Poetry Northwest’s James Welch Prize will be awarded for two outstanding poems, each written by an Indigenous U.S. poet. The prize is named for Blackfeet and Gros Ventre writer James Welch, whose early poems were featured in Poetry Northwest and who went on to become one of the region’s most important writers.
This year we are honored to have Diné poet Sherwin Bitsui judging the inaugural contest. He is the author of three collections of poetry, Dissolve, Flood Song, and Shapeshift. The recipient of a Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and the PEN Book Award, Sherwin’s poems have appeared in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. He is Diné of the Todích’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tlizílaaní (Many Goats Clan), and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Native Arts & Culture Foundation.
The prize is open to new, emerging, and established poets who are members of tribal nations within the United States and its trust territories (including American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, and American Samoans). Eligible contestants need not be previously published, but must be demonstrated (enrolled or community-recognized) members of their tribal nation.
Between February 1 and March 15, each entrant may submit up to three poems in a single submission. Please submit only once.
There is no submission fee for this prize.
Submissions must include a cover letter with tribal affiliation(s) and a brief biography. However, please do not include any personal information (name, mailing address, etc.) on the poems themselves. All entries will be screened by a team of poets from the board and advisory committee of In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations Poets). All identifying information will be removed from the submissions before each round of judging, and entries will be read blind at each stage of the judging process.
Entries must be previously unpublished. We accept simultaneous submissions. You may withdraw your submission at any time via Submittable.
The final judge will select two first-place winners and any runners-up. A small group of finalists will be selected by the editors of Poetry Northwest for print and/or online publication alongside the winner. Results will be announced in early May.
One of the two winning poets will be flown to Seattle to read with the judge as part of the fall Seattle Arts & Lectures series at Hugo House. The other winning poet will be flown to Missoula, MT (the city James Welch called home), to read with the judge at the Beargrass Writing Retreat. These two trips will include travel, lodging, meals, and a very celebratory welcome for the winners.
Every entrant will receive a copy of Poetry Northwest featuring the prize-winning poems.