Poets & Writers Blogs

Oswald, Abel Win 2017 Griffin Poetry Prizes

Alice Oswald and Jordan Abel have won the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prizes, given annually for poetry collections written or translated into English and published in the previous year. Oswald won the international prize for her collection Falling Awake (Norton), and Abel won the Canadian prize for Injun (Talonbooks). They each received $65,000 Canadian (approximately $48,000).

Judges Sue Goyette, Joan Naviyuk Kane, and George Szirtes selected the winners from 617 submissions from 39 countries around the world.

British poet Alice Oswald has written seven poetry collections and lives in Devon, England. “Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake presents as a dark text to (re)turn (in)to, its language of ‘… maybe the last green places[…]’ striking bright inscriptions that may have been ‘falling for a long time,’” write the judges in their citation. “How fortunate we are to tread the paths of myth and that which presupposes it, and us: line, image, lilt.”

Winner of the Canadian prize, Jordan Abel has written three poetry collections, which deal with representation of indigenous peoples in anthropology and popular culture. In their citation of Abel’s work, the judges write, “Jordan Abel’s collection Injun evacuates the subtexts of possession, territory, and erasure…. Words are restored to their constituent elements as countermovements in Abel’s hands, just as they are divested of their capacity for productive violence.”

The shortlisted poets for the international prize were Jane Mead for World of Made and Unmade (Alice James Books), Donald Nicholson-Smith for his translation from the French of Abdellatif Laâbi’s In Praise of Defeat (Archipelago Books), and Denise Riley for Say Something Back (Picador). The shortlisted poets for the Canadian prize were Hoa Nguyen for Violet Energy Ingots (Wave Books) and Sandra Ridley for Silvija (BookThug). Each of the finalists received $10,000.

The winners were announced on Thursday night at a ceremony in Toronto. During the ceremony, American poet Frank Bidart was also honored with the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Established in 2000, the Griffin Poetry Prize was founded to “serve and encourage excellence in poetry.” Each year the International Prize is given to a poet from any country whose book is published in English; the Canadian Prize is given to a Canadian poet. Submissions for the 2018 prize are currently open.

Naomi Alderman Wins Baileys Prize

British writer Naomi Alderman has won the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for her novel The Power (Viking). Alderman, who was announced the winner at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday night, will receive £30,000 (approximately $39,000). The annual award is given for a book of fiction written by a woman from anywhere in the world and published in the previous year.

“We debated this wonderful shortlist for many hours but kept returning to Naomi Alderman’s brilliantly imagined dystopia—her big ideas and her fantastic imagination,” says Tessa Ross, who chaired the judging panel. The other judges for the 2017 prize were Sam Baker, Katie Derham, Aminatta Forna, and Sara Pascoe.

The shortlisted writers for the prize were Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ for Stay With Me, Linda Grant for The Dark Circle, C. E. Morgan for The Sport of Kings, Gwendoline Riley for First Love, and Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

The Power is Alderman’s fourth novel and is set in a dystopian future in which a genetic mutation allows women to electrocute people at will. Critics have likened the book, which Alderman dedicated to Margaret Atwood and her husband Graeme Gibson, to Atwood’s classic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Alderman, who is forty-two and lives in London, also writes video games and teaches at Bath Spa University.

Previous winners of the prize include Lisa McInerney, Ali Smith, Eimear McBride, Barbara Kingsolver, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, the prize was sponsored by the liqueur company Baileys starting with the 2014 prize. In January of this year it was announced that the prize will no longer be sponsored solely by Baileys but by a group of brands and businesses. The prize will now be called the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

 

It Happens Every Spring in Harlem: A Festival of Poetry

Gregory Crosby is the author of Spooky Action at a Distance (The Operating System, 2014) and The Book of Thirteen (Yes, Poetry, 2016). He teaches creative writing for the College Now program at Lehman College in Bronx, New York.

The Harlem Rhymers are laying it down, beating out the rhythm of the poem with claps and snaps, a row of middle school girls in matching white T-shirts that pop against the red-curtained backdrop of the Marian Anderson Theater stage, bringing the words home and the house down with their choreographed truth:

Pretty hurts, yeah
We know
But these scars aren’t
Here just for show
Work to be skinny
Work to get money
You’re already beautiful enough
That’s the truth, honey!

After the wild applause dies down, these students from PS/IS 180 beam as they pose for photographs with author Jacqueline Woodson, the 45th Special Guest Poet at the City College of New York’s Annual Poetry Festival. Every May for nearly a half-century, students from New York City public schools have gathered to read their winning poems at this day-long celebration of the spoken word, and to hear poets and writers like Woodson (whose appearance was funded in part by the Readings & Workshops program at Poets & Writers) read their work, along with student poets in the MFA Creative Writing program at the City College of New York (CCNY), faculty, and others.

Founded by the poet Barry Wallenstein, the Poetry Festival is the culmination of a year’s work by the CCNY Poetry Outreach Center. Directed by poet and YA author Pamela Laskin, the center sends mentors into New York City schools to conduct poetry workshops; the day’s readings by elementary and middle school poets are the fruit of those sessions. In the afternoon, the winners of the citywide high school poetry contest (sponsored by Alfred K. Knopf), read their poems from the stage. In addition to reading their work aloud for peers and parents, these students enjoy the thrill of seeing their work in print. All poems read on the day of the festival are collected and published in the autumn in the annual anthology Poetry in Performance. Copies are sent to all participants as well as to school libraries around the city.

In the current educational landscape, when poetry as a subject is often sadly shunted aside in favor of mandatory (and seemingly endless) standardized test preparation, CCNY’s Poetry Outreach Center offers many students crucial exposure to the pleasures of writing poetry. Thanks to the contributions of donors, particularly the generous and stalwart support of the Poets & Writers Readings & Workshops program, the center continues its mission, adding new participating schools nearly every year and welcoming returning ones. Every year or two, a new crop of Harlem Rhymers finds the voice that only poetry can give, and takes the stage at the festival to wow another audience with the power of that voice.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Frances Abbey Endowment, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) Gregory Crosby (Credit: Gregory Crosby). (bottom) Jacqueline Woodson and the Harlem Rhymers (Credit: Lesley Simmonds).

Center for Fiction Announces Fellows

The Center for Fiction has announced the recipients of the 2017 NYC Emerging Writers Fellowships. Nine awards of $5,000 each are given annually to emerging fiction writers living in New York City.

The 2017 fellows are Amna Ahmad, Charlotte Crowe, Dana Czapnik, Erik Hoel, Andrew Mangan, Crystal Powell, Maud Streep, Alexandra Tanner, and Hubert Vigilla.

In addition to the cash prize, the winners will also receive yearlong studio space at the Center for Fiction in New York City and the opportunity to meet with agents and editors, and will give two public readings. Manuel Gonzales, Alexandra Kleeman, and Téa Obreht judged. Visit the Center for Fiction website to find out more about the winners.

Since 2010, the Center for Fiction’s Emerging Writer Fellowship program has supported sixty-two New York City–based early-career fiction writers. Writers living in any of New York’s five boroughs are eligible to apply each year.

(Top row from left: Amna Ahmad, Charlotte Crowe, Dana Czapnik; Middle row: Erik Hoel, Andrew Mangan, Crystal Powell; Bottom row: Maud Streep, Alexandra Tanner, and Hubert Vigilla)

 

Upcoming Fiction and Nonfiction Contest Deadlines

Fiction and nonfiction writers—if you’re sitting on a finished story, essay, or book-length manuscript of prose, check out the following contests with deadlines in the next week. Each contest offers a cash prize, from $1,000 to $5,000, and includes added benefits such as publication and paid trips to conferences.

American Short Fiction Short Story Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in American Short Fiction is given annually for a short story. Lauren Groff will judge. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: June 1.

Crook’s Corner Book Prize: A prize of $5,000 is given annually for a debut novel set in the American South. The winner is also entitled to receive a free glass of wine every day for a year at Crook’s Corner Café and Bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Eligible novels must be set primarily in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, or the District of Columbia. Elizabeth Cox will judge. Entry fee: $35. Deadline: June 1.

Nowhere Magazine Travel Writing Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Nowhere Magazine is given twice yearly for a short story or essay that “possesses a powerful sense of place.” Porter Fox will judge. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: June 1.

Salamander Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Salamander is given annually for a short story. Christopher Castellani will judge. Entry fee: $15. Deadline: June 1.

Southern Indiana Review Thomas A. Wilhelmus Short Prose Award: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Southern Indiana Review Press is given annually for a chapbook-length story collection, novella, novel excerpt, or work of creative nonfiction. David H. Lynn will judge. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: June 1.

Willow Springs Books Spokane Prize for Short Fiction: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Willow Springs Books is given annually for a short story collection. Entry fee: $27.50. Deadline: June 5.

Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition: A prize of $5,000, publication in the 86th annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in August in New York City to meet one-on-one with four agents or editors is given annually for a poem, a short story, or an essay. The winner will also be interviewed in Writer’s Digest, and will receive a subscription to the Writer’s Digest Tutorials video series. A second-place prize of $1,000 and publication is also given in each genre, including personal essay, genre short story, literary short story, and inspirational writing. Entry Fee: $30. Deadline: June 1.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Check out our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Desert Poetry: A Response to the Political Present

Feliz Lucia Molina was born and raised to Filipino immigrants who ran crisis heterotopias (board-and-care facilities) in San Fernando Valley, California. She holds a BA from Naropa University, an MFA from Brown University, and will be joining the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago this fall. A poetry editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, her books include Undercastle (Magic Helicopter Press, 2013), The Wes Letters (Outpost19, 2014), and the forthcoming Thundercastle and Roulette. Her work has appeared in Jacket2, Open Space, Fence, PEN America, and elsewhere. She is based in Chicago and the Southern California desert.

Desert Poetry was conceived and organized by me (Feliz Lucia Molina), Ben Segal, Joseph Mosconi, and Harmony Holiday. The idea for this event transpired at the beginning of nationwide marches and uprisings during the first one hundred days of the number forty-five administration. We sent out a call for the sole purpose of offering space for poets and writers to gather in the Southern California desert (Joshua Tree and Landers) to share concerns, thoughts, practices, and research on issues that are in direct response to the political present. The response to our call was overwhelming as it culminated into a series of twenty-four workshops, readings, and presentations during the weekend of April 7–9. People traveled from far distances including Chicago, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Santa Cruz, New York, Wisconsin, San Diego, and Los Angeles. It was an immediate collective and collaborative atmosphere as people volunteered to help with various tasks.

We created a private Facebook event page to share updates and information regarding the event. Noah Cicero, a writer based in Las Vegas, wrote on Facebook of the event: “Yesterday I went to Desert Poetry in Joshua Tree…. There were like forty poets in the desert, some came as far as upstate New York and Chicago, some with doctorates, some just getting their undergrad, but everyone was allowed to speak and be listened to on an equal footing. I have probably never seen a group with such a lack of hierarchy in my life.” While there were closer to eighty people in attendance, it is true that the mood was indeed non-hierarchical; this was not a goal, but was something that arose in the moment as the urgency to gather and convene was realized.

Poets & Writers provided a number of workshop grants that made it possible to host Joy KMT, Lily Hoang, Cathy Linh Che, and Harmony Holiday who led marvelous and thought-provoking workshops on Black Quantum Futurism Poetics, radical self-care, embodied fairytale magic-making, and the possibilities collectivity within a present-future Black Arts Movement.

We are so grateful to the following presenters for leading us through a collective re-alignment in the great expanse of the Southern California desert.

Zack Haber with an exercise on playful relation with the body; Jeanine Webb with Guided Stargazing and Radical Cosmology; Trinie Dalton with Hi-Desert Wildflowers, Hummingbirds, Rainbows; Elisabeth Houston with BABY; Raquel Gutiérrez with improvisational dialogic dyads & The bordering nowhere of difficult terrains; Amanda Ackerman and Michelle Detorie with Feral Writing Practices: Writing across species boundaries and across the terrestrial terrain; Mg Roberts with The bits of life. Everything. Fluxes. Fevers. (Here.) A poem.; Lisa Fishman and Richard Meier with Teaching Against Commodification; Saehee Cho with Making Flatbread While Camping (absent at the last minute but there in spirit); Suzanna Zak with How to Sleep and Eat Outside; Emerson Whitney with Trans non-assimilationism and radical alterity; Vi Khi Nao with The Ethics of Deportation; Veggie Cloud (Kate Wolf and Courtney Stephens) with a film-screening of Robert Kramer’s “MILESTONES;” Ben Segal with Open Discussion on Entering Local Politics; Avi Varma with Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts; Danielle Pafunda and Reagan Wilson with Working Through Pain; Jennifer Scappettone with Boom, Strike, Bust-Reocuppy Mining, & Weighing the Cloud; ARMED RADII and Mayakov + sky Platform with Post-crisis Poetics: Writing the World System; Anthony McCann with Hike & Reading (to Samuelson Rocks); Melissa Mack with Sonic Meditations; and a distributed molecular guide to the Mojave exploring the poetics of scale as a tactics of resistance to dominant desert representations by Brett Zehner and Kylie King.

For more information about the full program of Desert Poetry, please visit: armsandhugs.tumblr.com. Another event in 2018 is in the planning stages to be announced soon.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo: (top) Feliz Lucia Molina (Credit: Feliz Lucia Molina). Photo: (bottom) Desert Poetry event (Credit: Feliz Lucia Molina).

Hisham Matar Wins £20,000 Rathbones Folio Prize

Hisham Matar has won the 2017 Rathbones Folio Prize for his memoir, The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between (Random House, 2016). Formerly known as the Folio Prize and given exclusively to fiction books, the annual £20,000 prize is now given for a book in any genre written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the previous year.

The Return, which also won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize, follows Matar’s return to his native home of Libya in search of answers to his father’s disappearance. About the book, Folio judges Ahdaf Soueif, Rachel Holmes, and Lucy Hughes-Hallett said, “The Return shows what a novelist at the top of his game can do with nonfiction. It gives the reader the same aesthetic, the same satisfaction of the great literary works that enter our lives and stay with us forever.” In addition to The Return, Matar is the author of two acclaimed novels, In the Country of Men (2008) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2012).

The seven finalists were The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velázquez by Laura Cumming; This Census-Taker by China Miéville; The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan; The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson; Golden Hill by Francis Spufford; Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien; and Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution & War by Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab. The finalists were chosen from sixty-two books nominated by the Folio Prize Academy, an international group of writers and critics.

Shin Yu Pai on Acts of Literary Resistance and Beyond

Shin Yu Pai is the current poet laureate of Redmond, Washington and a speaker for the Humanities Washington Speaker Bureau. She is the author of eight books of poetry and serves as poetry editor for Lawrence & Crane Publications. In addition to her work as a poet, she has published personal essays and exhibited photography and book arts at galleries and museums. She is a former poet in residence for the Seattle Art Museum and her poems have been commissioned by the Dallas Museum of Art and Yakama Nation Museum.

During National Poetry Month, I inevitably overbook events and find myself scrambling to meet my commitments. Though I love meeting new audiences, by the end of the month, I’m very ready to go back to being an introvert. Two of my favorite events this spring were programs that Poets & Writers helped to make possible.

I’ve been touring a talk for Humanities Washington that focuses on the evolution of my work as a writer—moving from the practice of ekphrastic writing to doing collaborative work with photographers, archivists, musicians, and sound engineers to arriving at a hybrid creative practice that brings together my passion for photography, sound, installation, and text in public art projects installed on bike trails and apple orchards. The talk, which includes a slide show and poetry reading, attracts people from wide backgrounds. At my program in the Seattle suburb of Burien, I talked with painter and experimental filmmaker Ken DeRoux about how working as a former museum curator and museologist has influenced my work. And sculptor Phillip Levine and I chatted about the ways in which the visual and the textual intersect. I can’t wait to visit his studio.

This past week, I visited community college students in Jared Leising’s English class at Cascadia College. I talked to students about the idea of an artful, expressive life versus putting any definition around poetry or visual arts. Before my presentation, I toured a small gallery connected to the lecture hall to view works of art responding to the theme of “resistance.” They ranged from images of protestors in Seattle’s many recent marches to more subtle takes on issues like immigration, Black Lives Matter, and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Afterwards, Jared and I talked about the strategy of ekphrastic writing—how it invites a response to an object or thing, though the thing can just as easily be a concept or idea. We spoke of how a beginning writer might enact their own resistance on the page by responding to some deeper issue or calling that brings forth some desire to speak.

As I pulled together my belongings to leave, a trio of students stopped me to ask me about translation. Linda had been translating her teacher Jared’s poems from English into Chinese and they didn’t make sense. We talked about how cultural context and story run deeper than words. Though it took me a minute to find my bearings, I remembered that the act of writing about visual arts is its own kind of translation. As we parted, Linda’s friend from Sichuan province said that they so rarely see Asian visitors in the classroom. “We’re so proud of you,” he said. His comment brought me back to the joy of public speaking—that this sharing of work need not be self-indulgent, but what it must be is a gesture towards greater connection and generosity.

Support for Readings & Workshops in Seattle is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo: Shin Yu Pai (Credit: Piper Hanson Photography).

Upcoming Poetry Contest Deadlines

Poets—if you’re ready to submit a poem or two to writing contests, look no further! The following contests, open to poems or groups of poems, are considering entries until June 1. Each award includes a prize of at least $1,000 and publication.

Boston Review Poetry Contest: A prize of $1,500 and publication in Boston Review is given annually for a poem or group of poems. Mónica de la Torre will judge. Entry Fee: $20

Boulevard Emerging Poets Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Boulevard is given annually for a group of poems by a poet who has not published a poetry collection with a nationally distributed press. The Boulevard editors will judge. Entry Fee: $16

Southern Humanities Review Auburn Witness Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southern Humanities Review is given annually for a poem of witness in honor of the late poet Jake Adam York. The winner also receives travel expenses to give a reading at Auburn University in Alabama in October. Naomi Shihab Nye will judge. Entry Fee: $15

Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition: A prize of $5,000, publication in the 86th annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in August in New York City to meet one-on-one with four agents or editors is given annually for a poem, a short story, or an essay. The winner will also be interviewed in Writer’s Digest, and will receive a subscription to the Writer’s Digest Tutorials video series. A second-place prize of $1,000 and publication is also given in each genre, including rhyming poetry and non-rhyming poetry. Entry Fee: $20

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Check out our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

End of May Prose Contest Deadlines

Attention fiction and creative nonfiction writers! You have until May 31 to submit your essays, short stories, and novels to the following contests, which offer prizes of at least $1,000 and publication:

Crab Orchard Literary Prizes: Two prizes of $1,250 each and publication in Crab Orchard Review are given annually for a short story and an essay. Entry fee: $12

Bridport Arts Centre Bridport Prize: A prize of £5,000 (approximately $6,250) each and publication in the Bridport Prize anthology is given annually for a short story. A prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,250) and publication is also given for a work of flash fiction. Peter Hobbs will judge in fiction; and Kit de Waal will judge in flash fiction. Entry fees: £10 (approximately $13) for fiction and £8 (approximately $10) for flash fiction.

BOA Editions Short Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by BOA Editions is given annually for a short story collection. Peter Conners will judge. Entry fee: $25

University of Georgia Press Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by University of Georgia Press is given annually for a collection of short fiction. Entry fee: $30

Elixir Press Fiction Award: A prize of $2,000, publication by Elixir Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a short story collection or a novel. The editors will judge. Entry fee: $40

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

End of May Poetry Contest Roundup

Poets! The end of May will arrive before we know it, so it’s time to get those poems, chapbooks, and full-length manuscripts ready to submit. The following contests are open for submissions until May 31, and offer prizes of at least $1,000 and publication.

Crab Orchard Literary Prize: A prize of $1,250 and publication in Crab Orchard Review is given annually for a poem. Entry fee: $12

Southern Poetry Review Guy Owen Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southern Poetry Review is given annually for a poem. Entry fee: $20, which includes a subscription to Southern Poetry Review.

Anhinga Press Anhinga–Robert Dana Prize for Poetry: A prize of $2,000, publication by Anhinga Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. The winner is also invited to participate in a reading tour at select colleges in Florida. Eduardo C. Corral will judge. Entry fee $25 ($28 for electronic submissions)

Backwaters Press Backwaters Prize: A prize of $2,500 and publication by Backwaters Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Bob Hicok will judge. Entry fee: $30

Oberlin College Press FIELD Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Oberlin College Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Entry fee: $28, which includes a subscription to FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Joy Harjo Wins Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

The Poetry Foundation has announced Joy Harjo as the recipient of its 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The $100,000 award is given annually to a U.S. poet for lifetime achievement.

Poetry editor Don Share says of Harjo’s poetry, “Her work is a thrilling and necessary antidote to false news, the ephemera of digital celebrity, and other derelictions. It pushes vigorously back against forgetfulness, injustice, and negligence at every level of contemporary life. Her work moves us because it is in the continual motion of bringing forward, with grace but also acuity, our collective story, always in progress.”

The author of ten poetry collections and a memoir, Harjo was born in Tulsa and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Her poetry draws on Native American history and storytelling, as well as feminist and social justice issues. “In a strange sense,” Harjo once commented, “[writing] frees me to believe in myself, to be able to speak, to have voice, because I have to; it is my survival.” Her most recent poetry collection is Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (Norton, 2015). 

Harjo’s accolades include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). (Read Harjo’s comments about the life-changing support of an NEA fellowship in the May/June 2017 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.)

Established in 1986, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets, and is also one of the nation’s richest literary prizes. Recent winners include Ed Roberson, Alice Notley, and Nathaniel Mackey. Visit the Poetry Foundation website for more information.

Fiction and Nonfiction Contest Deadlines

The following contests for fiction and creative nonfiction writers are open for submissions until May 15. Whether you have a short story, an essay, or a novel or memoir manuscript ready to submit, these contests offer prizes of $1,000 to $50,000 and publication.

Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest: Two prizes of $2,000 each and publication in Ploughshares are given annually for a short story and an essay of up to 6,000 words. Writers who have not published or self-published a book or chapbook are eligible. Entry Fee: $24 (no entry fee for current subscribers)

Carve Magazine Raymond Carver Short Story Contest: A prize of $1,500 and publication in Carve Magazine is given annually for a short story of up to 10,000 words. Entry Fee: $15 ($17 for electronic submissions)

Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Zone 3 Press is given biennially for a memoir or essay collection of 150 to 300 pages. Janisse Ray will judge. Entry Fee: $25

Del Sol Press First Novel Competition: A prize of $1,500, publication by Del Sol Press, and 20 author copies is given annually for a debut novel of 200 to 450 pages. Hallie Ephron will judge. Entry Fee: $30

St. Francis College Literary Prize: A prize of $50,000 is given biennially for a third, fourth, or fifth published book of fiction. Story collections and novels (including self-published books and English translations) published between June 2015 and May 2017 are eligible. Jeffery Renard Allen, Ellen Litman, and Rene Steinke will judge. There is no entry fee.

Leeway Foundation Transformation Awards: Awards of $15,000 each are given annually to women and transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, or otherwise gender-nonconforming fiction writers and creative nonfiction writers in the Philadelphia area who have been creating art for social change for five or more years. Writers who have lived for at least two years in Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, or Philadelphia counties, who are at least 18 years old, and who are not full-time students in a degree-granting arts program are eligible. There is no entry fee. 

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

When Soul and Poetry Meet, A Revue Takes Place

Cynthia Manick is the author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). A Pushcart Prize nominee with an MFA in creative writing from the New School, she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hedgebrook, Poets House, and the Vermont Studio Center. She serves as East Coast Editor of Jamii Publishing and is founder and curator of the reading series Soul Sister Revue. Her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, African American Review, Bone Bouquet, Callaloo, Muzzle Magazine, Tidal Basin, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

At the end of 2013, I wanted a change. I had been going to traditional poetry readings for years and they all felt the same—the same writers and their friends, people with an MFA reading with similar graduates, or people with published books. And more troubling, I didn’t see people who looked like me, on stage or in the audience. People of color were hard to find and when I did find them, there was usually only one on stage with a couple of their friends in the audience for support. Fortunately, I’ve never been the kind of person to wait for things to happen, so I created Soul Sister Revue.

Revue is such a strange name, but it reminded me of vaudeville acts, Motown singers performing together, and theatrical sketches of the 1960s and 1970s that told a story. Soul music and poetry go hand in hand, and when you add the African American oral tradition of storytelling, a revue takes place. People put down their phones, and focus on readers of all ages, gender, and race, as they tell their story through poetry. The first reading took place in April 2014 with Hettie Jones (author of Drive and How I Became Hettie Jones), Evie Shockley (author of a half-red sea and the new black), JP Howard, and me, with T’ai Freedom Ford as host. I had positive experiences with poetry residencies and workshops, so I asked people I admired and they responded. I also set a precedent of established writers (Hettie and Evie) reading on stage with emerging writers (JP and I). To gain interest and connect the Revue to music, I advertised using remastered covers of Jet, Blues and Soul, and Ebony; a practice that still continues. 

Old-fashioned revues came and went like rent parties or pop-up shows, so Soul Sister follows that trend by performing four times a year, one show per season. Each show asks, “What is soul?” Recent audience member Terrance Hayes (author of Lighthead and How to Be Drawn) yelled out, “James Brown!” Others answered, “a feeling,” “music in the veins,” and “connection to the universe.” The answers lay in all of that and in poetry. Soul Sister has read at the NYC Poetry Festival, the HiFi Bar, and with the help of a Poets & Writers’ grant, it goes back to Cornelia Street Cafè every year.

Readers have included Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Gregory Pardlo, Cathy Linh Che, R. Erica Doyle, Ebony Noelle Golden, Charlene McClure, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Elana Bell, and Kamilah Aisha Moon. Some poets e-mail poems to soulsisterrevue@gmail.com and others I find through readings across the city, small online journals, poet recommendations, and if I see an audience member that connects to the work, I’ll put them on the list. At the end of the night, I tell the audience that their story has yet to be written, so go out and write a poem. I like to believe that the soul helps them listen.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo: (left to right) Ed Toney, LeRonn Brooks, Janel Cloyd, Noel Quiñones, Cynthia Manick, Purvi Shah, and Yadira De La Riva at the Fourth Anniversary Show (Credit: Cynthia Manick).

Submissions Open for BOMB Fiction Contest

Submissions are currently open for BOMB Magazine’s 2017 fiction contest. A prize of $1,000 and publication in BOMB’s literary supplement, First Proof, is given in alternating years for a group of poems and a short story. This year’s contest will be given for a short story. Novelist and essayist Paul La Farge will judge.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of up to 5,000 words with a $20 entry fee, which includes a one-year subscription to BOMB (for U.S. entrants), by May 31.

Previous winners of the fiction contest, whose winning work you can read on the BOMB website, include Jen George, Michael Baptist, Karen Walker Thompson, and Sean Madigan Hoen.

Established in 1981 as a quarterly magazine of conversations and interviews between interdisciplinary artists, BOMB is now a “multi-media publishing house that creates, disseminates, and preserves artist-generated content from interviews to artists’ essays to new literature." E-mail firstproof@bombsite.com or visit the BOMB website for more information. 

Photo: Paul La Farge. Credit: Carol Shadford