Poets & Writers Blogs

COVID Vivid Interview: Rose Mary Salum

Happy April and National Poetry Month! This week, I conclude my series of interviews with Houston writers speaking about their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, each answering the question:

What have you been doing since the pandemic started?

This week features Rose Mary Salum, founding editor of the bilingual literary magazine Literal: Latin American Voices and Literal Publishing. Salum is the author of The Water That Rocks the Silence, translated from the Spanish by C. M. Mayo, winner of the International Latino Book Award and the prestigious Panamerican Award Carlos Montemayor; Tres semillas de granada: Ensayos desde el inframundo (Vaso Roto, 2020); Una de ellas (Dislocados, 2020); El agua que mece el silencio (Vaso Roto, 2015); Delta de las arenas, cuentos árabes, cuentos judíos (Literal Publishing, 2013), winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Spaces in Between (Literal Publishing, 2006).

Here is what she had to say:

“When the pandemic started last year—I guess this happened to all of us—I was in shock. At that time, I felt like something, or someone, was stealing a part of my life away from me. There are a few days, here and there, that I still have that sense of grief and loss. I remember one day though, just as I was touching bottom on my feelings regarding the lockdown, an idea came to me: I needed to make up for all the time lost in this pandemic by putting together a book. That would be the only way I could survive this time without losing my mind. The mere idea of waking up to a project that I set for myself made all the difference. That book is finished and, in spite of the fact that I still need to go through it and make sure all looks good, at least I can say that I kept my cool thanks to it.”

Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

 

Cave Canem Poetry Prize Accepting Submissions

The deadline is approaching for the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Founded in 1999 to help discover “exceptional manuscripts by Black poets of African descent,” the prize celebrates a debut book of poetry by a Black writer. The winning writer will receive $1,000, a critique session with the prize judge, publication by Graywolf Press, fifteen author copies, and a reading event.

Using only the online submission system, submit a cover letter and a manuscript of 48 to 75 pages by April 30. Only writers who have not published a full-length book of poetry are eligible. Writers who have published chapbooks or who self-published books with limited print runs are eligible. Rachel Eliza Griffiths will judge. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The Cave Canem Foundation was established in 1996 with the ambition to “remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape.” Cave Canem’s many programs include an annual writing retreat and numerous community-based workshops. The winner of the 2020 Cave Canem Poetry Prize was Aurielle Marie, whose book, Gumbo Ya Ya, is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press in fall 2021.

 

Recipe for the Poet

Recently I reconnected with Detroit’s Deonte Osayande, whose new collection, Recipe for the Poet, is available now from Finishing Line Press. Osayande describes this collection as a mix of both form and free verse pieces acting as a sampler ahead of his anticipated full-length collection. “It blends the lessons I’ve learned about form poetry with the relevant topics of today,” says Osayande. I also believe that this is an important approach for both readers and writers of poetry; to allow poetic forms that are often thought of as “old” to reflect on the current world.

Serving the Detroit literary community as a poet, host, and slam master for over a decade, Osayande is a well-known artist in the city and is the author of three other collections, Class (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2017), Circus (Brick Mantle Books, 2018), and Civilian (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2019).

Given Osayande’s experience publishing in literary journals and working on manuscripts, I asked what advice he would give to those who want to submit work. “Never give up and write what you know. Rejection is part of the game and happens to everyone,” says Osayande. “You just need to have the drive and passion to persevere through it. If you write about what is close to your heart, those will be the most meaningful poems.”

Photo: Book cover of Recipe for the Poet (Finishing Line Press, 2021) by Deonte Osayande.
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize Open for Submissions

Submissions are open for the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize. Honoring “well-crafted, boundary-pushing fiction,” the prize is designed to give winners “the most visibility possible for their writing.” Eleven stories will be shortlisted. One winner will receive €1,500 (approximately $1,777), a weeklong residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation’s castle in the Umbria region of Italy, and a consultation with literary agent Charlotte Seymour of Andrew Nurnberg Associates. Two runners-up will receive €750 (approximately $889) and a consultation. All shortlisted stories will be published in a collection to be distributed to agents in the U.S. and U.K., in addition to being published in one of nine partner journals. Additionally, all finalists will be invited to participate in salons—public health conditions permitting—in Madrid, London, and Edinburgh. One shortlisted writer will also receive a ten-day residency at the Writers’ House of Georgia, which includes a €400 (approximately $474) travel stipend and an invitation to read at the Tbilisi International Festival of Literature. If the festival is canceled due to the pandemic, the writer will still be able to complete the residency.

Using only the online submission system, submit a short story of up to 2,000 words with a €20 (approximately $24) entry fee by April 15. Up to four additional entries are permitted for €10 (approximately $12) per entry. Writers from underrepresented communities or who face financial hardship can apply for a sponsored or reduced fee entry until April 1. Ottessa Moshfegh, Derek Owusu, and Isabel Waidner will judge. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Desperate Literature is a bookstore and community space in Madrid, Spain. It was jointly conceived by booksellers Terry Craven, Charlotte Delattre, Corey Eastwood, and Craig Walzer. The store “strives to be a space where good literature serves as a vehicle for dynamic cultural, linguistic and social exchange between Madrilenos, extranjeros and travelers from around the world.”

Photo: The Civitella Ranieri Foundation’s castle in Italy

Upcoming Deadline for Project Grants

Poets & Writers has launched a second round of Project Grants for BIPOC Writers to support writers in our United States of Writing cities of Detroit, Houston, and New Orleans.

Recently Poets & Writers’ Readings & Workshops program staff members and I held an informational session to help writers from all cities get to know the organization and navigate the process of applying for a project grant. I was pleased to see many New Orleans writers and familiar faces in attendance.

Grants range from $250 to $750 and can be used to pay for costs related to coordinating online literary events in the genres of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. In addition, projects must take place between April 19 and June 30.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color;
  • be a resident of Detroit, Houston, or New Orleans, including the surrounding metro areas of each city;
  • be a published writer of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, or have performance credits as a spoken word artist.

The response to our first grant applications was well-received in all three cities, and we’re so pleased to be able to offer this second round. For New Orleans, the project grants come at a perfect time when many of our literary festivals and National Poetry Month events are going virtual.

To find out more about the project grants, watch the virtual informational session below and read about how to apply here. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at NOLA@pw.org.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

Deadline Approaches for Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing

The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing is accepting submissions. Established in 2016 to recognize and celebrate the talent of immigrant writers, the prize is awarded in alternating years for a debut book of fiction or nonfiction by a first-generation writer. The winning writer will receive $10,000 and publication by Restless Books. The 2021 award will be given in nonfiction.

Using only the online submission system, submit a complete manuscript or a sample of at least 25,000 words and a proposal by March 31. Writers who have not previously published a book of nonfiction in English are eligible. Writers Francisco Cantú and Shuchi Saraswat and Restless Books publisher Ian Stavans will judge. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

“At a time in which politicians and the media reduce immigrants to mere ciphers,” Stavans told Poets & Writers Magazine in a 2020 article about the prize, “the objective was clear-cut: to do what literature does best . . . by allowing emerging immigrant writers from anywhere and everywhere to tell their own stories.”

 

COVID Vivid Interview: Catherine Lu

Hey gente, thanks for joining me for another installment of this blog series, where I ask Houston writers this question: What have you been doing since the pandemic started?

The entries are about what folks are doing to make the most of a precarious situation. Things are slowly (and quickly) changing in the state of Texas. It is a difficult moment for many. Although Texas governor Greg Abbott has chosen to declare that it is “time to open Texas 100%” we are in fact far from being out of the pandemic.

Photo: Catherine LuThis week we hear from Catherine Lu, senior producer of Houston Public Media, covering arts and culture. Lu is a producer and writer for the talk show Town Square With Ernie Manouse and produces the National Poetry Month series Voices and Verses, the arts podcast Unwrap Your Candies Now (currently on hiatus), and hosts the annual Christmas Revels national broadcast. As the “voice” of Houston Public Media, Lu records the station’s radio and TV spots.

Here’s what she had to say:

“In mid-March of 2020, I began working from home. The station provided a mic and other gear, and I set up a recording studio in my closet with two TV tray tables and a solar-powered lantern suspended from a clothes hanger. It’s like my little recording cave—a bit small and dim, but it works! That’s where I record voiceovers and interviews. For online meetings, writing and research, I work in my study where my coworker (orange tabby cat) also has her office (scratching post).

My favorite work project has been producing the video “Poetry in a Pandemic.” It tells the story behind “When We Get Lonely, It Will Be Together,” a beautiful poem about social distancing, cowritten by Houston poet Melissa Studdard and Seattle poet Kelli Russell Agodon. My colleagues Joe Brueggeman, Dave Mcdermand and I coproduced it entirely remotely in April 2020, an experience that was really special to me—it felt like we had accomplished the impossible. The story itself showed me how much we need artists in a pandemic, to remind us of the human experience that still connects us. The video was nominated for a 2020 Lone Star EMMY Award for Arts/Entertainment Program Feature, Segment or Special.

During the pandemic, I have also learned how to ride a skateboard, and I love doing art with my kid. We paint rocks, make tiny clay sculptures, draw comics, build stuff from cardboard boxes. She’s had a lot of milestones since quarantine: she learned how to ride a bike on two wheels, lost her first tooth, turned seven. As a parent, I wonder how she’ll remember this time. I hope I’m showing her that, no matter what, we can always have fun being spontaneous, creative, and curious.”

Watch “Poetry in a Pandemic” with Melissa Studdard and Kelli Russell Agodon here:

Photo: Catherine Lu (Credit: Catherine Lu)
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

After a dreary winter, spring is finally on the horizon. With deadlines of March 14 or March 15, these contests include opportunities for poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers alike. One awards a monthlong residency in Slovenia. All offer a cash prize of $500 or more.

Airlie Press Airlie Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Airlie Press is given annually for a poetry collection. The editors will judge. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $25.

Bellingham Review Literary Awards: Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Bellingham Review are given annually for works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The 49th Parallel Award for Poetry is given for a poem or group of poems. The Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction is given for a short story. The Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction is given for an essay. All entries are considered for publication. Jessica Jacobs will judge in poetry, Kristiana Kahakauwila will judge in fiction, and Sarah Einstein will judge in creative nonfiction. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $20 ($10 for each additional entry).

Colorado Review Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction: A prize of $2,000 and publication in Colorado Review is given annually for a short story. T. Geronimo Johnson will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: March 14. Entry fee: $15 ($17 for online submissions).

Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Fourth Genre is given annually for an essay. Xu Xi will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $20.

Hidden River Arts Eludia Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Hidden River Publishing is given annually for a debut novel or story collection by a woman age 40 or older. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $20.

James Jones Literary Society First Novel Fellowship: A prize of $10,000 is given annually for a novel-in-progress by a U.S. writer who has not published a novel. Two runners-up will each receive $1,000. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $33.

Livingston Press Tartt Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000, publication by Livingston Press, and 100 author copies is given annually for a first collection of short stories by a U.S. citizen. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: none.

National Poetry Series Open Competition: Five prizes of $10,000 each and publication by participating trade, university, or small press publishers are given annually for poetry collections. The 2021 publishers are Beacon Press, Ecco, Milkweed Editions, Penguin Books, and University of Georgia Press. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $35.

Prairie Schooner Raz-Shumaker Book Prizes: Two prizes of $3,000 each and publication by University of Nebraska Press are given annually for a poetry collection and a short story collection. Kwame Dawes will judge. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $25.

Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a single poem. Kim Stafford will judge. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $10.

The Word Works Washington Prize: A prize of $1,500 and publication by the Word Works is given annually to a U.S. or Canadian poet for a poetry collection. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $25.

Verse Tomaž Šalamun Prize: A prize of $500 and publication by Factory Hollow Press is given annually for a poetry chapbook. The winner will also receive a monthlong residency in summer 2022 in a private apartment at the Tomaž Šalamun Center for Poetry in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Prose poetry, hybrid works, and translations of works of poetry by living writers from any language into English are also eligible. Sawako Nakayasu will judge. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $16 ($12 for students).

Washington College Hodson Trust–John Carter Brown Library Fellowship: A fellowship, which includes a stipend of $20,000, is given annually to a novelist or nonfiction writer working on a book relating to the literature, history, culture, or art of the Americas before 1830. The fellowship includes housing and university privileges for a two-month research period to be conducted at the John Carter Brown Library on the campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and a two-month writing term at the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: none.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

We Won’t Turn Back: A Black History Month Reading

On February 26, I was honored to take part in a virtual reading event celebrating Black poets and Black History Month. We Won’t Turn Back was presented by the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) at InsideOut Literary Arts, which curates literary events focused for teens in Detroit. This event featured members of the YAB and special guests, all of whom are Detroit natives: Nandi Comer, Wes Matthews, and Imani Nichele with host LaShaun phoenix Moore.

Each poet shared powerful work that investigated culture and community. While the work was strong, what stood out most for me was what Moore stated: “There are so many ways to be Black.” This was highlighted in the experiences and perspectives shared in the writing. Each poem proved that there are many layers to being Black and being from Detroit, and that there is much more still to be written.

As we move into Women’s History Month, make sure to check out Page to Stage: Bel Canto, a discussion on the inspiration behind Ann Patchett’s opera-centered novel Bel Canto presented virtually by Pages Bookshop and Michigan Opera Theatre on March 16, and Ain’t I a Woman presented virtually by the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers on April 16. These are sure to be great shows.

Watch the We Won’t Turn Back reading here:

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship Open for Applications

The deadline is approaching for the PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship. While previously designated for Los Angeles writers, the fellowship is now open to poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers from across the United States. Twelves fellows will receive $1,000 and participate in a five-month mentorship program, which includes one-on-one mentorship, introductions to various industry leaders, professional development workshops, and more. Designed for “early-career writers from communities that are traditionally underrepresented in the publishing world,” the program is open to writers who have not yet published a book and who do not hold an advanced degree in creative writing.

Using only the online submission system, submit a series of personal statements, a writing sample, a curriculum vitae, and the contact information for two references with a $25 entry fee by March 17. A committee of established writers, former fellows, and PEN America staff will judge. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The Emerging Voices Fellowship was first established by PEN America Los Angeles in 1996, with the aim to serve “writers seeking financial and creative support to pursue their craft professionally.” Last year the program was disrupted as the pandemic swept the country, and in August 2020, PEN America indicated it would not open the 2021 fellowship application. The following month, however, the organization announced it would be able to redirect funding to the program and reenvision it on a national scale.

One Pandemic Won’t Stop the Show

February was a challenging but exciting month. No, we didn’t have traditional Mardi Gras but we did have Yardi Gras. That’s right, the people of New Orleans made “house floats” to keep the spirit of Mardi Gras alive in our city. We’re not going to let a pandemic keep us from enjoying the culture and traditions of our city.

In that same spirit, I wanted to highlight some upcoming events and new book releases that help celebrate New Orleans and their writers.

1. Recovered Voices: Black Activism in New Orleans From Reconstruction to the Present Day, March 5­–7
The Historic New Orleans Collection will host their twenty-fifth annual symposium to celebrate the voices of Black activists from the era of Reconstruction, as featured in three new publications. The protagonists of these books include journalists, poets, politicians, educators, and ardent champions of civil rights.

2. Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival, March 24–28
The five-day literary arts festival will be held virtually this year. Festival events include panel discussions, interviews, Books & Beignets book club, Tennessee Williams Tribute Reading, theater events, Drummer & Smoke music series, and special events. Their LGBTQ literary festival Saints+Sinners will also be held virtually March 11–14.

3. Elizabeth Miki Brina’s debut memoir, Speak, Okinawa, was published last week by Knopf. Brina lives and teaches in New Orleans, and received an MFA in creative writing from University of New Orleans. You can read more about her writing process and the book in Poets & Writers’ Ten Questions series.

4. Former Louisiana poet laureate Jack Bedell has a new poetry collection, Color All Maps New, published by Mercer University Press.

5. Daniel Jose Older, who lives and writes in New Orleans, speaks about his latest book, Flood City (Scholastic Press, 2021), and the release of the first issue of the Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures comic book series in Gambit.

In New Orleans, come hell or high water or pandemic—we find ways to thrive. The pandemic has changed many things, but our literary events and writers continue to make art and celebrate.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

A Moment in the Dark

If you are reading this and aren’t from Texas, say some prayers. We are still in recovery mode—our homes are still spaces scarred by ice and busted pipes, waterlogged walls and no food or shelter, all on top of a pandemic. Give us grace.

It isn’t that the winter storm is something we cannot adapt to—it is that this is the latest in a series of natural disasters that Houston has had to endure. The trauma is real. The longing for calm is palpable.

We are boiling water, we are waiting for plumbers to fix the pipes, who in turn have to scavenge to find the materials to fix our houses, and their own. Some of us are still waiting on the lights...IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC.

I wrote a poem on the second night of my own family’s personal ordeal. I thought of what could bring down cheer to the heart, not even knowing when this would see the light of day. I wrote this with my phone at 5 percent battery life.

How to Prepare for Winter Storm in TX

The day brings white ice and soon the
Stars see us, wishing on a single thread.
At dusk, we come undone, wait for light
Night brings a child we cannot avoid, we
Are creatures of light, we gather in
Big pockets, we muscle fire forward
And we do howl for peace and flame.
Bright smiles keep us warm even when
Deep rains cause us to freeze. We know
In the gut, what it means to rise up, take
Heart that this won’t bring me down.

I’ll find you, bring you hot hands and song.

If you have a moment, please consider donating to these sources to help the Houston community. Many are overwhelmed with monetary donations, but offer other ways to help. Please also be careful to verify the accounts you send funds to as there have been reports of scams and fake accounts on Venmo and other payment platforms.

Here are a few local organizations to consider supporting:

1. Houseless Organizing Coalition (@HocHtx) is a revolutionary coalition fully operated by BIPOC organizers building dual power within Houston’s houseless community. They are currently distributing supplies and addressing needs for those in our houseless community.

2. West Street Recovery (@weststreetrecovery) is a horizontally organized grassroots nonprofit organization which aims to use efforts toward recovery after Hurricane Harvey to build community power.

3. Houston Food Bank (@HoustonFoodBank ) serves more than 1.1 million people in the eighteen Southeast Texas counties and distributes food and other essentials to those in need through a network of 1,500 community partners.

4. Texas Jail Project (@TxJailProject) is a grassroots advocacy project that listens, informs, and advocates for people trapped in Texas county jails. Amidst the Texas Winter Storm, they have set up a rapid response helpline for folks and their families to report on-the-ground conditions in jail facilities where thousands have no clean drinking water and are experiencing neglect. They are distributing funds to people's commissaries for those who are able to purchase food, water, and hygiene products through their jail’s commissary stores. They are also posting money to phone accounts and covering the cost of all collect calls from jails.

Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

It’s hard to believe, but the end of February is almost here! With deadlines of either February 28 or March 1, these awards include opportunities earmarked for writers in Alabama and Mississippi, as well as two prizes for Black writers who self-published books last year. All feature a cash prize of $500 or more.

Alabama State Council on the Arts Literary Arts Fellowships: Fellowships of $5,000 each are given annually to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers who have lived in the state of Alabama for at least two years. Deadline: March 1. Entry fee: none.

Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award Series: Two prizes of $5,500 each and publication by a participating press are given annually for a poetry collection and a short story collection. In addition, two prizes of $2,500 each and publication by a participating press are given annually for a novel and a book of creative nonfiction. Ilya Kaminsky will judge in poetry, Rebecca Makkai will judge in short fiction, Sabina Murray will judge in the novel, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil will judge in nonfiction. Deadline: February 28. Entry fee: $30 ($20 for AWP members).

Biographers International Organization Hazel Rowley Prize: A prize of $2,000 will be given annually for a work-in-progress by a writer who has not published a biography. The winner will also receive review of their manuscript by an agent, publicity through the Biographers International Organization (BIO) website, and a one-year membership in BIO. Writers who have not previously published, or who are not under contract to write, a book of biography, history, or other work of narrative nonfiction are eligible. Deadline: March 1. Entry fee: $25.

Black Caucus of the American Library Association Self-Publishing Literary Awards: Two prizes of $500 each are given annually for a poetry e-book and a fiction e-book by an African American writer self-published in the United States during the previous year. The awards honor books that depict the “cultural, historical, and sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora.” Deadline: February 28. Entry fee: none.

Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize: A prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,170) and publication in the Fish Publishing anthology is given annually for a short short story. The winner is also invited to give a reading at the West Cork Literary Festival in July 2021. Kathy Fish will judge. Deadline: February 28. Entry fee: €14 (approximately $16) for online entries or €16 (approximately $18) for postal entries.

Hunger Mountain Literary Prizes: Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication on the Hunger Mountain website are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an essay. Tomás Q. Morín will judge in poetry, Trinie Dalton will judge in fiction, and Terese Marie Mailhot will judge in nonfiction. Deadline: March 1. Entry fee: $20.

Little Tokyo Historical Society Short Story Contest: A prize of $500 and publication in the Rafu Shimpo and on the Discover Nikkei and Little Tokyo Historical Society websites is given annually for a short story that takes place in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. Deadline: February 28. Entry fee: none.

Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Artist Fellowships: Grants of up to $5,000 each are given in alternating years to Mississippi poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. This year the fellowships will be offered in categories including creative nonfiction. Applicants must be permanent residents of Mississippi. Deadline: March 1. Entry fee: none.

Omnidawn Publishing First/Second Poetry Book Contest: A prize of $3,000, publication by Omnidawn Publishing, and 100 author copies is given annually for a first or second poetry collection. Kazim Ali will judge. Deadline: February 28. Entry fee: $27 ($30 to receive a book from the Omnidawn catalogue).

Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Tupelo Press is given annually for a poetry chapbook. Denise Duhamel will judge. Deadline: February 28. Entry fee: $25.

University of Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowships: An academic year in residence, which includes a stipend of at least $39,000, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison is given annually to at least five writers working on a first or second book of poetry or fiction. Writers with an MFA or PhD in creative writing who have not published more than one book are eligible. Deadline: March 1. Entry fee: $50.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Motown Mic 2021

The Motown Mic spoken word competition is an annual event held at the historic Motown Museum in Detroit. The museum preserves the former home of Motown founder Berry Gordy, the offices of Hitsville U.S.A., and the legendary studio where Motown artists recorded some of their greatest hits. Not only did the label record celebrated music, African American poets and orators, including Elaine Brown, Stokey Carmichael, Ossie Davis, Langston Hughes, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were recorded by the label.

The annual spoken word competition usually involves a series of poetry slams that require participants to write about a specific topic or theme related to Motown. I am excited to see that Motown is able to modify the competition this year to accept auditions recorded on video. Beyond being an amazing opportunity to share poetry, this year’s grand prize includes a two-hour studio session at Hitsville, publication in a literary broadside published by Broadside Lotus Press, and $2,500! 

This year’s original poem theme is focused on the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Marvin Gaye’s award-winning song “What’s Going On”: “At a time when conversations about social justice are taking place with new urgency and passion, and in reflection of the words that Marvin Gaye sang, we want to hear from you. As you compose your submission, keep this, and the legacy of Motown’s contributions to these conversations in mind. Doing so will further influence hearts and minds and contribute to conversations about the moral and civic perspectives shaping our collective future.”

The competition is open to all residents of South East Michigan over sixteen years old. The application deadline is March 5. I hope many of you share your words!

Photo: Motown Mic spoken word competition 2021 poster art.
 
Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Furious Flower Poetry Prize Accepting Submissions

Submissions are open for the Furious Flower Poetry Prize. Presented by the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the nation’s first academic center for Black poetry, the annual award seeks to ensure the “visibility, inclusion, and critical consideration of Black poets in American letters.” The winning poet will receive a prize of $1,000, as well as an honorarium of $500 for their participation in a reading with Furious Flower in fall 2021.

Submit up to three poems totaling no more than six pages with a $15 entry fee by February 28. Erica Hunt will judge. Poets who have published no more than one poetry collection are eligible. Visit the website for complete guidelines and directions on how to submit.

Based at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Furious Flower emerged from a watershed 1994 conference honoring the work of poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Today, the center offers year-round programming and is home to archives for the study of Black poetry and culture. Previous winners of the Furious Flower Poetry Prize include Diamond Forde and Rachelle Parker.