Towson professor Leslie Harrison long-listed for the 2017 National Book Award in poetry

Towson University assistant professor Leslie Harrison was named a semifinalist for the National Book Award in poetry on Wednesday.

Harrison, a Rodgers Forge resident, is the author of “The Book of Endings,” one of 10 titles to make the so-called longlist for the Book Awards, one of the country’s most coveted annual literary awards.

According to the National Book Foundation’s website, “The Book of Endings” represents Harrison’s attempt “to make sense of, or at least come to some kind of reckoning with absence — the death of the author's mother, the absence of the beloved, the absence of an accountable god, cicadas, the dead stars arriving, the dead moon aglow in the night sky.”

The German-born Harrison grew up in New Hampshire, but earned advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and at the University of California, Irvine.

Harrison will face formidable competition. Perhaps the highest-profile poet on the list of semi-finalists is Frank Bidart, who was nominated for “Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016.

Bidart previously has had several books in the running for the National Book Award, and also has picked up such prestigious prizes as the Wallace Stevens Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The 10 finalists were culled from nearly 250 submissions. Members of a five-judge panel will winnow them down to a shortlist of five finalists that will be released on Oct. 4, with the winner’s name announced during a live ceremony on Nov. 15.

The longlist for young adult literature also was released Wednesday and includes “Long Way Down” by University of Maryland graduate Jason Reynolds. “The Long Way Down” takes place in the 60 seconds that it takes a kid to decide whether he’s going to murder the person who killed his brother.

The longlist for nonfiction will be released on Thursday and for fiction on Friday. For more details and a complete list of the nominees, visit

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