lore, and elsewhere.  A native of Croatia, she now lives in Atlanta where she paints - oil on paper and acrylics on canvas - and attends the MFA program at Georgia State University.

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Honorable Mentions

Pygmalion's Objection

Eric Berlin


My window here opens to the alley.

Burned by dust from plaster and dried-out clay,

my hands touch everything but you all day

and only give up when I fall asleep.

I stretch out, at lunch, on the windowsill

so the cold flat slab will keep me awake.

From some I-beam above—a fire escape—

there's a shuffling of wings, a pigeon quill

spirals out into the afternoon sun.

Eight hours from now, on my long walk home,

the 8th Avenue winds will dredge up ghosts,

above me, blooms of jellyfish will pulse,

plastic bags ripped from razor wire and shrubs—

the company I keep instead of love.

Eric Berlin is a poet, sculptor and freelance editor living in Lysander, NY.  He received an MFA in Poetry from Syracuse University, an MFA in Sculpture from NY Academy of Art, and a BA in English form Harvard University and has poems published in Outsiders by Milkweed Editions and forthcoming in Confrontations and Enizagam.

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Listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane play 'Round Midnight and Someday My Prince Will Come

Keiko Lane


It's the third time this week you've come home from the hospital at dawn, leaving

the bright sterile light and antiseptic air – leaving him there, still alive, though


he shouldn't be. Lucky, you repeat to yourself, what the doctors said about him, even this

time, even as the purple lesions climb up his spine, tipping up like the notes of a minor


scale, toward his right shoulder blade. The nurses know better, looking at you, at him, his

thinning skin and long bones, the dark rings spreading under your eyes, your


imperceptible sigh when you finger the tubes entering and exiting his fluorescent-

bleached arms, how even sleeping, he turns his head away from you, wanting to be


finished. It was dark when you left your house, and now in the non-descript light of the

just barely dawn the red wine still in its round bellied glass looks like blood, the book


where you left it, spine cracked open next to the half full bottle.

The cd player has been on repeat all evening and through the night, the house


memorizing the score in your absence. You miss record players, the hum and hiss

of the needle making first contact and the rhythmic thumps of it meeting


the ungrooved cardboard label at the end of a side. Pausing at the halfway point, gently

lifting the needle and turning the record over to its unmirroring B-side. Now


the disk, its clean predictive sound, plays an endless and identical reprise.

You sit down on the couch, pick up the wine, look at the almost


morning sun refracted in its viscous surface, and listen,

over and over, for the one note that might hold you here.


Keiko Lane lives in Berkeley, California, where she maintains a private psychotherapy practice and teaches graduate and post-graduate psychology and cultural studies. In addition to her literary writing which has been published in journals and anthologies including Calyx, Americas Review, Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, Generation Q, and Here Come the Brides, she writes essays about the intersections of queer culture, oppression resistance, and liberation psychology.

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J. Alfred's Left Eye

Mark Rubin


Blessed are the gifted who read fast,

dream well, and still find time in quatrains

to complain of time lost, bone spurs

& loneliness, this, while sitting on a bench

in Royal Park, London.  There he goes,

T.S. among a promenade of men with

Derby walking canes, women talking

Renaissance and tea.  Between you and me

I have problems I have not used up yet.


It must be chronic clicking tendonitis

that brings me to this park to rest

my stubborn knee, or permission

to reminisce, to water my dry weak eye.

Because it wanders, I am hard to read.

Where there is uneasiness, there is disquiet

at four o'clock high tea.  Is there room

anywhere for low tea and a biscuit?

I am not anyone's best friend.


Surely there is a prize for doing less

than expected, but more than nothing,

a token for watching lovelies come and go.

Excuse me with thin yellow hair, not so fast.

You'll wake the child we didn't have.

I live more fully in the margins of other

people's lives, through voices near and far.

Where there is disquiet, there is someone

sipping nectar from words yet to appear.


Mark Rubin's poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere.  His first book of poems, The Beginning of Responsibility, was published by Owl Creek Press.  A past recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Discovery/The Nation Award and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, he lives in Burlington, Vermont, where he is a psychotherapist in private practice. 

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Gabriel Spera

They jump, it's said, or seem to, and cling like debt

to the misguided and the rash, the slightest brush

requiring knife and needle-beaked pliers to unleech.

And still, I can't control my hand, which hovers near

as though for warmth, as though I still took

every warning as a dare and couldn't be schooled

by any pain beyond my own. What then

is the allure, what summons my flowering palm

beyond the edge of common sense?  Perhaps

it's that they look disarmingly plush, each limb

a wooly bear haloed in the dying sun's

last throes.  Partly, it's that some shred of me

still feels a man should shed some blood before

he gives up trying to embrace the shattered world.

Partly, it's that I wonder have I grown

too scarred to care, having found myself hemmed in

on every side by shoals of thorns, the forms

my past self loved to wrestle with, caress,

now gowned in barbs, as though such things held

anything worth keeping from me, as though

I'd perish for want and lack of all they hid.

Not so.  Let them find, as I have, some hearts

can go for years without a drop, without a beat, and still

manage to swell and bloom when the heavens break.


Gabriel Spera's second book of poems, The Rigid Body (Ashland Poetry Press, Ashland, OH), was awarded the 2011 Richard Snyder Publication prize.  His first book of poems, The Standing Wave (Harper Collins, New York), was a 2002 National Poetry Series selection and also received the 2004 Literary Book Award for Poetry from PEN USA-West.  Additional honors include a 2009 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.  He lives in Los Angeles.  More poems and information can be found at


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rize winners for past years can be viewed on-line:

2012 Poetry Prize winners
2011 Poetry Prize winners

2010 Poetry Prize winners
2009 Poetry Prize winners
2008 Poetry Prize winners
2007 Poetry Prize winners
2006 Poetry Prize winners
2005 Poetry Prize winners
2004 Poetry Prize winners
2003 Poetry Prize winners
2002 Poetry Prize winners
2001 Poetry Prize winners



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