Award-Winning Poems 2017
EXCERPT FROM ME DRAWING A PICTURE OF ME(N)
by Rachelle Escamilla
Winner of the 2014 Willow Books Literature Award for Poetry
Entries must be received by December 15
This biennial award series gives $1,000 and publication for poetry and prose manuscripts by writers of color. Escamilla describes her winning collection, Imaginary Animal, as being “about race, labor and assimilation filtered through found text and re-appropriation of language generated from specific Google searches.” This playful erotic poem, at times Whitman-esque in its mode of address, is a collage of moments with men from Craigslist and reminiscences of Pittsburgh streets that the narrator will soon leave far behind.
by Nancy Chen Long
Winner of the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: December 31
This notable competition gives $2,000 and publication by the University of Tampa Press for a full-length poetry manuscript. Long's prizewinning collection was Light into Bodies. Using the metaphor of a rock collector, this measured poem cautions that hardness and perfection are no guarantees of security.
SELECTIONS FROM INSTEAD OF DYING
by Lauren Haldeman
Winner of the 2017 Colorado Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: January 14
The Center for Literary Publishing at the University of Colorado offers this prestigious award of $2,000 and publication. In this excerpt from Haldeman's prizewinning collection Instead of Dying, efforts to heal the “you” addressed by the poem take on a surreal cast, suggesting a wish-fulfillment dream rather than an actual possibility of remission.
GOAT HOUR GOSPEL (SUCH SALVAGE)
by Mark Wagenaar
Winner of the 2016 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award
Entries must be received by January 31
This long-running award for a full-length collection gives $3,000 and publication by Red Hen Press, a well-regarded independent publisher. Wagenaar's winning collection, Southern Tongues Leave Us Shining, will be published in 2018. In this meditative poem, first published in The New Yorker, the goats' indiscriminate appetite appears as a kind of mercy that salvages the debris of our imperfect lives.
by Peter Mishler
Winner of the 2016 Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Award
Postmark Deadline: February 15 (don't enter before January 1)
Sarabande Books, a prestigious literary press in Kentucky, gives $2,000 and publication for a full-length poetry collection. Mishler's Fludde was the 2016 prizewinner. The mood of this poem is anything but bucolic, though its setting is the stuff of American heartland nostalgia. The speaker seems about to undergo a fatal transformation into an alien mechanical thing, not unlike the agribusiness machinery that has crushed his way of life.
THE INFORMER and CANDIDATE A
by Nick Makoha
Winner of the 2016 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize
Entries must be received by September 30
This chapbook manuscript award from Cave Canem, the leading mentoring organization for black poets, includes $500, publication, and a reading and residency in Miami. Makoha's Resurrection Man was the most recent winner. These paired poems depict, with a menacing flatness of affect, the Everyman as dictator and as the betrayers who inevitably topple him, suggesting that all are pawns in a drearily repetitive game.
by BK Fischer
Winner of the 2017 The Journal/Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by September 30
This competitive open poetry manuscript prize includes $2,500 and publication by Mad Creek Books, the literary imprint of Ohio State University Press. Fischer's Radioapocrypha, described on her website as “a suburban gospel”, was the most recent winner and will be published in 2018. This prose-poem, studded with quotes from literary classics, explores the etymology and usage of the title word as a means of taming the “dreaded and feared” female.
ASH and WASHINGTON DC 1979
by William Orem
Winner of the 2017 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: October 1
This biannual poetry manuscript contest, awarding $1,000 and publication, is open to authors with at least one prior published full-length collection. Wheelbarrow Books, established in 2016, is an imprint of the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University. Orem's Our Purpose in Speaking was the most recent winner. These brief, profound formal poems illuminate two occasions when the faith learned in childhood collided with the realities of death and violence.
HOW THE WOMEN WORKED
by Mia Ayumi Malhotra
Winner of the 2017 Alice James Award
Postmark Deadline: November 1
This open poetry manuscript contest for US authors awards $3,000, a reading at the University of Maine at Farmington, and publication by Alice James Books, a prestigious small press. Malhotra's prizewinning debut collection Isako Isako is forthcoming in 2019. In this poem, taut fragments of physical description create a double meaning, such that the workers, not only their materials, seem to be bound and pinned down.
by L.I. Henley
Winner of the 2017 Perugia Press Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: November 15
Based in Western Massachusetts, Perugia has been publishing poetry books by women for over 20 years. This prize gives $1,000 and publication for a first or second collection by a woman, which includes transgender and other female-identified writers. This sparely worded, emotionally charged poem from Henley's prizewinning Starshine Road portrays a military father trying to impart his survival philosophy to a child, who is comforted by his care and only later realizes the atmosphere of fear they lived in.
THE SAINTS OF THE LAST DAYS
by Aimee Baker
Winner of the 2016 Akron Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by June 15
This long-running award for poets at any stage of their career gives $1,500 and publication by the University of Akron Press. This wrenching sequence of poems is taken from Baker's prizewinning collection Doe, which is based on details from missing person and unidentified person (Jane Doe) case files of over 60 women in the US.
SONNET WITH A WISHBONE IN THE THROAT
by Kara van de Graaf
Winner of the 2016 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award
Entries must be received by July 8
This prestigious contest from Southern Illinois University Carbondale gives $2,500 and publication. Van de Graaf's Spitting Image was the most recent winner. In this brief but complex poem, the “clean, pliable” trussed hen contains a sharp surprise, not unlike the woman who struggles with the double bind of wanting to be both enticing and emotionally authentic.
HOW TO LET ATHENS BURN
by Sarah Stickney
Winner of the 2016 Emrys Press Chapbook Prize
Entries must be received by July 15
Launched in 2016, this contest for a poetry chapbook manuscript gives $1,000, publication, and a one-week residency at the Rensing Center in South Carolina. Stickney's Portico was the inaugural winner. “Be ready to leave,” she advises in this severe but ultimately hopeful poem about the price we pay for transformation.
LIFE SENTENCES: SONNET FOR THE GODDESS (TIANANMEN SQUARE, JUNE 1989)
by Henry Wei Leung
Winner of the 2016 Omnidawn First/Second Poetry Book Contest
Entries must be received by July 17
This $3,000 prize includes publication by Omnidawn, a well-regarded independent press with an interest in experimental and politically relevant writing. Leung's winning collection Goddess of Democracy is forthcoming in October 2017. Written in 14 fragmented sentences or interrupted prose poems, this poem interrogates the paradoxes of broken ideals, freedom and exile, and loving your country enough to defy its leaders.
by Candace Black
Winner of the 2016 Violet Reed Haas Prize
Entries must be received by August 31
This open poetry manuscript contest awards $1,000 and publication by Snake Nation Press, a well-established small literary press in Georgia. Black's Whereabouts was the most recent winner. In this Southwestern pastoral, the history and implements of warfare can remain on the margins (for now) of a child's exploration of her native landscape, though their shadow intrudes into the adult's memories.
by Donika Kelly
Winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by March 17
This notable award for debut collections by black poets of African descent includes $1,000 and publication by a university press. This incisive poem from Kelly's prizewinning Bestiary exposes the inadequacy of well-meant words to unlock a traumatized heart.
HUSBAND AWAY and EVERYTHING WORTH SAVING IS SAVED
by Caroline Cabrera
Winner of the 2016 Hudson Prize
Entries must be received by March 31
Black Lawrence Press gives this $1,000 award for a manuscript of poems or short stories. Cabrera's winning poetry collection is forthcoming this year. These deadpan poems have the stream-of-consciousness quality of social media threads while taking on the timeless poetic topics of love, illness, and death.
I'M NOT A RACIST
by Cortney Lamar Charleston
Winner of the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by April 1
This open poetry manuscript contest awards $2,000 and publication by a press whose mission is to “encourage the publication of literature of a non-commercial and challenging nature.” Charleston's forthcoming Telepathologies was the most recent winner. In this collage poem, he strings coded racist remarks together, disclosing more than the speaker wants to admit: “I mean, personally,//I don't SEE color. I'm so sorry, I really didn't see you there.”
by Robert Gibb
Winner of the 2016 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: April 30
This open poetry manuscript contest gives a top prize of $1,000 and two finalist prizes of $250, plus publication. Gibb's After was the most recent winner. This plain-spoken poem observes the cycles of youthful hope and disappointment that would be familiar to Charlie Brown from “Peanuts”.
IMAGINATION and other poems
by Christine Gosnay
Winner of the 2016 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: May 1
This prestigious first-book prize from Kent State University gives $2,500 and publication. Gosnay's Even Years was the most recent winner. These poems turn mental states into landscapes where sun, shade, and pleasure promise a simplicity that they don't deliver.