Poetry Foundation: Grants for Creative Writing

OVERVIEW: The Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is one of the most prestigious foundations in literature funding. It administers a long list of awards, but only two of them are available to new grantseekers: the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships and the Emily Dickinson First Book Award.

IP TAKE: The Poetry Foundation's most accessible support for poets in the beginning and middle stages of their careers comes from the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships and the Emily Dickinson book award. Since the Emily Dickinson award is only given "occasionally," that leaves the five yearly fellowships, which are highly competitive.

PROFILE: The Poetry Foundation “works to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in our culture” and “seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry.” Of the numerous awards it funds, only the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships and the Emily Dickinson First Book Award, both of which are prestigious and generous, are open to early and mid-career poets.

The foundation supports several awards for accomplished poets, including the Neglected Masters Award, Mark Twain Poetry Award, Randall Jarrell Award in Criticism, Children's Poet Laureate, Verse Drama Prize, and the coveted $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Unfortunately, many of these are awarded for lifetime achievement, and none are open to unsolicited nominations or applications.

The Emily Dickinson First Book Award is a $10,000 prize given to an American poet of at least 40 years of age who has yet to publish a first collection of poetry. In addition to that very specific criteria, the award is given out only "occasionally," at the discretion of the foundation. It is a hopeful-sounding grant, but also one with many competitors. The best way for grantseekers to keep up with the timing of this award and associated deadlines is to sign up for the foundation's newsletter and press releases.

The Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships are awarded each year to five U.S. poets between 21 and 31 years of age to "encourage the further study and writing of poetry." Award amounts are currently $25,800 each.

The foundation accepts open applications for the fellowships from February through the end of March. It asks each applicant to submit a one-page introduction to his or her work, along with 10 pages of poems and a list of past publications, which can be uploaded to the submission manager during the open submission period. Finalists are notified by the following August, and winners are announced at the beginning of September. To view recent and past winners, click here.

Grantseekers can view a full list of all the awards the Poetry Foundation funds.


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