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Poetry Center

Contests and Awards

Contact Poetry Center  

Poetry Center

Address:
720 South High Street
Main Hall, Rm 143
West Chester, PA 19383


Phone: 610-436-3235
Email: poetry@wcupa.edu

Contests and Awards

  • Female award recipient giving acceptance speech

For contest and award details please see the respective sections below.

Poetry Awards

Donald Justice Poetry Award

The distinguished American poet Donald Justice is recognized as one of the finest poets of the late twentieth century. The recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Bollingen Prize, and numerous honors for his verse, Justice was a masterful and exacting craftsman, traits that define the prize named in his honor. The prize is made possible through the generosity of the Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award. The Justice Award welcomes unpublished, original book-length collections of poems that pay attention to form for consideration in the competition. The winner of the competition will receive $1,500, and have her/his manuscript published.

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to all American poets regardless of whether they have previously published a book-length collection.
  • The manuscript should be between 50-100 typed pages in unbound, bound, or clipped form.
  • No more than one-third of the manuscript may consist of permission-secured or public domain translations.
  • The manuscript should contain two title pages: one with the collection's title, author's name, address, e-mail address, and telephone number; and the other with only the title.
  • There is a $25 entry fee for each manuscript submitted. Make payment to: Donald Justice Poetry Award-West Chester University.
  • 2019 Competition: All submissions for the 2019 competition must be postmarked no later than November 1, 2018.

Manuscripts should be mailed to:

    • WCU Poetry Awards
      720 S. High Street
      Main Hall
      West Chester University
      West Chester, PA 19383
    • Also send an electronic copy to: poetry@wcupa.edu.

Submitted manuscripts will not be returned. For notification of contest results, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

The winner will receive her/his prize, and give a public reading at the annual West Chester University Poetry Conference in early June 2019.

Donald Justice Biography

2019 Judge: Erica Dawson

Erica is the author of two collections of poetry: The Small Blades Hurt (Measure Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Poets' Prize, and Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser Press, 2007), winner of the 2006 Anthony Hecht Prize. Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Birmingham Poetry Review, Blackbird, Literary Imagination, Unsplendid, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other journals. Her poems have been featured in several anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2008, 2012, and 2015, American Society: What Poets See; Living in Storms: Contemporary Poetry and the Moods of Manic-Depression; and The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets.

Erica's third book, When Rap Spoke Straight to God, will be published by Tin House Books in Fall 2018.

Born and raised in Maryland, Erica holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University, an MFA from Ohio State University, and a PhD from University of Cincinnati. She’s taught workshops and seminars at the Florida Arts Coalition's Other Words Conference, St. Leo University's Sandhill Writers Retreat, and the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon. Erica is the Director of The University of Tampa's Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing, and, at UT, an associate professor of English and Writing.

She lives in Tampa with her Shih-Tzu, Stella, whom she named after Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, not Tennessee Williams' Stella or Stella Artois, though Erica really likes Tennessee Williams and Stella Artois.

Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award

Created by Kean W. Spencer in honor of his mother, a reader and community servant, the award welcomes unpublished, original poems composed in the traditional modes of meter, rhyme and received forms and offers a first prize ($1,500), and a runner-up prize ($500).

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to undergraduate poets who are enrolled in a United States college or university.
  • The author's name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, and name of college or university attended should be submitted on a separate sheet.
  • There is no fee to enter. Submissions may be a combination of poems submitted to the Iris N. Spencer Award, the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, or the Rhina P. Espaillat Poetry Award. Limit of three poems per contest.
  • All submissions must be postmarked or e-mailed no later than March 1, 2019.
  • Submissions should be mailed to:
    • WCU Poetry Awards
      720 S. High Street
      Main Hall, Rm 143
      West Chester University
      West Chester, PA 19383
  • Electronic submissions may be sent as an e-mail attachment to:
    poetry@wcupa.edu (put WCU Poetry Awards in the subject line).

Submitted poems will not be returned. For notification of contest results please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Iris Spencer

Myong Cha Son Haiku Award

Created by Kyle R. Spencer, and named for his mother-in-law, the award welcomes unpublished, original haiku and offers a first prize ($1,500) and a runner-up prize ($500).

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to undergraduate poets who are enrolled in a United States college or university.
  • The author's name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, and name of college or university attended should be submitted on a separate sheet.
  • There is no fee to enter. Submissions may be a combination of poems submitted to the Iris N. Spencer Award, the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, or the Rhina P. Espaillat Poetry Award. Limit of two poems per contest.
  • All submissions must be postmarked or e-mailed no later than March 1, 2019.
  • Submissions should be mailed to:
    • WCU Poetry Awards
      720 S. High Street
      Main Hall, Rm 143
      West Chester University
      West Chester, PA 19383
  • Electronic submissions may be sent as an e-mail attachment to:
    poetry@wcupa.edu (put WCU Poetry Awards in the subject line).

Submitted poems will not be returned. For notification of contest results please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Myong Cha Son

Rhina P. Espaillat Award

Rhina P. Espaillat, born in the Dominican Republic, started writing poetry in Spanish and English after her family was exiled to the United States. She has published in both languages. This $500 undergraduate prize celebrates original poems written in Spanish and translations of English poems to Spanish.

Applicants for this prize are asked to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • The annual competition is open to undergraduate poets who are enrolled in a United States college or university.
  • The author's name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, and name of college or university attended should be submitted on a separate sheet.
  • There is no fee to enter. Submissions may be a combination of poems submitted to the Iris N. Spencer Award, the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, or the Rhina P. Espaillat Poetry Award. Limit of two poems per contest.
  • All submissions must be postmarked or e-mailed no later than March 1, 2019.
  • Submissions should be mailed to:
    • WCU Poetry Awards
      720 S. High Street
      Main Hall, Rm 143
      West Chester University
      West Chester, PA 19383
  • Electronic submissions may be sent as an e-mail attachment to:
    poetry@wcupa.edu (put WCU Poetry Awards in the subject line).

Submitted poems will not be returned. For notification of contest results please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.


2018 Award Winners

Chad Abushanab (Donald Justice Poetry Award)

Chad Abushanab

Chad Abushanab is the winner of the 2018 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His first poetry collection is forthcoming from Autumn House Press in 2019.

His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2017, Birmingham Poetry Review, Ecotone, Southern Poetry Review, Measure: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Shenandoah, The Hopkins Review, Unsplendid, and 32 Poems, among others. He currently lives in Lubbock, Texas where he is a doctoral candidate in literature and creative writing at Texas Tech University, as well as an associate editor at Iron Horse Literary Review.

Here is one of Chad's poems, "Love Poem with Five Lines Stolen from VHS Boxes."

Love Poem with Five Lines Stolen from VHS Boxes

I woke up wild, soaked in nervous sweat.
I stepped outside and thought that I might howl
but found the clouds too dark to see the moon.
Inside, I felt the nubs of fangs put pressure
on my tender gums, and searched the fridge
for anything that bleeds, anything raw.
My clothes became too tight, and crescent claws
broke through my fingertips. "It's beautiful,"
you said, while floating down the spiral stairs.
I wallowed in disgusting joy and tore
your powder evening gown to ribbons. You fit
me with a studded leash, a mongrel beast
who writhed beside your feet and lapped the pools
of moonlight from the street. I loved the way
you made me less than man. I loved the way
you fed me from your hand, and told me good
when I was being bad. I drank the blood
of alley cats I snared between my teeth,
and dug the graves for each beneath the porch.
From what I can recall, the lust for meat
was terrible and sweet. We made dark love,
you sent me out for more. When neighbor kids
began to disappear, you stroked my head.
You watched old horror tapes for strategies
to keep me wild, hidden, yours. For weeks,
I stayed inside. I fed on bones and rot.
You sat in the window, wished away the sun,
and waited for the day they all forgot.
You asked of me just who is more depraved,
the monster or the one who made him so?
Your love's like blood. It coats my hungry tongue.
For reasons such as this, I still don't know.

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Morgan Ome (1st Place - Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Morgan Ome, Johns Hopkins University

Morgan Ome is a rising senior double majoring in Writing Seminars and Italian at the Johns Hopkins University. Her poetry has been published in Rookie Magazine, and in addition to writing poems, she enjoys reporting as a student journalist. This year, Morgan was a News & Features Editor for The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, the independent, student newspaper of the University, and will serve as Editor-in-Chief in the fall.

Phosphenes

The place where you once stood is filled with light
that’s soft like sunrise, pearly grey and blue.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

Fine particles of dust pulsate, like white
noise, off your spectral silhouette. It’s true
the place where you once stood is filled, with light

and quivering shapes, reminders that you might
return one day. You left a single shoe.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

You left more things like leather journals, bright
striped t-shirts, vintage whiskey: gateways to
the place where you once stood. Is filled with light

the same as filled with love? Stop by the site
where we exploded, see the mess that grew.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

The heartache on my face this sleepless night
(post-you, post-me), carves lines. I ache for you.
The place where you once stood is filled with light.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

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Emily Stepp (2nd Place - Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Emily Stepp, UNC

Emily is a rising Junior and an English major, with a concentration in creative writing, at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She self-published her first fantasy novel during her senior year in high school. When not reading science fiction or fantasy, she is usually working on one of her many story ideas.

In New York, Before We Met

You’re not smiling in this one either
but I imagine that
under those sunglasses
your eyes smile for you.

Your headphones
make me wonder
if I’d like that song too.

You don’t seem to notice the buildings
staring down at you;
you’re too focused
on staring at the camera.

You don’t smile in photos
not even selfies.
And I wonder if

Your smile
would make me feel better
than when you say

I love you.

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Daniel Garcia (1st Place Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Daniel Garcia, University of North Texas

Daniel Garcia is a Pushcart nominated, queer writer of color based out in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Daniel’s work has appeared in Write About Now Poetry, Button Poetry, Hawaii Pacific Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Rathalla Review, and more. When Daniel isn’t writing, Daniel can be found giving as many hugs as possible, living by the words, “You are all that you have,” and falling off the edge of the Earth. As of 2017, Daniel is the current College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) national haiku champion, and the recipient of the 2018 Myong Cha Son Haiku Award.

Me, Too

“Is it my fault,” the
skirt asked. / “No,” said the veil. “It
happened to me, too.”

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Haley Beasley (Runner Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Haley Beasley, West Texas

Haley Beasley, 22 years old is from Muleshoe, TX. She is currently a senior at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX and will graduate in May 2019. She enjoys writing and reading in her spare time and plans on going into publishing after graduation while continuing to write her own work. She also enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Belle and Morgana.

The Nightly Routine

You, me, and three dogs
Sleeping on a twin-sized bed
Is pain in Heaven.

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Jemma Fisher (Runner Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Jemma Fisher, Sarah Lawrence College

Snow swallows our tracks
White hushed horizon and a
Solitary finch

Yvette Ndlovu (Runner Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Yvette Ndlovu, Cornell

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean writer studying English at Cornell University. She has worked at Durland Alternatives Library’s Prisoner Express Program as a Poetry Editor and received the 2017 George Harmon Coxe Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post and the Cornell Daily Sun.

Soul Mate

roots snaking through dirt
nourished by a frothing spring
few will ever find

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Alejandro Lemus Gomez (Rhina P. Espaillat Award)

Alejandro Lemus Gomez, Young Harris College

Alejandro Lemus-Gomez was born in Miami, the son of Cuban exiles, and now lives in the rural Appalachian Mountains. He is the 2018 winner of the Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Contest in poetry. He studies English and philosophy at Young Harris College in North Georgia. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in storySouth, Indiana Review Online, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and other journals.

Bautizo de Agua Salada

Déjame mojar mi cabeza en el agua salada
que yo nací muy cerca y quiero hundirme lentamente
en el mar solo para emerger de nuevo.

Deja que mi piel de oliva se convierta en polvo,
déjame vadear el fondo del Atlántico como
cuando apisono su arena—sus partículas blancas

que se despiertan alarmadas solo para caer
suavemente, como mi madre cuando se duerme.
Deja que mi sangre tiña el agua, como manchas

de luz—cubriendo las caras de mis ancestros
y bisabuelos a quienes solo conozco por cuentos.
Déjame ser un grano de sal en el mar, una gota

de sudor que caiga en el agua, o una lágrima
de niño, para cuando Miami vuelva a crecer
poder romper en la orilla como una ola.

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Mayra Arrevalo (Rhina P. Espaillat Award)

Mayra Arrevalo, Augustana College

My name is Mayra Arevalo. I consider myself a chicana. I take great pride in the neighborhood in which I was brought up. I was forced out in order to pursue an education. From Chicago to Rock Island I am working to obtain a sociology major at Augustana College. I focus my poetry on daily struggles faced by Latinos. I focus my time working at the Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley and running our on-campus group Latinx Unidos. I feel very passionate about both due to being able to inspire and empower youth and other college students.

Pertenecer

Vivo en dos mundos
Uno en cual los libros abundan
Y otro en cual la canción de cada noche es el ruido de una sirena
Un mundo en cual no pertenezco
Y otro en cual todos ven muy bajo
Aprovecha me dicen a cada rato
Que no vez que tienes la oportunidad de volar lejos de aquí
La realidad no la ven pues de lejos y sobre la superficie todo es hermoso
Pero no ven que mantenerse aquí se vuelve complicado
Empiezas a sentir coraje pues pones todo de ti y nunca es suficiente
Y ahí es cuando te sientes sola pues los del otro mundo no entienden eso
Y llegas a un punto que ningún mundo es tuyo
Ni el nuevo ni el viejo ni los dos juntos

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2017 AWARD WINNERS

Ryan Wilson (Donald Justice Poetry Award)

Prize awarded for The Stranger World.

Ryan Wilson was born in Griffin, Georgia, and raised in nearby Macon. His poems, translations, and criticism appear widely, in journals such as 32 Poems, Able Muse, Dappled Things, First Things, the Hopkins Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, Sewanee Theological Review, and Unsplendid. Recently he has been a finalist for the Vassar Miller Book Prize, the Morton Marr Poetry Prize, and the Frost Farm Poetry Prize, and he has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded the Eleanor Clark Prize from the Robert Penn Warren Circle and the Walter Sullivan Prize for Promise in Criticism from the Sewanee Review. He holds graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins University and Boston University, and he is currently a doctoral candidate at the Catholic University of America.

Brittney McDonald (Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Brittney McDonald is a Cache Valley, Utah, native and is currently studying Creative Writing at Utah State University. She is President of her campus' creative writing club and has had poetry published in Vanilla Sex Magazine, Helicon West: An Anthology, and on broadsides and collections. Upon graduation in May of 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Brittney plans to work in Spain for a year in the school system as a Language Assistant.

Morgan Bilicki (Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Morgan Bilicki is a Georgia native, and currently lives in a small town tucked between the mountains. She is studying Creative Writing at Young Harris College, and while her focus is in poetry, she enjoys reading and writing in every genre, with her work often exploring Southern family dynamics, ties to old objects, and feminist themes. When not writing, she can be found catering to her miniature schnauzer’s persistent demands.

Jacqueline Keshner (Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Jacqueline Keshner is a rising junior and an English Literature and Economics double major at the College of William & Mary. Her work has been honored by the Illinois Upstate Eight Conference, the Illinois Association of Teachers of English, and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

MeiMei Liu (Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

MeiMei Liu is a 22 year-old first-year student at Whittier College, who has autism and is non-verbal. MeiMei is majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing and is a student of Tony Barnstone. She was recently awarded first place in the Whittier College annual scholarly writing contest for her paper on Homer’s Odyssey.

Alejandro Lemus-Gomez (Rhina P. Espaillat Award)

Alejandro Lemus-Gomez is a junior English major and Philosophy minor at Young Harris College. Originally from Miami, FL, he moved to the North Georgia mountains to attain his bachelor's degree. His poetry reflects his experiences growing up as a Cuban-American and his transition from urban to rural life. When he is not writing or reading, he can found gardening, playing music, or crafting jewelry.