Thank you for your interest in Cave Canem!

The Cave Canem Prize is awarded annually to the best debut collection of poems by a Black poet. At some point, all poets face the challenge of communicating their work beyond the first manuscript. To assist Black poets in surmounting that obstacle, Cave Canem established the Prize and created a direct route to: Graywolf Press; University of Pittsburgh Press; and University of Georgia Press.  

Award: Winner receives $10,000, publication by Graywolf Press in fall 2025, 15 copies of the book, and a feature reading.

Deadline: Manuscripts must be submitted no later than Monday, May 13, at 11:59 pm EST.

Entry Fee: Free

Judge: Natasha Trethewey 

Eligibility: All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by Black poets who have not had a full-length book of poetry published by a professional press. Cave Canem defines Black poets as any poet who identifies as a member of the African Diaspora. 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 notification 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 Graywolf Press; and authors who have published a book or have a book under contract with Graywolf Press are ineligible. If any of the selected authors fall under the above exclusions, they will be disqualified and a replacement will be chosen from among the submissions. As the poetry community is small and the contest is judged without knowledge of the submitter’s identity, acquaintance with the judge or participation in a workshop taught by the judge are not disqualifying criteria.  


  • Manuscripts must be submitted via Submittable. Hard copy submissions will not be considered.
  • One manuscript per poet.
  • Upload manuscript as a .docx 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 a cover letter in the Submittable text box—DO NOT include within the .docx or .pdf document of the manuscript. Cover letter should include author’s brief bio (200 words, maximum) and list of acknowledgments of previously published poems.
  • Manuscript must be paginated and 60 - 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.
  • Manuscripts not adhering to submission guidelines will not be considered.
  • Post-submission revisions or corrections are not permitted.

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Natasha Trethewey  served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the author of five collections of poetry, including Native Guard—for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—and Domestic Work, winner of the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She’s also the author of a book of non-fiction, Beyond Katrina; a memoir, Memorial Drive, an instant New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and The House of Being, a meditation on writing. A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets since 2019, Trethewey was awarded the 2020 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize in Poetry for Lifetime Achievement from the Library of Congress, and in 2022 she was the William B. Hart Poet in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. At Northwestern University, she is Board of Trustees Professor of English.

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