Poetry Prize

Deadline: TBD.
Purse: $350. Semi-finalists will be invited to read at the Amherst Poetry Festival in September. Finalists will be invited to participate in the January show.
Submit: We are not accepting submissions at this time. Sign up for the Amherst Live email newsletter to receive word about the next Poetry Prize.

The Amherst Live poetry prize is the only poetry prize exclusively for Western Mass. It was founded to help preserve a prominent place for poetry within our public discourse. Particularly these days, when sidewalk reveries have given way to smartphone pecking, and even those few moments of quiet dreaminess allowed us at the gas pump are interrupted by advertisers, poetry has an important role to play. Now more than ever, poetry needs to be spoken out loud, so that we can hear what our lives sound like when we really stop to listen. 

To this end, the Amherst Live poetry prize is essentially about spoken poetry. This is one of several ways in which the prize is unique. Another is that the prize is awarded during the show itself, after the audience has heard two finalists recited and indicated their preference. Finally, the poems are not read by the writers of the poems, but rather by a representative whom the writer has entrusted with this task. This arrangement both spares poets the obligation of appearing on stage, and also ensures a collaborative element which is essential to Amherst Live. Ultimately, the award decision is in the hands of the audience. All poems, therefore, are guaranteed a highly attentive reception.

Poetry, of course, is no innovation for Amherst. This is the home of Emily Dickinson. But where she worked in solitude, sewing poems into little booklets she would never share, we ask the poets of today to forego such parsimony and step forward to present their work and claim the recognition they so richly deserve.


Prizes are for $150 and $200. Finalists will also be provided with two complimentary tickets to the show. They will be featured on the show, on the Amherst Live web site, on Amherst Live radio and TV broadcasts, and on Amherst Live promotional materials. Their work will be actively promoted, and (when available) published works by the poets will be made available to the audience for purchase.

THE PURSE STRINGS (Submission Guidelines)

There is no entry fee for this contest. All poems must be in English and previously unpublished online or in print. Poems do not need to have a regional focus, but they do need to be 45 lines or fewer. Remember that finalists will have their poems recited on stage—this favors more accessible poems over the more cryptic. Please submit no more than three poems; all poems must be contained in a single .doc, .docx, or .pdf file.

Poets must currently live in Western Mass (any town in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, or Hampshire counties). Poets whose work has been featured on the show within the last year will not be eligible for consideration. Finalists will be required to elect a representative to memorize and recite their poem on stage during the show. Representatives will be required to attend one show rehearsal. Poet finalists and representatives will both be required to attend the show. The winner will have the option of accepting their prize on stage.

Amherst Live uses Submittable.com for submissions. No email entries will be accepted. Simultaneous submissions are allowed as long as we are notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere through Submittable.com. Click HERE to access Submittable.com.