PTS: 20192019-10-07T07:59:04-04:00

Past Winning Poems

2019 Thomas Merton Prize in Poetry of the Sacred Recipient

Planting Tulips
by Sharon Singleton


2019 Honorable Mentions

The Body in the River
by Matt Holrah


Vesper Time
by Judith Valente


by Mark Wagenaar


2019 Final Judges

Frederick Smock

Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai began writing on an old manual typewriter in childhood and never stopped. Her work explores things that tend to divide us, such as class, ethnicity, religion and gender, so that we might wrestle our way into deeper understandings of one another. She has authored or edited nine books in multiple genres as well as four music albums. With Ruby Wilson she created Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, which grew out her successful online project A Year of Being Here. Her latest book is Beneath the Same Stars, a novel of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. She is perhaps best known for The Emptiness of Our Hands, a spiritual memoir that chronicles 47 days she and co-author James Murray practiced “being present” while living by choice on the streets of Columbus, Ohio. Originally from a farming community in Ohio, Phyllis now resides with her scientist-husband, teenage son and two cats in a cozy 120-year-old house in Brookings, South Dakota. Get a free sampler of her writing and music by joining her mailing list at

Frederick Smock

Ruby R. Wilson

Ruby R. Wilson is a poet and freelance writer who calls South Dakota home. She centers her work in the landscape and relationships that shape the world we all share. Her fourth published collection of poetry is the award-winning anthology, Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, co-edited with Phyllis Cole-Dai. She is also the author of Maybe the Moon is Falling, one of the winners of the 2014 South Dakota State Poetry Society annual chapbook contest. Her poetry and prose has been published in a number of collections including Crazy Woman Creek (Houghton Mifflin, 2004), Action, Influence, Voice: Contemporary South Dakota Women, New Letters, and P3 (Painters, Poets & Pavilion) invitational exhibits at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In addition to capturing images with poetry, she is also a photographer and loves roaming the countryside with her camera. She lives with her husband and an assortment of pets in rural Brookings County, and is an archivist in the South Dakota State University Archives & Special Collections Department.