Submissions are now open to the 2025 Cave Canem Prize. if you have a debut manuscript of poems, we highly recommend you apply by the deadline of May 13.

Cave Canem was founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 to remedy the underrepresentation and isolation of African-American poets in the literary landscape. The prize was launched in 1999 with Rita Dove’s selection of Natasha Trethewey’s Domestic Work. Last year’s winner was Nigerian writer Ajibola Tolase.

The Cave Canem Prize is awarded annually to the best debut collection of poems submitted 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 three publishers: Graywolf Press, University of Pittsburgh Press, and University of Georgia Press.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Prize and Cave Canem is offering a prize of $10,000 for the selected manuscript, the largest prize in the organization’s history. In honor of the 25th anniversary, inaugural winner Natasha Trethewey will judge the 2025 Cave Canem Prize. In addition to the $10,000, the winner will be published by Graywolf Press in Fall 2025 and receive 15 copies of the book as well as a feature reading with Trethewey.

Submission Guidelines:

  • All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by Black poets who have not had a full-length book of poetry published by a professional press are eligible. Cave Canem defines Black poets as any poet who identifies as a member of the African Diaspora.
  • Black 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 notice 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).
  • 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 University of Pittsburgh Press; and authors who have published a book or have a book under contract with University of Georgia Press are ineligible.
  • Upload manuscript as a .doc 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 .doc 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, with a font size of 11 or 12, 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.
  • Hard copy submissions will not be considered.
  • Only one manuscript per poet is allowed.

Deadline: May 13, 2024

Submit manuscripts online here.

Good luck to all applicants!