Cave Canem Northwestern Press Poetry Prize

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The Cave Canem Northwestern 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.

2023 Northwestern Press Poetry Prize 

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

Deadline: Reading period begins April 1, 2023. Manuscripts must be received via Submittable by June 12, 2023, 11:59 pm EST.  Winner notified in August 2023.

Entry Fee: In an effort to better serve poets during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no entry fee for this year’s contest.

Judge: Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. (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Eligibility: All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by Black poets of African descent who have had no more than one full-length book of poetry published by a professional press(chapbooks and self-published works are excluded). Simultaneous submissions to other book awards should be noted: immediate notification upon winning such an award is required. Manuscripts are read without the judge’s knowledge of contestants’ identities.

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 will be 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.


  • Submit manuscripts online at Hard copy submissions will not be considered.
  • One manuscript per poet.
  • Include your cover letter in the Submittable text box—DO NOT include within the .doc or .pdf document of your manuscript. Your cover letter should include a brief author’s bio (200 words, maximum) and contact information: author’s name, postal address, e-mail address and telephone number. Please also include within the cover letter a list of acknowledgments of previously published poems.
  • Upload manuscript online as a .doc or .pdf document. Include a title page with the title only and table of contents on separate pages. Author’s name should not appear on any pages within the manuscript and must be redacted if it appears in any of the poems.
  • Manuscript must be paginated with a font size of 11 or 12 and 50-75 pages in length, inclusive of table of contents. A poem may be multiple pages, but no more than one poem per page is permitted.
  • Do not include illustrations or images of any kind.
  • Manuscripts not adhering to submission guidelines will be considered ineligible without notice to the applicant.
  • Post-submission revisions or corrections are not permitted.

2020 Winner

Selected by judge Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Brionne Janae is the 2020 winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for her manuscript Blessed are the Peacemakers. Janae will receive $1,000, publication by Northwestern University Press in spring 2022, 15 copies of the book, and a feature reading in New York City.

Brionne Janae is a poet and educator living in Brooklyn. They are a recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph Emerging Artist award, a Hedgebrook alum, and a proud Cave Canem fellow. Their poetry has been published in PloughsharesThe American Poetry ReviewThe Academy of American Poets Poem-a-DayThe Sun Magazine, jubilatPlume, and Waxwing, among others. Brionne’s first collection of poetry, After Jubilee, was published by Boaat Press. Off the page, they go by Breezy.

Honorable Mention: Shayla Hawkins for Exquisite by September.