The Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest (2021)

Boston Review

Name: The Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest (2021)
Category: Poetry
Word count: 5 poems or 10 pages
Entry fee: Free for contestants outside USA, Canada and Western Europe. $20 for others
Prize: $1000, and publication
Closing date: May 31, 2021 (free global/hardship entries); June 30, 2021 (paid entries)

Boston Review is pleased to adopt a contest model shaped by social justice and accessibility concerns.

  • Contestants from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe pay an entry fee of $20, which helps subsidize the entry of contestants from outside of those countries, as well as those claiming hardship, all of whom pay nothing to enter our contests. Free entries and paid entries are read in the same way and given equal weight.
  • In addition, while a winner will be chosen in each genre, many more runners-up will have their work published, increasing the likelihood that entrants will have their work shared with Boston Review’s audience.
  • Finally, Boston Review commits to publishing an annual themed literary issue, and the contests share the issue’s theme. This offers contestants more transparency about what Boston Review’s editors are seeking in any given year. All contestants will receive a free copy of the issue, either in print (for paid entries) or digital (for unpaid entries).

This year’s theme is on “Repair”

We bear deep wounds—individually and collectively, for generations, for a lifetime, for a year, for a day. All have been worsened by a destructive period of pyrrhic politics that left us ill-equipped to respond to a global health catastrophe. As we struggle as a society to recover our footing and grieve our dead, Arts in Society believes that the literary arts must have a voice in the conversation about how we heal.

Tell us what it means to repair from a terrible rupture, a life-threatening harm or illness. How do we return to health, to wholeness? Is “return” even the right idea? We want to know if you think repair is possible from toxic politics, from pandemic, from racist horrors, from class warfare, from Islamophobia, from gendered violence and “reparative” therapy, from ecological brinksmanship.

Consider the meditations of Adrienne Rich:
these scars bear witness
but whether to repair
or to destruction
I no longer know
—Adrienne Rich, “Meditations for a Savage Child”

Or the words of Cameron Awkward-Rich:
Sometimes you don’t die
when you’re supposed to
& now I have a choice
repair a world or build
a new one inside my body
—Cameron Awkward-Rich, “Cento Between the Ending and the End”

Reflect on the Japanese art of 金継ぎ (kintsugi), where the repair is highlighted by a seam of gold.

We are thinking about the timeliness of Toni Morrison writing that wishes for a “return to normal” are distractions from righteous demands for something more revolutionary, more catalytic: “They fill their mind and hands with soap and repair . . . because what is waiting for them, in a suddenly idle moment, is the seep of rage. Molten. Thick and slow-moving. Mindful and particular about what in its path it chooses to bury. Or else, into a beat of time, and sideways under their breasts, slips a sorrow they don’t know where from.”

Or, as Haruki Murakami writes, “I don’t want to be ‘repaired’.”

But because we believe in the power of art, we are also thinking of when Jonathan Saffron Foer, in Everything Is Illuminated, says, “I can repair my mistakes when I perform mistakes. . . . With writing, we have second chances.”

Or when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Tell us where we go from here. Tell us how we get out of this mess.

Submission guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of Repair. The theme should be very broadly interpreted. Judges shouldn’t have to guess at the connection between the theme and your entry.
  • The winning author will receive $1,000 and have their work published in Boston Review‘s special literary issue Repair (March 2022). Some finalists and semi-finalists will also be published in the issue or online.
  • Send up to 5 poems or 10 pages, whichever comes first. The poems must be unpublished.
  • “Unpublished” means the poems have never received print publication of any kind, nor are they available anywhere on the Internet.
  • Simultaneous submissions are OK but if your poems are accepted or published elsewhere (including anywhere on the Internet), you must immediately withdraw them via Submittable. Individual poems can be withdrawn by adding a note to the entry. This does not invalidate the other poems from being considered; however, failure to notify Boston Review that some poems in the entry are no longer available may result in the entry as a whole being invalidated.
  • Do not include a cover note. Your name should not appear anywhere in the uploaded file. All entries must be in English; translations are acceptable if they are done in collaboration with the author and the poems are unpublished in any language.
  • Submissions may not be modified after entry. The contest judge and Boston Review staff, however, reserve the right to recommend edits to the winning story as well as finalists and semi-finalists they are interested in publishing.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge or with any editors, staff, or contest screeners at Boston Review. It is fine to have met these people, talked with them, perhaps even taken a workshop.
  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Repair will be sent in early 2022.

To submit your short story for this contest, visit Submittable

Read winning poems from past years:
C. X. Hua (2019)
Kim Parko (2018)
Mia Kang (2017)
Cori A. Winrock (2016)
Safiya Sinclair (2015)
francine j. harris (2014)
Scott Coffel (2013)
Sarah Crossland (2012)
Heather Tone (2011)
Anthony Caleshu (2010)
John Gallaher (2009)
Sarah Arvio (2008)
Elizabeth Willis (2007)
Marc Gaba (2006)
Mike Perrow (2005)
Michael Tod Edgerton (2004)
Susan Wheeler (2003)
Max Winter (2002)
D. A. Powell (2001)
Christopher Edgar (2000)
Stephanie Strickland (1999)
Daniel Bosch (1998)


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