So Pas Poet Laureate Takes Home Top Prize in National Contest

Ron Koertge

Ron Koertge, South Pasadena’s poet laureate, has been awarded the prestigious 2019 silver medal in poetry by the Independent Book Publisher Association (IBPA), it was announced.

Koertge, recently anointed So Pas poet laureate last year, won for his 2018 poetry anthology “Olympusville” in the specialty/anthology category.

“Olympusville,” published by Red Hen Press, is a book of poetry that focuses on Greek gods of yesteryear with accompanying illustrations.

Koertge said he was grateful to be chosen as the silver medalist, adding that it’s always nice to be recognized for work he does daily.

“It’s always gratifying to have a book chosen for any award, and doubly gratifying to have one chosen by an organization that dotes on independent presses,” Koertge said in an email to The Review. “Often smaller, non-profit presses are home to innovative, surprising and striking work.  ‘Olympusville’  — a  hybrid book of poems and illustrations —  more or less presented itself to me after some idle reading about the denizens of Mount Olympus.  Sure, they were gods and goddess but also just like most people I know:  jealous, anxious, brave, sneaky, clever, genuine, flawed, and just generally interesting to be around. I write poems nearly every day of my life.”

Photo Courtesy of Ron Koertge

Olympusville is an anthology of poems and illustrations that capture the spirit of Mount Olympus, according to reviews and the publisher.

“Imagine a heaven populated by familiar Greek gods. Sexy Aphrodite, gorgeous Adonis, Ares the warmonger, Artemis the huntress, wise Athena, bitter Demeter, and the like,” according to the Red Hen Press website, “But imagine also each of these denizens of Olympus stepping forward and revealing qualities that any reader can recognize: Hades, ruler of the underworld, lovesick for Persephone. Baffled Hephaestus, god of fire, husband of Aphrodite who can’t keep her clothes on. Add a defiant Sisyphus and a cadre of grumpy water nymphs and those are only some of the inhabitants of “Olympusville” a fantastic and, in the hands of poet Ron Koertge and illustrator Alicia Kleman, endlessly intriguing world.”

Two reviews rave about the book, saying it has charm, humor and intelligence.

“Wit lets down its guard and, behold: charm, intelligence, amazing inventiveness, and a kind of sweetness in its patient regard for a world so frequently bereft of those qualities,”  B. H. Fairchild, author of “The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems” says about the book. “So what could be more welcome than a new Koertge collection, where wit presides, and wisdom elegantly clothed in laughter is always in attendance.”

Moreover, Amy Gerstler, author of “Dearest Creature” adds this perspective on “Olympusville.”

“Koertge chronicles secret hungers and vulnerabilities, acerbic tenderness, and the soul’s wrestling match with what it wants versus what it needs and deserves.”

The IBPOA event, called the Independent Publisher Book Awards contest, is in its 23rd year and has several categories including eight Outstanding Book of the Year category gold medalists, followed by the gold, silver and bronze medalists in 85 General categories, 24 Regional categories, and 11 E-Book categories, according to the IPBA.

The awards, euphemistically known as the IPPY Wards because it’s easy to say, have evolved into a much sought-after contest to win.

“Congratulations and sincere thanks to the independent authors and publishers who participated in our 23rd annual (contest),” the IBPA website states. “The IPPY Awards, launched in 1996, are designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers. Established as the first awards program open exclusively to independents, over 5,000 IPPYs have been awarded to authors and publishers around the world. IPPY winners enjoy many benefits. As one of the oldest, most established independent book awards in operation, the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) are well known and respected in the book industry.”

Monica Hernandez, media manager for Koertge’s publisher, Red Hen Press, echoed the congratulations.
“A huge congratulations to you on this wonderful achievement,” Hernandez wrote in an email to Koertge, who shared it with The Review.” I’m putting together a celebratory graphic to post on social media. We’re thrilled.”

Koertge, 79, is married to Bianca Richards and has lived in South Pasadena for more than 35 years. He has no children but has written several books for teenagers. He has just submitted a Middle Grade manuscript to his agent.

“He’ll have some ideas-for-revision, since he always does,” Koertge said.