OVERVIEW: The Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, also publisher of Poetry magazine, is one of the most prestigious foundations in the realm of verse. It administers a long list of awards, but only two of them are available to the uninitiated: the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships and the Emily Dickinson First Book Award.
IP TAKE: The Poetry Foundation's most attainable 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 basically leaves the five yearly fellowships up for grabs. But the competition is definitely tough for these.
PROFILE: The Poetry Foundation gives out a number of awards to accomplished poets, including the Neglected Masters Award, Mark Twain Poetry Award, Randall Jarrell Award in Criticism, Children's Poet Laureate, and Verse Drama Prize. There's also its most coveted award of $100,000 for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Unfortunately, many of these awards are given for lifetime achievement, and none are open to unsolicited nominations; no applications are accepted whatsoever. This leaves the newly re-named Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships and the Emily Dickinson First Book Award as the only available support for poets still striving to create a body of work. It should be noted that both the award and the fellowships are still quite prestigious and generous.
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's a hopeful-sounding prize, but also one with many competitors. The best way 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 given out 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.
Open applications are accepted for the fellowships from February through the end of March. Each applicant is asked 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.
You can view a full list of all the awards the Poetry Foundation gives out here.