The Backwaters Press

There are presently no open calls for submissions.

The Backwaters Prize submission period is April 1 - May 31.

General Information:

The prize is a $2,500.00 cash prize plus publication of your book in trade paperback, plus 30 copies of the book to the poet. The judge for 2018 is Kwame Dawes.


  • This contest is open to anyone writing in English, whether the poet has previous book publications or not.
  • Entry fee of $30 per manuscript. More than one manuscript may be submitted; the entry fee must be paid for each submission.
  • Contest winner receives a publishing contract, $2,500 cash award, professional publication in perfect-bound format with ISBN and LCCN, 30 contributor's copies, distribution, and assistance with publicity.
  • Persons associated with The Backwaters Press in any manner may not submit a manuscript to the contest. “Persons associated with The Backwaters Press” includes the Final Judge for the current year’s contest, donors to the press, present or former press volunteers, employees or contracted workers of the press, or friends of any of those people. The Backwaters Press is a member of CLMP and adheres to all CLMP guidelines for literary contests.
  • Submit full-length manuscripts of original poetry in English, between 60 to 85 typewritten pages, not including credits, title page, contents page, in an easily legible font, such as Times New Roman or Garamond, in either 11- or 12-point.
  • No collaborations or translations.
  • May be a collection or a single long poem.
  • Submitted manuscripts may not have been published previously in any form, whether in print or online. Individual poems may have been printed in magazines or anthologies, but 95% or more of the manuscript must not have been published together in book form. However, poems previously published together in chapbooks may be collected together into a single manuscript.
  • Use standard poetry format; that is, single-spaced, with double-spacing between stanzas.
  • No identification of poet anywhere in manuscript, including in the text of the poems. Manuscripts in which poet’s name is included anywhere in the text will be disqualified. If the poet needs to refer to, or uses the poet’s own name in poems, a pseudonym must be used in the text. The poet will be able to restore the names to the text if the manuscript is chosen for publication. The title page may not include the ID of the poet.
  • Simultaneous submissions are accepted. If the manuscript is accepted elsewhere, The Backwaters Press must be notified immediately and the manuscript withdrawn from consideration. Entry fees will not be returned due to withdrawals.
  • All manuscripts must be submitted electronically via Submittable. Poets unable to submit electronically, for good cause, may submit paper manuscripts if the poet contacts the press prior to submitting for approval. Examples of “good cause” may include the fact that the poet does not own or have easy access to a computer, while certain persons also do not have access to typewriters. Some guidelines regarding identification on the manuscripts are slightly different for paper submissions. Please contact the press by mail at this address: The Backwaters Press, Michael Catherwood, Editor, 1124 Pacific Street, Unit 8392, Omaha, NE, 68108-3265 to enquire about exceptions to submitting electronically.
  • Do not include photos or drawings in the manuscript.
  • Do not send manuscript corrections—winner will be allowed to make manuscript changes.
  • Entry fees will not be returned for any reason except hardship to the submitter. Please contact the press by mail at this address: The Backwaters Press, Michael Catherwood, Editor, 1124 Pacific Street, Unit 8392, Omaha, NE, 68108-3265. The press reserves the right to waive submission fees in hardship cases, such as submissions from prisoners, hospital patients, etc. Please contact the press for exceptions.
The Backwaters Press