5 Poetry Competitions to Help You Get Your Name Out There


written by Thea voutiritsas

If you’re looking for a little incentive, or you just work better with a deadline, a poetry competition might be just what you need to get your poetry pen flowing. These five poetry competitions are a great way to get your name out there, even if you don’t win first place.

1. Third Coast’s Fiction and Poetry Competition

Deadline: January 15

Fee: $18

Third Coast is a nationally distributed literary magazine founded in 1995 by graduate students of Western Michigan University’s English Department. Poetry featured in the magazine has been selected for Best New Poets and the Pushcart Prize Series.

For their poetry competition, writers are welcome to submit up to three unpublished poems. Be sure your manuscript is typed, double spaced, and your personal information appears in the cover letter only. All manuscripts are judged blind, so don’t put your name on the manuscript itself or it will be disqualified. Winners receive $1,000 and publication in Third Coast. Plus, all contest entries are considered for publication. The entry fee of $18 also gets you a one-year subscription to Third Coast.

2. Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Contest

Deadline: April 15

Fee: $20

Spoon River Poetry Review  is one of the nation’s oldest published literary journals. Each issue features a chapter book-length collection of poems by a featured poet connected to Illinois, plus a variety of poems from all over the world.

Spoon River Poetry Review’s poetry competition offers a $1,000 first prize, and $100 to two runners-up. All winning poems plus honorable mentions will be published in Spoon River Poetry Review. Poets may submit up to three unpublished poems. And much like Third Coast’s poetry competition, this one is judged blind, so omit your personal information from the manuscript. Entrants may submit their work online or by mail. Side note: their $20 fee comes with a one-year subscription to he magazine.

3. New Letters Prize for Poetry

Deadline: May 20

Fee: $4.95

First published in 1934 as The University Review, the magazine became New Letters in 1971. New Letters held its first poetry competition in 1986. Poets published in New Letters have gone on to win awards from Poetry Daily, Best American Poetry, the Pushcart Prize for Poetry, New Poetry from the Midwest, and the Missouri Writers Guild.

This Missouri-based literary magazine will accept a submission of 3-6 poems for their poetry competition. New Letters awards $1,500 to the winner. New Letters judges anonymously as well, so be sure to leave your name off of the  manuscript. They also list all finalists in the publication, not just winners.

4. Sixfold Short Story and Poetry Awards

Deadline: October 24

Fee: $5

Sixfold is a slightly different beast from the typical poetry competition. It’s completely writer-voted. To create each issue, hundreds of writers vote to select the best poetry manuscript

Poets may submit 1-5 previously unpublished poems. Then, the manuscript is subject to three rounds of voting. Competitors read and vote in all three rounds for their manuscript to remain in the game. The process is a bit complicated, but this two-minute movie explains it all. Plus, all the voting and comparing makes the competition more of a two-way street. Writers get to read others’ work and receive feedback on their own. Not a bad deal. Oh, and the winner receives $1,000.

5. The Walt Whitman Award

Deadline: November 1

Fee: $35

Established in 1975, the Walt Whitman Award is given to honor a poet’s first book (that means 48 pages of poems or more). Applicants must be living, and cannot have published a previous book-length collection (or be committed to publishing one). That includes self-publishing. However, it’s totally cool if the poems have been published separately before in chapbooks, periodicals, or magazines. What matters here is that the collection has never been published.

This poetry competition is blind as well, so only include your name in the cover letter. And make sure the title page only has the title on it. Submissions are accepted online only and must be in a .doc, .docx, or .pdf format. Winners are published in Graywolf Press, receive a price of $5,000, and an all-expenses-paid six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy.

And while a little competition is good to light a fire under your seat, don’t let the pressure bog you down. If you’re not ready to shell out the big bucks for a national competition, check out what writer’s workshops, guilds, and poetry slam clubs near you offer opportunities for competition and feedback. Good luck!

Thea VoutiritsasComment