Can you make a living as a poet? You can get a good start to your poetry career with a little bit of luck and great poetry contests.
Many organizations across the globe reward cash prizes, publication rights, and more to poets who wow their judges. If you are looking to get your poetry published, these are some of the top poetry contests to pursue.
Before learning about the different competitions, why not first familiarize yourself with the different types of poems?
- 1. New American Press Poetry Prize
- 2. Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine
- 3. Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry
- 4. Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry
- 5. Autumn House Poetry Contest
- 6. Poetry Society of Virginia Student Contests
- 7. Colorado Prize for Poetry
- 8. Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize
- 9. Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Awards
- 10. Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award
- 11. Andres Montoya Poetry Prize
- 12. Chapbook Contest
- 13. Haiku Society of America Annual Poetry Contest
- 14. The Pushcart Prize
- 15. Poetic Justice Institute Prizes
- 16. Airlie Prize
- 17. National Poetry Series Open Competition
- 18. Wisconsin Institute For Creative Writing Fellowships
- 19. Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award Series
- 20. Omnidawn Publishing First/Second Poetry Book Contest
1. New American Press Poetry Prize
New American Press hosts a poetry contest in the spring each year. This contest has a prize of $1,500 for the winning poetry collection. Submissions must be at least 48 pages, so this is an option for serious poets who have several poems under their belt.
The winning poet will get the $1,500 cash prize and have their book published by New American Press. In addition, the poet receives 25 author copies to give out as gifts or promotions.
2. Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine
The Hippocrates Prize awards £1,000 each year to one poem in the spring. The award also includes publication in the organization’s anthology and a video recording of the poem on the website. Any submissions must be a poem for a medical theme or audience and written by a medical professional.
The entry fee for this poetry contest is $10. Poems are up to 50 lines.
3. Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry
This unique poetry contest awards $1,000 to an English poetry collection with the twist that the writer cannot be a United States citizen. In addition, the award winner receives an initiation to read at the Boston Playwright’s Theater.
To apply, poets must submit a full-length poetry collection, entry form, and $20 entry fee on the Arrowsmith Press website.
4. Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry
This particular poetry competition has a high-value prize of $10,000. Milkweed Editions awards the prize to one poet who lives in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, or Iowa.
The poet must have a manuscript of at least 48 pages to submit. This competition has no entry fee.
5. Autumn House Poetry Contest
Autumn House Press hosts a poetry contest in the first half of the year. A full-length poetry collection manuscript could earn the winner $2,500 in this competition. While the competition has just one winner, all finalists get considered for publication, so writers can enter and potentially get their work published even if they don’t win.
The fee for this competition is $30, and the publisher recommends not using any illustrations. In addition, all poems must start on a new page and be new poetry that isn’t published elsewhere.
6. Poetry Society of Virginia Student Contests
The Poetry Society of Virginia hosts a poetry contest for young poets still in school. Students can submit a single poem that is free of identifying information, and they stand against other similar-aged poets for judging.
For this competition, poems must be 35 lines or fewer. There are first place, second place, and third place prizes for all grade levels. Winning poems may also end up in publication.
7. Colorado Prize for Poetry
The Colorado Prize for Poetry competition is another one that awards a cash prize for a poetry book. The prize winner receives $2,500 and publication through the Center for Literary Publishing.
For this contest, submit a manuscript between 48 and 100 pages in length. The collection must be unpublished, including self-publishing, but individual poems may have been in print in other works.
8. Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize
The Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize is a writing competition from Utica College. It has a $2,000 cash prize, and the first prize contest winner gets to read and teach a class at the college.
Submission guidelines for this competition include a completed entry form, a CV of the author’s accomplishments, and two copies of the complete poetry book. All works must be a minimum of 48 pages long. This competition has no entry fee.
9. Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Awards
The Sustainable Arts Foundation awards up to 20 $5,000 cash prizes to poets and other writers. The author must have at least one child living at home to qualify.
For poetry submissions, writers can submit up to 10 poems or between 10 and 15 pages of prose. The contest has a $20 entry fee.
10. Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award
Poets & Writers hosts the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award, which has two $500 cash prizes for one poet and one fiction writer from a chosen state, which in 2022 is Nebraska. The winning writer will also have a month-long residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program to meet other writers, editors, agents, and publishers.
This contest requires poets to submit 7 to 10 pages of poetry. It has no entry fee.
11. Andres Montoya Poetry Prize
Hosted through the University of Notre Dame, the Andrews Montoya Poetry Prize award $1,000 to a debut poetry collection. The poet must be Latinx and live in the United States.
This full-length book contest requires a manuscript of 48 to 100 pages, and it does not have an entry fee.
12. Chapbook Contest
The Diode Editions Chapbook Contest takes submissions from English-writing poets. They do allow translations and collaborations for this contest. The winning chapbook receives $750 and publication from the organization.
The reading fee for this contest is $18. The manuscript must be 25 to 46 pages in length.
13. Haiku Society of America Annual Poetry Contest
Consider entering the Haiku Society of America’s Annual Poetry Contest if you enjoy writing haikus. This contest accepts haibun, a mixture of haiku with prose. The prize for this competition is $200 and publication in Frogpond.
Submissions for this contest should have a word count of no more than 1,000 words. The contest has no entry fee.
14. The Pushcart Prize
This poetry contest is unique because it is not just a poetry contest. Instead, the Pushcart Prize takes nominations for poetry, short stories, essays, memoirs, and stand-alone novel exerts that were published elsewhere within a particular calendar year. Accepted works become part of the Pushcart Prize annual literary magazine.
The Pushcart Prize does not take submissions. Instead, it allows magazine and small book press editors to submit up to six nominations a year for potential works to include.
15. Poetic Justice Institute Prizes
Fordham University at Lincoln Center in New York hosts the Poetic Justice Institute Prizes poetry contest. This contest awards a poetry collection and has a $1,000 cash prize. In addition, the winning poetry collection receives a publicity consultation and publication by Fordham University Press.
This competition has two awards. The Poetic Justice Institute Prize is for all writers, while the Editor’s Prize is only for BIPOC writers. Submissions must be 50 to 120 pages in length, and there is a $28 entry fee.
16. Airlie Prize
The Airlie Prize is an award from Airlie Press given each year for a poetry collection. The prize is $1,000 and publication by the press, and the press’s editors serve as the judges.
Send a manuscript of 48 to 90 pages and a $25 entry fee to the Arlie Press to apply for this contest.
17. National Poetry Series Open Competition
The National Poetry Series has an Open Competition with an impressive $10,000 cash prize for the winning manuscript. This award also comes with publication by a participating publication company.
Send 48 to 64 pages and a $35 entry fee to the National Poetry Series to submit a manuscript.
18. Wisconsin Institute For Creative Writing Fellowships
The University of Wisconsin offers a Creative Writing Fellowship at the UW-Madison campus to at least five writers each year. Though this does not have a cash prize, it does include a stipend of at least $39,000 to help pay for school.
To apply for the fellowship, a poet must be working on a first or second book of poetry or other fiction. Submission guidelines are up to 10 pages of poetry and a $50 entry fee. Applicants also need to submit two references.
19. Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award Series
Cash prizes of up to $5,500 are available through the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award Series. Both a short story collection and a poetry collection will receive an award.
Poetry applicants must submit up to 48 pages of work. The entry fee is $30.
20. Omnidawn Publishing First/Second Poetry Book Contest
Finally, consider the Omnidawn Publishing First/Second Poetry Book Contest. This contest awards $3,000 to an up-and-coming poet, along with publication and one hundred author copies of the published work.
To apply, submit a poetry manuscript of 40 to 120 pages and the $27 entry fee.
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