contest poetry book award

Main Street Rag's
Annual Poetry Book Award

Guidelines / Mailing Instructions

/ Previous Winners


Winner: Miss Desert Inn by Ron Salisbury, San Diego, CA.


Because Autumn by John Krumberger, Minneapolis, MN
Forty Miles North of Nowhere by LeRoy N. Sorenson, St. Paul, MN
Haecceity by Jeffrey L. Schneider, Ellenville, NY
Knead by Sue Dunlap, Walland, TN
Peter Cobalt in the Weeds by W.T. Pfefferle, Albuquerque, NM
River Scar by Paul Martin, Allentown, PA
Tenement Threnody by Meredith Trede, Sleepy Hollow, NY
Waiting on Unknown Roads by Sara Claytor, Carrboro, NC
Worker by Gary Hawkins, Black Mountain, NC

Because the primary purpose for our contest is to select manuscripts for publication, all of the finalists have been offered publication. Announcements for their release dates will appear first in the MSR Monthly Newsletter and they will be available first (at discount) on the Coming Soon Page of the MSR Online Bookstore


2016 MSR Poetry Book Award Guidelines
Entry: September 1, 2015 -- February 1, 2016
(POSTMARK deadline--for those using snail mail)

Online Submission: Payment must arrive by 5pm Eastern time, January 31, 2016, but manuscripts have until Monday, February, 5pm Eastern (New York) time to be emailed. Please consult file preparation prior to PAYING to enter via email. If you can't prep the file to specs, it nees to be snail mailed.

Reading Fee: $25 ($27 for online entry).

****Notification in April for Winter 2016/2017 publication. ****

Winner receives 50 books and $1200. Runners up also considered for publication.

Send between 48 and 84 pages of poetry, no more than one poem per page, 12 point type in an easily readable font like Arial or Times New Roman. Do not include Table of Contents in page count and print/submit on a letter size sheet of paper.

Include a separate cover letter with manuscript title, author's name, and all pertinent contact information. Author’s name should not appear anywhere in manuscript.

Our goal is "blind" judging. Do Not Include Dedication and/or Credits/Acknowledgements Pages in entry. For the purpose of fairness, it is important that judges know as little about the author as possible and these pages are not relevant to the judging process. In the past, if these items accidentally slipped through registration, readers were instructed to disqualify manuscripts that arrive with credits, acknowledgements, or author's name on them anywhere. This year we have changed that rule. Since our primary goal for the MSR Poetry Book Award is to select manuscripts for publication, we will no longer disqualify those who blatantly disregard the rules. They can't win, but they will still be considered for publication.

For notification of receipt, entries can include a post card, but if they include an email address, we will send a verification of receipt via email once it has been processed for entry (entered into our database). Entries should include a #10 SASE ( This is a standard business size: 4 X 10) for winner notification if they do not choose to be notified by email. Please not not waste postage on a 9 X 12 since no manuscripts will be returned regardless of what size envelope is provided.

No restriction on content style or subject--we're looking for the best manuscript.

***Although MSR frowns on simultaneous submissions for our magazine, it is acceptable for our book contests. Upon notification, however, winner must immediately withdraw his/her mss from consideration elsewhere.


Mailing Instructions:

All checks should be made payable to Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001.

DO NOT USE Postal Service Media Mail. The USPS has changed its standards for Media Mail and is enforcing it much more readily than it once did. Use First class and if you are worried about it arriving, pay the extra 70 cents for Delivery Confirmation.

DO NOT use clips or binding of any kind. We have HUNDREDS of clips here from years of submissions and we remove anything that comes in a binder or folder and throw away the binder or folder. If you want to pay for those materials and the additional shipping to get the manuscript here only to have it thrown away, that's your choice. It will not go to any readers in a binder of any kind.

DO NOT send anything that must be signed for (Signature Receipt or Express Mail) since it means having to stand in line to receive it and we don't have time for that--particularly on the days immediately preceeding and immediately after the postmark deadline. And please don't use FED EX to send anything to our physical location since their local drivers are literacy challenged (they don't read instructions and we may not receive what you send as a result).

Contest Recommendations

***Postage Saver Special***
For those who read all the way down the page!!!

Email Submission Instructions

Main Street Rag does allow for email submissions, but the guidelines are even more specific, so please read them carefully before choosing this option and give yourself enough time to prepare the manuscript file properly.

Guidelines for email submissions

Online Payment


Previous Winners (and authors selected for publication):

2014 Winner: If You Find Yourself by Brian Heston, Atlanta, GA.


Slag by Leslie Ann McIlroy, Pittsburgh, PA
A Woman's Season by Jacqueline Johnson, Brooklyn, NY
The Circumference of a Jar by Erin Rodoni, San Diego, CA
Inventing Sex by Peg Robarchek, Charlotte, NC
Rubbernecking by Molly Prosser, Pittsburgh, PA

Honorable Mentions:

Pulling a Thread by Tony Morris, Savannah, GA
The Teleology of Dunes by Martin Settle, Charlotte, NC
Crimes Against Birds by Denton Loving, Speedwell, TN
Swan and Jack-knife by Nikia Leopold, Ruxton, MD
Washing Birds by Joyce Thomas, Castleton, VT
Time Pieces by Mark Smith-Soto, Greensboro, NC

2013 Winner: All the Heat We Could Carry by Charlie Bondhus, Bridgewater, NJ.

Finalists (in alphabetical order):

A Generation of Insomniacs by Anthony Frame, Toledo, OH
Geode by Ona Gritz, Hoboken, NJ
Glimpses of a Forever-foreigner by Lawrence Matsuda, Seattle, WA
History of Grey by Kate Kingston, Trinidad, CO
How to Leave Your Husband by Sage Cohen,
The Vocation of Illness by Cortney Davis, Redding, CT
Water Turning Red by Elisabeth Murawski, Alexandria, VA
When the World was Rear-wheel Drive by Timothy Walsh, Madison, WI

Honorable Mentions:

Black & White, Red All Over by D.F. Brown, Houston, TX
The Distance to Nightfall by Patricia L. Hamilton, Jackson, TN
Hold Still by Terry Godbey, Orlando, FL
Soon I Will Build an Ark by Wendy Scott, Pittsburgh, PA


2012 Winner: Shortly Thereafter by Colin D. Halloran, Boston, MA

Finalists/Runners up (in alphabetical order):

For(e)closure by Mary Weems, Cleveland Heights, OH
Graffiti Signatures by Cody Todd, Los Angeles, CA
The Hush Before the Animals Attack by Carol Matos, New York, NY
The Sudden Country by David Mills, Long Island City, NY
Temple Portico by Rachel Languille, Mission Viejo, CA
Wonderful Terrible by Dion N. Farquhar, Santa Cruz, CA

2011 Winner: Elegies for New York Avenue by Melanie Henderson of Washington, DC.

Finalists/Runners up (in alphabetical order):

Banjo String Theory by Lynn Pattison, Kalamazoo, MI
Devil's Messengers by David Allen Sullivan, Santa Cruz, CA
Dopplegangster by Patrick Moran, Fort Atkinson, WI
Heinz 56 by Amanda Reynolds, Pittsburgh, PA
Silver by Jason McCall, Tuscaloosa, AL
System of Hideouts by Heather McNaughter, Pittsburgh, PA
Zero is the Whole I Fall into at Night by Becky Thompson, Jamaica Plain, MA


2010 Winner: Yehoshua November of Morristown, NJ for God's Optimism which was also a finalist for the LA Times book of the Year.

Others who were offered publication as result of entering the MSR Poetry Book Award Contest: Sicilian Secrets by Joan Mazza, Mineral, VA, The Decadent Lovely by Amy Pence, Carrollton, GA, Wave by Andrew A. Sofer, Roslindale, MA, An Innocent in the House of the Dead by Joanna Catherine Scott, Chapel Hill, NC, Framed in Silence by Lynn L. Domina, Delhi, NY, Where Once by Sally S. McNall, Paradise, CA, Chemical Tendencies by Paul Lieber, Venice, CA, Following Ghosts Upriver by Marc M. Pietrzykowski, Atlanta, GA, The Language of Shedding Skin by Niki N. Herd, Tucson, AZ.

2009 Winner:  Leslie McGrath, Stonington, CT for her collection, Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage which is available in the MSR Bookstore.

Others who were offered publication as result of entering the MSR Poetry Book Award Contest: We Call This Thing Between Us Love by Jason Mott, Bolton, NC, In the Cathedral Soul of the World by Pamela Porter, Sidney, BC (Canada), The Fourth Paradise by V.P. Loggins, Annapolis, MD, Piece by Piece by Cynthia Veach, Manchester, MA, Bone Key Elegies by Danielle Sellers, Oxford, MS, Stranger in Congers by Harry Waitzman, Congers, NY, Commotion of Wings by Colette Tennant, Salem, OR, Dear Truth by Paul Hostovsky, Medfield, MA, Transister Rodeo by Jon Wilkins, Santa Fe, NM, Sin for Beginners by Holly Woodward, Hoboken, NJ, Sex, Religion, Groceries by Sally Fisher, New York, NY

2008 Winner:  Roy Seeger, Aiken, SC for his collection, The Boy Whose Hands Were Birds which is available in the MSR Bookstore.

Others who were offered publication as result of entering the MSR Poetry Book Award Contest: The Almost Sound of Drowning by Joan Bauer, Pittsburgh, PA; The Fire in Which We Burn by Dennis Stiles, Charleston, SC; How Sound Carries Over Water by Brenda Graham, Denver, NC; Late News from the Wilderness by Elinor Benedict, Naples, FL; My Career in the Secret Mission Service by Tim Walsh, Madison, WI; The Orpheus Complex by Leonard Kress, Perrysburg, OH; When the Stars Go Dark by Jim McGarrah, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Bending the Notes by Paul Hostovsky, Medfield, MA; Howling on Red Dirt Roads by Sarah Claytor, Carrboro, NC; The Relentlessness of Salvation by Robert Parham, Augusta, GA; Ways to Reshape the Heart by P.V. LeForge, Grand Ridge, FL; The Words We Used by Robert Cooperman, Denver, CO.

2007 Winner:  Heather Davis, Front Royal, VA for her collection, The Lost Tribe of Us which is available in the MSR Bookstore.

Others who were offered publication as result of entering the MSR Poetry Book Award Contest: Apparition Wren by Maureen Alsop (Palm Springs, CA), Deadpan by K.A. Holt (Fort Worth, TX), The Dream of Leaving by Sharon Leiter (Palmyra, VA), The Flower Sermon by David Manning (Cary, NC), Living in Free Fall by Jan Wesley (Austin, TX), Riding Free in the Blue Studebaker by Janell Moon (Emeryville, CA), Tongue and Groove by Chuck Rybak (Oneida, WI) and The Death of the Poem and other paragraphs by Justin Courter (Astoria, NY).

2006 Winner:  Jennifer K. Sweeney, San Francisco, CA for her collection, Salt Memory which is available in the MSR Bookstore.

Others who were offered publication as result of entering the MSR Poetry Book Award Contest: First runner up Neil Carpathios of Massilon, OH (Playground of Flesh), Pam Crow of Portland, OR (Inside This House), Penelope Scambly Schott of Portland, OR (May the Generations Die in the Right Order), Patrick Carrington of Wildwood Crest, NJ (Rise, Fall and Acceptance), Terry Wolverton of Los Angeles, CA (Shadow and Praise), Indigo Moor of Rancho Cordova, CA(Tap-root), Randall Horton of Chicago, IL(The Definition of Place) and Jessica Sampley of Arley, AL(Tuscaloosa to Tupelo).

2005 Winner:  Jay Griswold, N. Fort Myers, FL for his collection, Conquistador which is available in the MSR Bookstore.

Also published as part of this contest: First runner up Mary Christine Delea for her book, The Skeleton Holding Up the Sky and Mark Smith-Soto for his book Any Second Now.

2004 Winner:  Jim Ferris, Verona, WI for his collection, The Hospital Poems which is available in the MSR Bookstore. This book was also named a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Natalie Ornish Best Book of Poetry Award for 2004.

Also published as part of this contest: First runner up Cathryn Essinger for her book, My Dog Does Not Read Plato and Heather Smith for her book Each End of the World.

2003 Winner:  Matt Morris, Elkview, WV for his collection, Nearing Narcoma which is available in the MSR Bookstore.

2002 Winner:  Pam Bernard, Boston, MA for her collection, Across The Dark which is available in the MSR Bookstore.



Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001
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