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Top Poetry Competitions

By Scott Lorenz
Westwind Communications

Are you a poet and nobody knows it?  Get busy and enter poetry competitions and tell the world about your poetry!

One of the best ways to gain exposure for your poetry is to enter your work into various poetry competitions around the United States. The recognition gained for your prose could help launch your career or give you the encouragement to propel you forward to greater heights. Sometimes that third party endorsement of your work is well worth your time.

I’ve researched and compiled this list of poetry contests that offer recognition and in some cases cash prizes. Good luck!

1. Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry, Salt Lake City, UT. Honoring the memory of a celebrated poet and a beloved teacher, the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry is awarded annually and is sponsored by The University of Utah Press and The University of Utah Department of English. $1,000 Cash Prize and Publication from the Press; $500 and reading in The University of Utah’s Guest Writers Series from The University of Utah Department of English. https://www.uofupress.com/ali-poetry-prize.php

2. Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Pittsburgh, PA. Established in 1981, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize is administered by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Named in honor of Agnes Lynch Starrett, the Press’s first director, the prize is awarded for a first full-length book of poems. The prize carries a cash award of $5,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press as part of the Pitt Poetry Series. The series is edited by Ed Ochester, who also serves as final judge in the Starrett competition. https://upittpress.org/prize/agnes-lynch-starrett-poetry-prize/

3. Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award, New York, NY. Established in 2013, the Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award recognizes a student poet twenty-three years old or younger, with an annual cash prize of $1,000. https://poets.org/academy-american-poets/prizes/aliki-perroti-and-seth-frank-most-promising-young-poet-award

4. Amy Lowell Traveling Poet Scholarship, Boston, MA. The American poet Amy Lowell died in 1925. Her will established an annual scholarship to support travel abroad for gifted American-born poets. The scholarship is administered by the Trustees under her will at the law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart in Boston, Massachusetts. There is no age requirement, publication requirement, or education requirement. Poets must be of American birth. https://www.amylowell.org/

5. Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, Pasadena, CA. Established in 1998, in honor of the poet Benjamin Saltman (1927-1999), this award is for a previously unpublished original collection of poetry. Awarded collection is selected through an annual competition which is open to all poets. https://redhen.org/awards/benjamin-saltman-poetry-award/

6. Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry, North Adams, MA. The Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry is open to anyone writing in the English language, whether living in the United States or abroad. Translations are not eligible for this prize, nor are previously self-published books. https://www.tupelopress.org/berkshire-prize/

7. Colorado Prize for Poetry, Fort Collins, CO. The Colorado Prize for Poetry is an international literary contest started in 1995. Since the contest began, over 5,000 book-length poetry manuscripts have been entered. Each year’s prizewinner receives a $2,000 honorarium and publication of his or her book by the Center for Literary Publishing. https://coloradoreview.colostate.edu/colorado-prize-for-poetry/

8. Cowles Poetry Book Prize, Cape Girardeau, MO. Individual poems in the manuscript may have been published previously in a chapbook, magazines, journals or anthologies, but the work as a whole must be unpublished. Translations and previously self-published books are not eligible. Open to any poet writing in English, age 18 or older, regardless of publication history. Send 48-100 pages of poetry–any style or theme–with a table of contents and an acknowledgements page for any previously published poems. The page count doesn’t include the table of contents or acknowledgements. No online submissions. http://www.semopress.com/events/cowles-prize/

9. Elixir Press Annual Poetry Awards, Denver, CO. Elixir Press is sponsoring a poetry contest open to all poets writing in English. There will be a Judge’s Prize of $2,000 and an Editors’ Prize of $1000. Both winning manuscripts will be published by Elixir Press. All entries will be considered for publication. An outside judge, to be announced later, will make the final decision for the first prize. The editors will make the final decision for the second prize. http://elixirpress.com/guidelines/annual-poetry-awards

10. Fugue Annual Writing Contest, Moscow, ID. Fugue’s Annual Writing Contest accepts submissions of both poetry and prose (fiction and nonfiction). Multiple submissions are accepted as long as separate fees are paid. For poetry submissions, please send between 1-3 poems. For prose submissions, please send no more than one short story or one essay. https://fuguejournal.com/general-submissions

11. Iowa Poetry Prize, Iowa City, IA. The Iowa Poetry Prize, open to new as well as established poets, is awarded for a book-length collection of poems written originally in English. Previous winners, current University of Iowa students, and current and former University of Iowa Press employees are not eligible. https://uipress.uiowa.edu/resources/prospective-authors/iowa-poetry-prize

12. Jake Adam York Prize, Denver, CO. The Jake Adam York Prize is a collaboration between Copper Nickel & Milkweed Editions. It is open to all poets in the US who have published no more than one full-length poetry collection. The entries are due October 15. The entry fee is $25 (which includes a year’s subscription to Copper Nickel). The prize is $2,000 plus publication by Milkweed Editions. http://copper-nickel.org/bookprize/

13. May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, Peterborough, NH. The May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize is named for May Sarton, the renowned novelist, memoirist, poet, and feminist (1912-1995). The winner receives $1000, book publication, and 100 copies of the published book, as well as distribution with our other spring titles through our partner UPNE (University Press of New England). https://bauhanpublishing.com/contests/

14. The Cowles Poetry Book Prize, Cape Girardeau, MO. Prize: $2,000 and 30 copies for the author, publication and distribution of a full-length poetry manuscript with a full-color perfect-bound cover. Manuscripts submitted to the contest will be read and judged anonymously. http://www.semopress.com/events/cowles-prize/

15. Miller Williams Poetry Prize, Fayetteville, AR. A prize of $5,000 and publication by University of Arkansas Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Submit a manuscript of 60 to 90 pages with a $28 entry fee by September 30. Visit the website for complete guidelines. https://www.uapress.com/millerwilliamspoetryseries/

16. Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Awards, New York, NY. The Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Awards recognize outstanding translations into English of modern Italian poetry through a $10,000 book prize and a $25,000 fellowship, given in alternating years. To apply, a translator must submit four copies of a proposal describing the work-in-progress, the applicant’s credentials, and how the fellowship money will be used. https://poets.org/academy-american-poets/prizes/raizissde-palchi-translation-awards

17. Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award, Walden, NY. This award honors the achievements of the great Dominican-American poet, translator, and public school teacher Rhina Polonia Espaillat. The Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award will be awarded for an original poem of not more than fifty lines that reflects her lyricism, empathy, and ability to find grace in everyday events of life. https://www.plough.com/en/contact-us/rhina-espaillat-poetry-award

18. Spirit First Poetry Contest, Langley Park, MD. Poetry submissions may be of any length and any style but must have a theme of Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Stillness, or Solitude (we are referring to peaceful solitude – not loneliness). Poems may reflect any discipline, any faith, or none. Poems must be previously unpublished. https://www.spiritfirst.org/

19. The Center for Book Arts Poetry Chapbook Competition, New York, NY. The Center’s Poetry Chapbook Competition has been going strong since 1996; past winners have included Ailish Hopper, Jeffrey Skinner, L.B.Thompson, and Rachel Zucker. Poets! Submit your work for this year’s contest; the deadline every year is December 1; current guidelines are up on our site here. https://centerforbookarts.org/calendar/opportunity/2023-poetry-chapbook-contest

20. The Washington Prize, Washington, DC. The Washington Prize, awarded annually to a living American or Canadian poet, is $1,500 and book publication for a manuscript of original poetry in English. Poets at any stage in their career may submit a manuscript of 48 to 80 pages between January 15 and March 15. $25 entry fee. The winner is selected in summer and publication is planned for early the following year. https://wordworksbooks.org/submissions/the-washington-prize/

21. Pushcart Press, Wainscott, NY. Publication in The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses is awarded annually for works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction published by literary magazines or small presses during the current year. https://www.pw.org/writing_contests/pushcart_prizes

22. Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, Northampton, MA. Now in its 14th year, this contest seeks today’s best humor poems. No fee to enter. Submit published or unpublished work. $2,000 in prizes. https://winningwriters.com/our-contests/wergle-flomp-humor-poetry-contest-free

23. Joy Bale Boon Poetry Prize, Elizabethtown, KY. Poets and writers can submit 1-3 poems of any style to The Heartland Review Press poetry contest. All submissions must include a cover letter and author bio of 30-40 words. https://elizabethtown.kctcs.edu/community/theheartlandreviewpress/poetry-prize.aspx

24. Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize. Awarded annually to a poet writing in English who has not yet published a full-length poetry book, the prize is named in honor of a great supporter of young poets, and the grandmother-in-law of the contest’s final judge, Bob Hicok. Prospective entrants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Conduit, which champions originality, intelligence, irreverence, and humanity. https://www.conduit.org/book-prizes

25. TWFest Poetry Content, New Orleans, LA. Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival hosts an annual competition for 2-4 unpublished, original poems of any style, with a combined length of 400 lines. This contest is only open to emerging writers who have not published a book of poetry. However, poets and writers who have published a book in another genre are still eligible. https://tennesseewilliams.net/contests/

26. Robert and Adele Schiff Awards, Cincinnati, OH. The Cincinnati Review invites submissions for the annual Robert and Adele Schiff Awards. One poem, one piece of fiction, and one piece of literary nonfiction will be chosen for publication in our prize issue, and winning authors will receive $1,000 each. All entries will be considered for publication in The Cincinnati Review. https://www.cincinnatireview.com/contests/robert-and-adele-schiff-awards/

27. Maine Artist Fellowship, Augusta, ME. The Maine Arts Fellowships recognize artistic excellence in the careers of Maine artists. Fellowships are not grants but are merit-based awards based on the level of artistic creativity and vision as shown in the artist’s support materials. https://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Funding/Individual-Artist-Fellowships

28. Bellevue Literary Review Prizes, New York, NY. The Bellevue Literary Review Prize awards young poets who create work related to the themes of health, healing, illness, the mind, and the body. Winners are published in the Spring 2024 issue of the BLR and receive a $1000 cash prize. Honorable mention is awarded $300. Poetry entries are encouraged to be written vividly with a strong narrative. https://blreview.org/blr-prizes/

29. Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, Claremont, CA. The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award is an annual poetry contest open to mid-career US poets & writers. The generous cash prize is given to encourage poets to have the freedom to dedicate a year to writing their next book and honing their craft without having to worry about paying bills. https://arts.cgu.edu/tufts-poetry-awards/

30. Los Angeles Review Literary Award, Los Angeles, CA. Los Angeles Review awards four first-place-winning writers a $1000 prize for the annual literary competition. Using their online submission, poets can submit up to three poems of no more than 50 lines each. First place will also be published in the new LAR Online and included in the annual best-of-print edition. Only previously unpublished poems are considered for this award. https://losangelesreview.org/awards/

31. Barrow Street Press Prose Book Award, Kingston, RI. Barrow Street’s 2023 Poetry Book Prize has an annual poetry collection prize of $1500 that will be awarded to the first-place winner. Writers and poets must submit a manuscript or book of poetry of 50 to 80 pages to be judged. The poetry must be in English and include a table of contents and an acknowledgment of any previously published poems. https://barrowstreet.org/press/submit/

32. New Writers Awards, Ann Arbor, MI. Now entering its 55th year, the New Writers Award confers recognition on promising writers who have published a first volume in one of the three genres: Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-fiction. Judges of the New Writers Award are faculty members of creative writing and literature at GLCA’s member colleges. https://www.glca.org/faculty/new-writers-award/

33. Akron Poetry Prize, Akron, OH. The University of Akron Presson awards a first-place prize of $1500 for an English poetry manuscript of at least 48 pages and no longer than 90. Manuscripts must be submitted using the online portal, and all entries need to adhere to the guidelines available on their website. Online unpublished works are eligible, but individual posts that may have appeared in literary magazines are acceptable. As well as winning the cash prize, the first-place winner’s book will be published as a part of the Akron Series in Poetry. https://uakron.edu/uapress/akron-poetry-prize/

34. 42 Miles Poetry Award, South Bend, IN. The 42 Miles Press Poetry Award was created in an effort to bring urgent and original voices to the poetry reading public. The prize is offered annually to any poet writing in English, including poets who have never published a full-length book as well as poets who have published several. New and Selected collections of poems are also welcome. https://42milespress.com/contest/

35. Omnidawn Poetry Contests, Richmond, CA. Omnidawn Publishing hosts an annual poetry competition awarding first-prize $1000 and publication with 20 author copies. Manuscripts must be in English, and editors encourage a wide range of styles, forms, diversities, and aesthetics (for example: prose, haiku, lyric, and experimental verse). https://www.omnidawn.com/contests/omnidawn-poetry-contests/

36. Townson University Prize for Literature, Towson, MD. Townson University hosts an annual literary prize for a poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction book. Books published within the past three years or scheduled for publication in 2023 are eligible. Publishers, institutions, or individuals can submit three copies of a book or manuscript. It’s important to note that only residents of Maryland who have lived in the state for at least three years can apply. https://www.towson.edu/cla/departments/english/documents/towson_prize_for_literature_rev.pdf

37. Poetry Nation Poetry Contests. Enter your poem for a chance to win up to $2,000 in cash and prizes! Our semi-annual poetry contests award a multitude of prizes to deserving poets. Your poem can be on any topic, using whatever style you prefer. There is no fee to enter our contests, so you have nothing to lose. https://www.poetrynation.com/contest/

38. Oklahoma Poem Contest, Locust Grove, OK. To celebrate National Poetry Month and Oklahoma, the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry conducts an annual Oklahoma Poem Contest, with cash prizes for the winners. Poems must honor or celebrate Oklahoma in some way. Look at the previous winners below to get an idea of what this means. https://rompoetry.com/oklahoma-poem-contest/

39. The Donald Justice Poetry Prize, West Chester, PA. The Donald Justice Poetry Prize is part of the Spencer Poetry Awards, which Kean W. Spencer created in honor of his mother, Iris N. Spencer. The prize recognizes the distinguished American poet, teacher, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Donald Justice. The WCU Poetry Center welcomes submissions of unpublished, original book-length manuscripts that pay attention to form for consideration in this competition.
The winner of the competition will receive $1,500, and have their manuscript published by Autumn House Press. https://www.wcupa.edu/arts-humanities/poetry/contestAwards.aspx

40. Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry, Binghamton, NY. They accept submissions of 1-3 poems per reading period–no more than 5 pages total. Please send no more than one poetry submission per reading period. We prefer poems with a strong lyric voice and sense of urgency. https://harpurpalate.submittable.com/submit

The Bottom Line: If you are poet and nobody knows it then it’s time to get busy and enter poetry competitions. Do it TODAY!

About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz

Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers.

His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.

Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at https://www.WestwindBookMarketing.com or contact Lorenz at [email protected] or 734-667-2090 or fill out the form below. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist. Want help titling a book? Check out Scott Lorenz’s new award winning, bestselling book: Book Title Generator- A Proven System in Naming Your Book www.BookTitleGenerator.net.

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