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Cave Canem Poetry Prize

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Launched in 1999 with Rita Dove’s selection of Natasha Trethewey’s Domestic Work, this first-book award is dedicated to the discovery of exceptional manuscripts by black poets of African descent. View previous Prize Winning Books.

2019 Cave Canem Poetry Prize

Award: Winner receives $1,000, publication by University of Georgia Press in fall 2020, 15 copies of the book and a feature reading.

Deadline: Manuscripts must be submitted via Submittable no later than Sunday, March 31, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST. Winner announced via email by or before October 2019.

Entry Fee: $20. Entry fees are non-refundable.

Final Judge: Evie Shockley (Judge reserves the right not to select a winner and/or honorable mentions.)

First Readers: Marwa Helal and Tyree Daye

Manuscripts are read without the reviewers and judge’s knowledge of contestants’ identities.

Eligibility: All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by Black writers of African descent who have not had a full-length book of poetry published by a professional press. Authors of chapbooks and self-published books with a maximum print run of 500 may apply. Simultaneous submission to other book awards should be noted: immediate notice upon winning such an award is required. Winner agrees to be present in the continental United States at her or his own expense shortly after the book is published in order to participate in promotional reading(s).

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 the University of Pittsburgh Press; and authors who have published a book or have a book under contract with University of Pittsburgh 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 or participation in a workshop taught by the judge are not disqualifying criteria.


  • Submit manuscripts online via Submittable. Hard copy submissions will not be considered.
  • One manuscript per poet; one poet per manuscript.
  • Upload manuscript as a .doc or .pdf document.Include a title page with the title only and table of contents. Author’s name should not appear on any pages within the uploaded document.
  • Include your cover letter in the Submittable text box—DO NOT include within the .doc or .pdf document of your manuscript. Cover letter should include author’s brief bio (200 words, maximum) and list of acknowledgments of previously published poems.
  • Manuscript must be paginated, with a font size of 11 or 12, and 48-75 pages in length, inclusive of title page and table of contents. A poem may be multiple pages, but no more than one poem per page is permitted. Columns are not permitted.
  • Manuscripts not adhering to submission guidelines will not be considered.
  • Post-submission revisions or corrections are not permitted.

2018 Winner

Malcolm Tariq (by Hao Feng, August 2017)Selected by judge Chris Abani, Malcolm Tariq is the 2018 winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for his manuscript Heed the Hollow, which will be published by Graywolf Press in fall 2019. Tariq receives $1,000, publication by Graywolf Press, 10 complimentary copies of the book and a feature reading in New York City.

Malcolm Tariq is a Cave Canem Fellow from Savannah, Georgia and the author of Extended Play, winner of the 2017 Gertrude Press Poetry Chapbook Contest. He was a 2016-2017 playwriting apprentice at Horizon Theatre Company and is the recipient of a 2018 Ethel Woolson Lab from Working Title Playwrights. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in CURA, Vinyl, HEArt Online, Nepantla, Tinderbox, Blueshift Journal, and The Iowa Review. A graduate of Emory University, Malcolm has a PhD in English from the University of Michigan.

Honorable Mention: Hope Wabuke for The Body Family

Funder: National Endowment for the Arts