Veronica Kornberg, of Pescadero, has won the Morton Marcus Poetry Prize for her English quintain focusing on a girl’s coming of age.
The poem “Stealing Mulberries” was selected by judge and Santa Cruz poet Danusha Laméris in a contest organized by Santa Cruz Writes and the “phren-Z” literary magazine. The honor comes with a $1,000 prize.
Kornberg has been published or will soon be published by Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Radar Poetry and many other outlets. She is currently working on her first book of poems.
“It’s a thrill for me,” she said after being notified of the prize.
Kornberg has been a community volunteer and is the mother of three daughters. She studied writing in the graduate writing program at San Francisco State University and returned to her craft as her daughters matured. She says that poetry has spoken to her since she was a child and she feels drawn to create it.
“I’m a big fan of fiction, but, for me as a writer, I think I’m better at it for one thing,” she said. “The language of poetry is so exciting to me. It’s a direct communication.”
One manifestation of her appreciation for the art form is an unnamed poetry club of sorts.
“I founded a group of poetry readers,” she said. “It’s just something that I wanted to do.” The group’s 10 members pick a poet and then read the writer’s work for a month. Then they gather to share their favorites.
For her own writing, Kornberg says she is inspired by the natural world, particularly by what she sees in the Central Coast of California. She said tidepools, landscapes and other natural manifestations course through her pen.
She said “Stealing Mulberries” can be read in different ways.
“It’s a coming-of-age story,” she said, noting that it centers around a girl’s awakening to the world around her. “There are various ways to interpret it.”
The prize is named in memory of the former Cabrillo College English instructor and film reviewer.
Kornberg’s prize was announced amid a Renaissance for the art form. Earlier this year, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that the number of adults reading poetry had nearly doubled in only five years. The Survey for Public Participation in the Arts found that nearly 12 percent of American adults — 28 million people — had read poetry in the last year.
Kornberg thinks the increase in readership has much to do with the rise of social media.
“I think it’s because of new media — social media, YouTube, online publications,” she said. “Publishing in general is under a lot of stress, but poetry is already set up as a not-for-profit enterprise. I think it is changing poetry.”