Thirteenth Annual Poetry Contest

The submission period is now closed. You can find active submission categories on the Submit Your Work page.

Narrative’s Thirteenth Annual Poetry Contest runs from May 14 until July 16. In a continuing effort to encourage and support talented poets, we’re offering prizes and widespread publicity to all winners and finalists. Narrative is always looking for new voices, so all entries will be considered for publication in the magazine.

The contest is open to all poets. Entries must be unpublished and must not have been previously chosen as winners, finalists, or honorable mentions in other contests. Each entry may contain up to five poems. The poems should all be contained in a single file. You may enter as many times as you wish, but we encourage you to be selective and to send your best work.

Narrative winners and finalists have gone on to win Whiting Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and the Atlantic prize, and have appeared in collections such as The Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, and many others. View the recent awards won by Narrative authors.

Notes on the contest: A few years ago, a NEA study found that, after two decades in decline, poetry reading in the United States is on the rise. While the study didn’t say definitively what’s behind this reversal, Narrative and other great venues that have continued to publish and support poetry and poets have doubtlessly contributed to the heightened interest in the art.

Still, just over one in ten adults in the United States reads poetry, and the economics of poetry are such that poetry is for the most part a subsidized, rather than a profitable, enterprise. Poets and poetry publishers are still engaged in labors of love, aided by patrons who believe in the importance of poetry.

Narrative is a nonprofit organization, and its poetry program, like its other programs, depends largely on the support of many dedicated individuals who contribute resources and time to make the magazine possible. We are committed to paying our authors as well as possible and to creating as much attention as possible for their work. The overall cost of publishing poetry (payments to authors, production costs, awards and prizes, promotion) is far more than what comes in from poetry-related reading and entry fees—the income is nowhere close to the expense. Our reasons for publishing poetry are not about submission fees but about wanting poetry to be an important part of what we do and wanting to give back as much as we can, because literature contributes so much to life.

Narrative has 280,000 readers, and our audience is steadily growing. With a sizable and engaged readership, Narrative places poets and poetry in front of many more readers than most venues can. We’re working hard to get the magazine, and all our authors and artists, into the world via digital and other means—for free—to as many people as possible.

Participating in Narrative, whether by simply reading, by becoming a donor, or by introducing a friend to the magazine, is a vote to encourage and sustain literary work at a vital time.

If you have any questions regarding the contest, please contact us.

We look forward to reading your poems and to the new pleasures and insights we may discover there.

Awards: First Prize is $1,500, Second Prize is $750, Third Prize is $300, and up to ten finalists will receive $75 each. All entries will be considered for publication.

Submission Fee: There is a $25 fee for each entry. With your entry, you’ll receive three months of complimentary access to Narrative Backstage.

All contest entries are eligible for the $4,000 Narrative Prize and for acceptance as a Poem of the Week.

Timing: The contest entry deadline is July 16, 2021, at midnight, Pacific daylight time.

Judging: The contest will be judged by the editors of the magazine. Winners and finalists will be announced to the public by September 30, 2021. All writers who enter will be notified by email of the judges’ decisions. The judges reserve the option to declare ties and to designate and award only as many winners and/or finalists as are appropriate to the quality of contest entries and of work represented in the magazine.

Submission Guidelines: Submissions may contain up to five poems. Your submission should give a strong sense of your style and range. We accept submissions of all poetic forms and genres but do not accept translations. Please read our Submission Guidelines for manuscript formatting and other information.

Other Submission Categories: In addition to our poetry contest, please review other Submission Categories that may interest you.