Our judges have the very difficult job of choosing four Grand Prize winners in Poetry and four Grand Prize winners in Art and about 100 finalists from many thousands of entries each year.
In addition, we award a Shasta Bioregion Prize (art or poetry) to a student from the San Francisco Bay Area, an Anacostia Watershed Prize (art or poetry) to a Washington, DC area student, and the Monkey's Raincoat Prize for a short poem in the haiku tradition.
Thacher Hurd was born in Vermont in 1949, the son of the late Edith Thacher Hurd and Clement Hurd, who together created many beloved children’s books. His family moved to California when he was 5, and he grew up in Mill Valley. After graduating from the California College of Arts and Crafts with a BFA in painting, Hurd started creating his own children’s books. He has written and illustrated over 25 books, among them Mama Don’t Allow, which won the Boston Globe Horn Book award, and Zoom City, which was chosen a New York Times Best Illustrated Book in 1998. For many years Hurd and his wife, Olivia Scott Hurd, owned and operated the Peaceable Kingdom Press.
Robert Hass is the author of several books of poems, including Field Guide, Praise, Human Wishes, and Sun Under Wood, and a collection of essays, Twentieth Century Pleasures. Born in San Francisco, he has lived most of his life in California; its landscapes inform both his poetry and his prose. Hass is also a professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley. His awards include the Yale Younger Poets Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for criticism in 1984, an Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship. His poetry collection Time and Materials (2007) won the National Book Award for poetry and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. From 1995 to 1997, Hass served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
Pamela Michael, co-founder of River of Words, is an education activist and writer whose works include books, articles, radio documentaries, and essays on education, community, travel, and culture. Michael was executive director of the United Nations Media Education Task Force from 1990 to 1992. She has taught writing to adults and young people for the last 20 years and has written articles for newspapers, textbooks, and magazines, including Shape, Orion, San Francisco Chronicle, Odyssey, Resurgence, BookLinks, and Salon.com. Her books include The Gift of Rivers (2000), A Mother’s World: Journey of the Heart (1998), and River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things (2008).
American Sign Language (ASL) Judges
Ella Mae Lentz
Ella Mae Lentz, a 1971 graduate of California School for the Deaf, teaches in the ASL Department at Vista Community College in Berkeley. She has been teaching ASL, deaf culture, and interpreter preparation at various colleges since 1975. She has trained ASL instructors and interpreters and has lectured at various workshops, including national and international symposiums. Lentz was involved in pioneering scientific ASL research and is also known for presentations of her original poetic works in ASL. A videotaped collection of her poems, The Treasure, has been released. Ella’s degree from Gallaudet University is in English and Drama.
Dr. Susan Rutherford, artistic and administrative director of DEAF Media, is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar and lecturer in linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she designed and implemented the country’s first university course on the language, culture and history of deaf people in America. She received her doctorate in folklore/deaf studies from UC Berkeley. Her research and teaching focuses on American deaf folklore, the traditional arts of American deaf culture, sociolinguistics of American Sign Language, and minority group dynamics of the American deaf community. Rutherford created and produced Celebration: Deaf Artists and Performers for the Deaf Education and Arts Network; she was also project director and executive producer of the PBS series Rainbow’s End and the project director/producer for the National Endowment for the Humanities' project American Culture: The Deaf Perspective.