Vanderbilt University Literary Prize

The Vanderbilt University Literary Prize will be awarded annually to the sole author of a full-length collection of poetry that demonstrates great poignancy combined with rigor in form, language and artistic vision.



A collaboration between Vanderbilt University’s Office of the Chancellor, Vanderbilt University Press, and Vanderbilt University’s English Department and MFA Program, the annual contest seeks to identify works of poetry whose originality is immediately identifiable in how the book, in some combination, renews our relationship to language and expands our conception of poetry; delves into underexplored areas of human experience; makes claims on our lives that are urgent and aesthetic; or promotes historical, social, literary, political, or spiritual awareness.

Spearheaded by Professor Major Jackson, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities, Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing, this prize continues the university’s legacy and on-going commitment to discovering new voices and to supporting the arts as transformative and essential to our community.


The Vanderbilt University Literary Prize in Poetry is open to poets twenty-one years of age or older, at any stage in their career, who are writing in English. Manuscripts must be an original work composed by a single poet. Individual poems may have been previously published in periodicals, chapbooks, or anthologies, but may not have been previously published in a full-length collection. Poets do not need to be US-based but all prize monies will be subject to international tax withholding. We are committed to an ethical and transparent process that maintains fairness and promotes the literary arts. There can be no conflict of interest between applicants and the advisory board or series general editor.  Current faculty, students, and graduates of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Vanderbilt University are ineligible.

  • Guidelines
    • One original manuscript per poet will be accepted between Jan. 1 and April 15, 2024, through our submission manager. The contest will close once we have received 500 submissions.
    • Manuscripts should contain a title page, including the poet’s name, table of contents and an acknowledgments page, if applicable. Manuscripts should be between 50 and 85 pages. An abstract of 250 words or less should accompany each manuscript as a separate document along with a CV or resume.
    • Manuscripts must be written in English; poetry translations will not be accepted.
    • Previously published manuscripts, including self-published books, will not be accepted. 
    • Each manuscript must be accompanied by a $25 entry fee at the time of your submission. Entry fees may be waived for those undergoing financial hardship or living with limited means. Waivers are served on a first come, first served basis and are capped at 25 per cycle.
    • To request a waived reading fee, please email us for a discount code to apply at time of payment. Work must be submitted one week after the waiver is granted.
    • Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but poets must immediately withdraw their manuscript by emailing if it is accepted for publication elsewhere.
    • No revisions will be considered during the course of the contest, but the winning poet will have an opportunity to make revisions before publication.


Winning manuscripts will be published in print, e-book, and audio formats by Vanderbilt University Press, accompanied by a standard publishing contract.

The prize recipient will receive a $10,000 honorarium, an invitation to read in the esteemed Gertrude C. and Harold S. Vanderbilt Reading Series at Vanderbilt University, and a one-week residency on campus to engage students and local writers in the Nashville community.

  • Judging Process

    An advisory board of award-winning poets and editors will promote the prize and provide helpful perspectives and feedback on the jurying process, impact, and goals of the annual publication. Each prize cycle, three or four members of the advisory board will serve as jurists and participate in selecting the winning manuscript. Professor Major Jackson serves as general editor of the prize and chair of the advisory board.

    Screened entries will be equally divided between jurists, who will then select up to five semifinalists from their batch. The general editor will award a winning manuscript from among the semifinalists and identify honorable mentions.

  • Advisory Board
    • Victoria Chang 
    • Kate Daniels 
    • Rick Hilles
    • Garrett Hongo 
    • Didi Jackson 
    • Major Jackson
    • Mark Jarman 
    • Dana Levin 
    • Nate Marshall 
    • Gregory Pardlo 
    • Matthew Zapruder 


Submissions are open until April 15, 2024 or until we reach our 500 cap. Please click the link below to submit your manuscript.

Submit Your Manuscript

Results will be announced in the summer on our website and social media feeds, and they will be included in the advertisement publicizing the next cycle’s submission period.