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Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize

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The Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize is a second-book award for black poets of African descent, offered every other year. This award celebrates and publishes works of lasting cultural value and literary excellence.

2018 Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize

Award: Winner receives $1,000, publication by Northwestern University Press, 15 copies of the book and a feature reading.

Judge:  Matthew Shenoda. Judge reserves the right to not select a winner.

Eligibility: All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by Black poets of African descent who have had one full-length book of poetry published by a professional press (chapbooks and self-published works are excluded). Simultaneous submission to other book awards should be noted: immediate notification upon winning such an award is required.

Exclusions: Current or former students, colleagues, employees, family members and close friends of the judge; current or former employees and members of the board of Cave Canem Foundation or Northwestern University Press; and authors who have published a book or have a book under contract with Northwestern University Press are ineligible.

If any of the selected authors fall under the above exclusions, they will be disqualified and a replacement chosen from among the finalists. As the poetry community is small and the contest is judged without knowledge of the submitter’s identity, acquaintance with the judge and participation in a workshop taught by the judge are not disqualifying criteria.

Deadline: Reading period begins February 1, 2018. Manuscripts must be postmarked by April 16, 2018. To be notified that your manuscript has been received, enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard.  Winner announced in July 2018.

Entry Fee: $20. Enclose check with submission, made payable to Northwestern University Press. Entry fees are non-refundable.

Direct packet to:

Northwestern University Press
Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize
629 Noyes Street
Evanston, IL  60208                                                                                   


  • Send two copies of a single manuscript. One manuscript per poet allowed.
  • Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope to receive notification of results.
  • Author’s name should not appear on any pages within the manuscript. Copy One must include a title page with the author’s brief bio (200 words, maximum) and contact information: author’s name, postal address, e-mail address and telephone number. Copy Two must include a cover sheet with the title only.
  • Manuscript must include a table of contents and list of acknowledgments of previously published poems.
  • Manuscript must be single sided with a font size of 11 or 12, paginated, and 50-75 pages in length, inclusive of table of contents and acknowledgments. A poem may be multiple pages, but no more than one poem per page is permitted.
  • Manuscript must be unbound. Use a binder clip—do not staple or fold. Do not include illustrations or images of any kind.
  • Manuscripts not adhering to submission guidelines will be discarded without notice to sender.

Due to the volume of submissions, manuscripts will not be returned. Post-submission revisions or corrections are not permitted.