Cave Canem Poetry Prize

Cave Canem Poetry Prize

Established in 1999 with the selection of Natasha Trethewey’s Domestic Work by Rita Dove (Graywolf Press, 2000), this first-book award is dedicated to the discovery of exceptional manuscripts by black poets of African descent.

Award: Winner receives $1,000, publication by University of Georgia Press in fall 2017, 15 copies of the book and a feature reading.

Deadline: Manuscripts must be submitted no later than Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST. Winner announced via email by or before October 2016.

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


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

First Readers: Mahogany L. Browne and Dante Micheaux.

Manuscripts are read without the readers 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Eligibility: All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by black writers of African descent who have not had a full-length book of poetry published by a professional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 Georgia 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 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.
  • 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.

View previous Cave Canem Poetry Prize Winning Books

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