City native wins National Book Award in Poetry

Mary Szybist, a 1988 graduate of Williamsport Area High School, recently has been named the winner of the 2013 National Book Award in Poetry.

Her book, “Incarnadine,” was chosen for the shortlist on Oct. 16, and was announced as the winner during the National Book Awards Ceremony and Gala held on Nov. 20 in New York City.

Szybist said the inspiration for her collection of poems came from many different experiences and interactions with her family, expecially her mother, and her friends and even animals, to name a few.

When Szybist was announced as the winner at the gala, she said her husband, Jerry Harp, described the look on her face as “a mixture of shock and disbelief.”

“I still can’t quite believe it,” Szybist said. “It hadn’t occurred to me to write an acceptance speech because I didn’t think I had any chance of receiving the award, but my editor asked me to write down something just in case. I am glad I did because when I was called to the stage, I was too dumbstruck to do anything but read what I had written down. I deeply admire so many of the writers who were there: Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, E. L. Doctorow, Frank Bidart, Lucie Brock-Broido, Jhumpha Lahiri, George Saunders. I was amazed to be in their company.”

Szybist is an associate professor at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Ore. She is the daughter of Charles Szybist, of Williamsport, and the late Carla Szybist.

For reviews and more information on Szybist’s work, visit