Starshine and Clay Fellowship

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Cave Canem and EcoTheo Collective are pleased to announce the 2024 Starshine and Clay Fellowship. Developed in 2020, this initiative provides financial and developmental support to emerging Black poets. Named in honor of Cave Canem elder Lucille Clifton (“won’t you celebrate with me”), the Starshine and Clay Fellowship was developed to speak to the mentorship Clifton offered Cave Canem fellows during her tenure as faculty at the Cave Canem Retreat.

Award: Two recipients will each receive $500 for a featured reading at the 2024 Wonder Festival. Fellowship recipients will also receive a one-on-one consultation with aracelis girmay. Additionally, the fellows’ work will be published in an issue of EcoTheo Review.

Deadline: Applications must be received via Submittable by December 17th, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Recipients will be notified by email on April 18, 2023.

Entry Fee: There is no entry fee for this fellowship application.

Judge: aracelis girmay

Eligibility: All adult Black writers who have not had a full-length book published by or currently under contract with a professional press. Authors of chapbooks and self-published books with a maximum print run of 500 may apply.


  • 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 EcoTheo Collective.

If any of the selected poets 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 or participation in a workshop taught by the judge is not disqualifying criterion.

Submission Guidelines:

  • 6-8 pages of unpublished poems. A poem may be multiple pages, but no more than one poem per page is permitted.
  • The fellowship welcomes poets writing from a variety of themes and perspectives. Poets writing on ecological, spiritual, and/or theological concerns are particularly encouraged to apply.
  • Submit manuscripts online via Submittable. Hard-copy submissions will not be considered. One manuscript per poet is allowed.
  • Author’s name should not appear on any pages within the uploaded document.
  • Upload manuscript as a .doc or .pdf document.
  • Manuscripts not adhering to submission guidelines will not be considered.
  • Post-submission revisions or corrections are not permitted.


  • Cave Canem fellows and alums are welcome to apply, but no more than two may receive this fellowship per cohort.
  • Please update your Submittable contact information if it still needs to be updated with your email address and phone number. Cave Canem will use this information if we need to reach you.


About the Judge:

aracelis girmay (2003)* is a poet and teacher who makes work across genres. In collaboration with artist Valentina Améstica and the Center for Book Arts, a limited edition chapbook of her new work will be out in the fall (2023). She is the editor of So We Can Know: Writers of Color on Pregnancy, Loss, Abortion, and Birth (Haymarket, 2023) and is the editor-at-large of the Blessing the Boats Selections. She is also on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund. For her work Girmay was a finalist for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

*Inaugural Cave Canem fellowship year


About EcoTheo Collective:

EcoTheo Collective envisions a world in which care for the places we inhabit, the people we encounter, and the lives we lead makes for lasting beauty in art, nature, and community. In the work we publish online and quarterly print editions of EcoTheo Review, we cultivate conversation and connection with artists and writers to bring original work to a wide audience invested in the relationships between ecology and theology, earth justice, and social justice. ETR was founded in 2013 at Princeton Theological Seminary as a literary journal dedicated to “enlivening conversations and commitments around ecology, spirituality, and art.” We celebrate and share original writing, visual art, interviews, book reviews, and scholarly articles that explore questions of religion and spirituality within contexts of ecology. The Starshine and Clay Fellowship, a partnership with Cave Canem, honors the legacy of Lucille Clifton and supports emerging Black poets with paid publishing and performing opportunities, along with mentorship from Cave Canem poets. All our work expresses our values of curiosity, justice, and community. 

Funder: EcoTheo Collective