Pennsy poet Grant Clauser wins 2013 Dogfish prize

'Necessary Myths' collection judged best of all entries
Grant Clauser, winner of the 2013 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, was selected by noted poet Robert Bly to serve as Poet Laureate of Montgomery County in Pennsylvania. SOURCE SUBMITTED
December 25, 2013

A self-proclaimed frustrated gardener and hack fly fisherman from Pennsylvania - Grant Clauser - recently received the 2013 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize.

Poet laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Clauser teaches poetry writing at a variety of conferences and at Philadelphia's Musehouse. He also runs the blog His manuscript-length collection of poems called "Necessary Myths" was judged the best of entries from dozens of poets. Clauser infuses his poems with nature and the outdoors, and the interactions between people and the other animate and inanimate creatures and objects that populate our consciousness.

From his poem "Happening Again": “Is that a lion stalking in the attic/or just the wind/arranging itself on the roof?/A white flag tail/of warning spreads/across your face.” Clauser's poems demonstrate the power of gathering simple words to create images, moods, reflections and the exploration of dimensions that exist beyond sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

Established in 2003 and sponsored by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and the Cape Gazette, the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for its first 10 years was limited to entries from poets living on the Delmarva Peninsula. This year, the eligibility area was expanded to include Delaware. Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

Jamie Brown and Linda Blaskey of the Broadkill River Press, and Mark Carter of Dogfish Head announced the prize at a Dec. 7 reception in the upstairs meeting room of the Dogfish Head Brew Pub in Rehoboth Beach. The prize includes publication of the winning poetry collection in a perfect-bound book, $500 in cash and two cases of Dogfish Head ales. Snowed in by a weekend storm, Clauser was unable to attend the announcement of the prize. Past winners of the Dogfish prize, Tina Raye Dayton in 2012 and Sherry Chappelle in 2011, read some of Clauser's poems at the reception.

Carter said the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize falls within the realm of Dogfish Head's Beer and Benevolence initiatives, “and we're proud to support the creative efforts of people like Grant Clauser.”

Brown thanked the volunteer judges and readers who help with the annual contest, along with Linda Blaskey, 2008 winner of the Dogfish prize, who coordinates the entire effort. For more information email Blaskey at

Here are two poems from Clauser's collection, including the title piece:


Necessary Myths

There are certain nights,

we pass through worrying

as wolves calling out

over the hills.


So what if Romulus

put down the stone

and instead embraced

his brother?

Would our paths be

so different than now?


A farmer in Kansas,

to ease his stricken brother's pain

puts a hand over his mouth

and holds it long enough

to watch the creases on his

brow soften with sleep.


And in the morning,

after collecting and washing the eggs

walks the mile to his neighbor

to borrow a suit.


It's hard, yes, to love

the stone in your shoe

when your whole life

is spent walking.




The high bank of the river

means snow the mountains collected

through winter now can't hold itself

together, and rushes into gullies

all heading toward the dam.


We know what that's like –

holding tight to the only

rocks you recognize, fighting

the change that sunlight brings,

the heat that starts an avalanche.


This season isn't about rebirth.

It's the weakening grip of things

that held together in the laughless cold

when all there was was ice,

the empty dark to starve through.


Next month shad will climb

the river's ladders till they clog

the feeder streams. Every spawning

body spent, their over-driven muscles

giving up like stars gone dark.


Let's push the season back, keep

winter's cold and airless drum

from rolling down the hills. This

last chill will linger as long as we

can hold the rock, its heart gone still.