7 Poetry Contests to Enter This Fall

Fall is the perfect time to submit your work to poetry contests. Editors are fresh from the summer break, as most literary magazines resume reading in the fall, and contests where you can submit your book, chapbook, or poems are abundant. We’ve curated listings from Poets and Writers, NewPages, and other online resources to create a well-rounded guide for September, October, and November. The guide includes contests with a range of entry fees—many of which are perfect for those on a budget—and features reputable magazines as well as up-and-coming journals. 


We hope you are encouraged to submit to at least one of these contests. Remember that the more you submit, the better chances you have of getting published. But as submission fees can accumulate, choose your contests wisely. Also remember that rejection isn’t personal, nor is it a reflection of your talent. Creativity and artistic merit are subjective, and most poets face a great deal of rejection before they become successful in the publishing industry. It’s all part of the game of publishing, and the best strategy for winning is to persevere and never give up. Have fun submitting!   



Deadline: Sept. 2  

If you’ve never published a poem before, you’re in luck! Touchstone Literary Magazine is welcoming new poets into the literary community with a contest just for them: “The Debut Prize in Poetry recognizes one poem, one never-published poet, with a $50 award. In addition to paid publication, the winner will be celebrated on our website and social media and receive a digital broadside for their poem, which will be exclusively designed by our talented artist and available for download and sharing.” You get artwork, recognition, and exposure all in one submission, and best of all, the entry fee is only five dollars. That’s not much of a risk to take as they will be considering all poems submitted for their regular online series. 



Deadline: Sept. 28

It’s nearly impossible to find contests that are free and offer cash awards, but this one comes pretty close. The Troubadour Poetry Prize has an entry fee of only $7, and any poet in the world can enter so long as they submit before Sept. 28. The first prize is $2,548, and there are awards for second and third place. The judges are poets Mark Doty and Mona Arshi



Deadline: Oct. 1

The 30th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize is for $5,000 in three genres: poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. It is run by the Missouri Review, which is a stellar literary magazine. In addition to publication and a cash prize, winners are invited to “a reception and reading in their honor.” You can submit up to 10 pages of poetry. The complete guidelines are available on their website. 



Deadline: Oct. 15

RHINO devotes itself to publishing great poetry and establishing a community of writers by hosting book readings and a workshop series. Their annual Founders’ Prize opens on Sept. 1 and closes on Oct. 15. The judge for this year’s contest is Ed Roberson, and the reading fee is $15 for an opportunity to win a $500 prize and publication in their print journal. The editors are looking for both up-and-coming poets and established poets from around the world. 

Their poetry tastes vary, and they consider themselves “eclectic”: “RHINO Poetry occupies a niche somewhere between academia and the emerging poetry scene—devoted to creative work that tells stories, provokes thought, and pushes the boundaries in form and feeling—while connecting with our readers and audience.” All of their poetry is published online, so it’s easy to submit, and you can acquaint yourself with the work they like before you do. And if your work isn’t selected for the Founders’ Prize, it is still considered for their 2021 print issue. 



Deadline: Oct. 31st

Tupelo Press is an established and independent literary press that has been publishing books since 2001. Not only do they publish great poetry, but the aesthetic of their design and paper quality is superb and what they consider a “uniquely sensual look.” I’ve read several of their diverse books, including Ilya Kaminsky’s Dancing in Odessa which was lyrically impressive. 

Tupelo Press has many prizes and awards with deadlines throughout the year. Their chapbook contest, the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, will end on Oct. 31. This year’s judge will be poet Maggie Smith, and the prize will be $1,000 to the lucky winner who will read their work at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. In addition to publication, the prize also includes “25 copies of the winning title, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion.” 



Deadline: Nov. 2

Sexism in the publishing industry is an unfortunate truth. From our recent article featuring feminist journals and magazines, I was inspired to include a prize that promotes a feminist press. I searched through many lists of feminist presses and found the Alice James Award which has a deadline of Nov. 2. Emerging and established poets can submit, but poets must live in the United States. The award includes a generous prize of “$2,000, book publication, and distribution through Consortium. In addition to the winning manuscript, one or more additional manuscripts may be chosen for publication as the Editor’s Choice.”



Deadline: Nov. 15

The Walt Whitman Award is one of the most prestigious awards given for a first book of poetry. The book is published by the great, independent publisher Graywolf Press. The emerging poet wins $5,000 and “receives an all-expenses-paid six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in the Umbrian region of Italy, and distribution of the winning book to thousands of Academy of American Poets members.” The deadline to submit is Nov. 15.