The Sexton Prize is an annual publication award now with a $2,000 prize for an outstanding new collection of poetry by an American poet.
The winning manuscript will be published by Black Spring Press in the United Kingdom, and distributed in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom and Ireland, in the publishing year of 2021-2022. We will enter it into all eligible prizes and send it for review widely.
The Sexton Prize is open to poets at all career stages, from emerging to established; poets of every age and level of publication experience are encouraged to submit. Finalists will also be considered for publication
The final judge for the 2021 Sexton Prize is Professor Cornelius Eady.
Poet and cofounder of Cave Canem, Cornelius Eady has published more than half a dozen volumes of poetry, among them Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; The Gathering of My Name (1991), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Brutal Imagination (2001), a National Book Award finalist. Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems appeared in 2008.
Brutal Imagination includes a theater sequence that responds to the notorious 1994 incident in which Susan Smith, a white woman from South Carolina, claimed that an African American man had kidnapped her children. The FBI searched for the man until Smith confessed the truth: she had invented the man and had drowned the children. Eady’s sequence, which creates a detailed persona of the imaginary suspect, was adapted into an off-Broadway play that won the Newsday Oppenheimer Award. Eady also collaborated with Diedre Murray on a libretto for a roots opera, Running Man, based on his poems, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
His full biography can be found here on the Poetry Foundation website.
• Submissions must be made via our Submittable page. The fee to submit WAS $35 but is now FREE as of June 19th, 2020, to encourage all Americans at this time of sorrow, struggle, bravery, hardship and epidemic, to enter without any financial concerns in doing so. Those who entered before this date will be reimbursed. An optional fee of ten dollars is available for those able and wishing to help fund this year's exceptional prize in such challenging times for small presses, and poets.
• Manuscripts must be original work, between 48 and 120 pages in length, by a single author, in the English language, single-spaced and with 12 font size Arial or Times New Roman. There are no restrictions on style or subject matter. Our press encourages writers from diverse backgrounds to submit their work.
• Individual poems in the submission may have been previously published online, in periodicals, or in chapbooks, but the collection as a whole must not have been previously published (self-publishing constitutes prior publication).
• Submissions should be made without the inclusion of an acknowledgments page, as the judge will not consider this information. No anonymous submissions can be made.
The Sexton Prize is open to poets who either reside in the United States of America, or who will be residing there for at least a year, as of 2021. The Prize is open to American citizens as well as residents holding legal permission, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, Temporary Protected, and Legal Permanent (“green card”), among others.
Code of Ethics
• All entries will be screened by the Black Spring Books editorial team; we will not use students or interns to screen submissions. A meaningful shortlist of at least ten poetry collections will be sent to the Final Judge. A longlist and shortlist may be made public.
• Close friends, employees, family members, and current students of the final judge are not eligible to submit to The Sexton Prize.
• The Sexton Prize takes its name from the church office of the sexton: a custodian of sacred objects and a ringer of bells that call communities to gather. It’s our mission in The Sexton Prize to be caretakers of literary talent in our time, and to sound the call for international literary communities to come together in the celebration of poetry.
Eyewear reserves the right to terminate this competition at any time, for any reason, without fault; any submissions will be reimbursed in full upon cancellation. We cannot enter into correspondence unless and until your collection is selected. We reserve the right to extend the deadline if insufficient entries have been received.
Note, if selected to be the winner, the submitting contestant must accept the prize.