If you are an African-American who has a way with words and you are hoping to turn your gift into a scholarship for school, there are many poetry contests and scholarships available. Some cater exclusively to those of African descent, while others are open to all students across the United States. Pick up your pen and show the world that you're the next Maya Angelou.
Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and Brunel University African Poetry Prize
These two poetry contests are open only to those who were born in Africa, who live in Africa or whose parents are from Africa. The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets is available for African poets who haven't published a book-length collection of poetry. The submission must be at least 50 pages long. The winner receives $1,000. The Brunel University African Poetry Prize is a relatively new award that aims to develop, celebrate and promote poetry by African poets and those of direct descent. The winner will receive 3,000 pounds and be published in "Wasafiri," a British journal that features international writing.
Poetry Out Loud Scholarship Contest
This national contest is open to anyone, regardless of background and poetry writing ability. Instead of writing, high school students are encouraged to explore, memorize and perform poetry. Starting with classroom and school-wide competitions, winners advance to regional competitions, state competitions and then a national final. At the state level, the first-place winner receives a $200 scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for the national finals, while her school library receives $500 to purchase poetry books. The state runner-up will win a $100 scholarship, and his school library will receive $200 to buy poetry books. The national champion wins a $20,000 scholarship, second place wins $10,000, third place wins $5,000, and fourth place to twelfth place each get a $1,000 scholarship. The school libraries of the national top twelve also receive $500 each.
Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award
This contest, run by Lotus Press, Inc., is open only to African-American poets. You can enter if you've been published in one of the company's anthologies but not if you have a book published with that publisher. Unpublished poets are also invited to enter. You must submit a book-length manuscript -- about 60 to 90 pages single-spaced -- of poems. Each poem should be in 11- or 12-point easy-to-read font and must start on a new page. No essays, fiction or other material are accepted. The winner receives $500 cash and the manuscript will be published by Lotus Press.
Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships
The Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship is a national contest that's open to all U.S. students, regardless of their background. It's for older students, ages 21 to 31 as of the application deadline date. In 2013, five fellowships were awarded, each worth $15,000. The winners and their poems are also featured in "Poetry" magazine. In the year 2014, the name of the competition is changing to the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships. Emerging poets who win in 2014 and beyond will be even richer since the prize money will nearly double.
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