Cave Canem 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.


Cave Canem Prize

Award: Winner receives $1,000, publication by University of Pittsburgh Press in fall 2024, 15 copies of the book, and a feature reading. 

Eligibility: All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by Black writers of African descent who have not had a full-length book of poetry published by a professional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 University of Pittsburgh Press; and authors who have published a book or have a book under contract with University of Georgia 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 at Hard copy submissions will not be considered.
  • One manuscript per poet.
  • 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 a cover letter in the Submittable text box—DO NOT include within the .doc or .pdf document of the 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 60-75 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.
  • Manuscripts not adhering to submission guidelines will not be considered.
  • Post-submission revisions or corrections are not permitted.

2022 Winner

Headshot of Ariana Benson. Her headshot is B&W. Ariana's gaze is directly toward thw camera. She is wearing chain linked earrings and a singular necklace.Willie Perdomo selected Ariana Benson as the winner of the 2022 Cave Canem Prize for her manuscript Black Pastoral. Benson will receive $1,000 and publication by University of Georgia Press in fall 2023. Read the full announcement here.

Ariana Benson was born in Norfolk, Virginia. A 2022 recipient of the Furious Flower Poetry Prize and the Porter House Review Poetry Prize, Benson also won the 2021 Graybeal Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets, and an Academy of American Poets Prize from her alma mater, Spelman College. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Poetry, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, World Literature Today, and elsewhere.

She serves as a Helen Degen Cohen Summer Reading Fellow with Rhino Poetry and a Nonfiction Editor of Auburn Avenue Literary Journal. Benson has received fellowships and support from Poets & Writers, Breadloaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, The Seventh Wave, Indiana University Writers’ Conference, Oak Spring Garden Foundation, and others. Through her writing, she strives to fashion vignettes of Blackness that speak to its infinite depth and richness.


Runner Up

Olatunde Osinaike


This program is supported, in part, by the Amazon Literary Partnership Poetry Fund in partnership with the Academy of American Poets; Consolidated Edison Company of New York; a Humanities New York Action Grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities; National Endowment for the Arts; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; and the Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.