Literary MagNet

Travis Kurowski
From the May/June 2015 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, as is evident by the bevy of contests offered by today’s literary magazines. One of the lit-mag world’s richest prizes these days is sponsored by the quarterly poetry journal Rattle ( For its tenth annual poetry prize, the Los Angeles–based journal is doubling its usual award amount by offering ten thousand dollars and publication in its winter issue for a single poem. Moreover, ten finalists will each receive two hundred dollars and publication; one finalist will also receive a two-thousand-dollar Readers’ Choice Award. So get cracking: The deadline is July 15. For inspiration, check out Rattle’s latest, Issue 47, which is dedicated to Japanese forms, “from Billy Collins’s witty seventeen-syllable haiku, to Michael Mejia’s photopoetic exploration of salaryman culture.” On its website, Rattle also publishes its Poets Respond series, which consists of weekly poems written in response to current news, as well as the Rattle Young Poets Anthology, which includes the especially powerful poem “Making Noise” by Kofi Edufo, a seven-year-old from Ghana. General poetry submissions are considered year-round by mail and online via Submittable.

Last year the editors of the San Diego–based annual Poetry International ( launched the Poetry International Chapbook Contest—which offers no monetary prize, but publication in the journal—to join the magazine’s annual thousand-dollar prizes for single poems: the C. P. Cavafy Prize (the deadline will be in November) and the Poetry International Contest (whose typical deadline is in April). Chapbook submissions are open from May to November. The latest issue, 20/21, is nearly five hundred pages long and features portfolios of Chinese, Scottish, and Swedish poetry, alongside new work from CAConrad, Michael Waters, and Gail Wronsky. The twentieth-anniversary issue, published in collaboration with McSweeney’s, will be released later this year. Poetry International will open regular poetry and translation submissions this fall via Submittable; visit the website for details.

Across the pond, the Moth (—a lovely, slim quarterly arts and literature journal from Drummullen, Ireland—is currently running the Moth Short Story Prize, judged this year by Donal Ryan and offering a first-place prize of three thousand euros (approximately thirty-four hundred dollars). The deadline is June 30. For poets, the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize—one of the most valuable prizes in the world for a single poem, with a ten-thousand-euro first-place prize—will open again on June 1. Check out four shortlisted poems from the 2014 Ballymaloe contest in the Moth, Issue 20, out now with poetry from Sally Van Doren, an interview with Roddy Doyle, and stunning cover art by Phillip Thomas. Poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction submissions are open year-round by e-mail or postal mail.

Not to be outdone, the Saskatoon, Canada–based literary quarterly Grain ( kept its popular Short Grain Writing Contest—which offers two first-place prizes of one thousand Canadian dollars each for a group of poems and a short story—running these past months (the annual contest closed April 1) despite significant odds. Shortly after Grain’s Fall 2014 issue was published, a pipe burst above the magazine headquarters, which flooded the office and caused the ceiling to collapse. “Never to be deterred,” notes Grain business administrator Myron Soloduk, “the Grain staff soldiered on.” The staff managed to release the winter issue—which includes new writing from poet Gary Geddes, songwriter Paul Cresey, and artist Robert Currie—and wrap up the contest on time. Winners will be published in the summer issue; until then, Grain’s spring issue, 42.3, will be hitting newsstands this month. Poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction submissions are considered by mail from September 1 to May 31.

Of course, not every lit mag supports the contest model. The Washington, D.C.–based biannual journal Barrelhouse ( consciously abstains from sponsoring contests. “We did one contest and took an entry fee for it and then felt pretty icky about that,” says cofounder Dave Housley. But Barrelhouse has made paying writers for work part of its core mission since day one: The staff reports that in 2014 they paid five thousand dollars to authors during the year, while also donating another two thousand dollars to other literary magazines. The smashing new Barrelhouse Issue 14 features fiction from A. N. Devers and Nathan Oates, poetry from Jess Mynes and Rae Armantrout, and the essay “The Real Housewives Of” by Elizabeth McConaghy. Submissions for Barrelhouse 16 will open later this year; check the website for details.  

Travis Kurowski is the editor of Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine, published in 2013 by Atticus Books. His website is