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Towson University professor Leslie Harrison shortlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry

Towson University professor Leslie Harrison is a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry.
Towson University professor Leslie Harrison is a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry.(Theresa Keil)

Towson University professor Leslie Harrison came one step closer on Wednesday to winning one of the most coveted annual literary awards in the U.S. — the 2017 National Book Award for poetry.

Harrison's "The Book of Endings" is one of five titles to make the shortlist, the organization announced Wednesday. The finalists were culled from a list of nearly 250 submissions.

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According to the citation on the awards organization's website, "The poems in 'The Book of Endings' try 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 other four finalists in the poetry category are: Frank Bidart for "Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016"; Layli Long Soldier for "Whereas"; Shane McCrae for "In the Language of My Captor"; and Danez Smith for "Don't Call Us Dead: Poems."

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The winners of the fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature will be announced during a live ceremony in New York on Nov. 15.

The young people's list does not include Jason Reynolds' "Long Way Down," though the gritty urban tale by the University of Maryland graduate was one of 10 semi-finalists.

Harrison, who was born in Germany and grew up in New Hampshire, has graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Irvine. She's been a member of Towson's full-time faculty since 2012.

Poetry lovers hoping to sample her work in person will find Harrison on Nov. 11 at the 2017 Baltimore Writers Conference held on the Towson campus.

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