Established in 1978 to recognize and promote excellence in contemporary poetry by ensuring the publication of five books of poetry a year through a series of participating publishers. Five distinguished poets will each select one winning manuscript for publication from entries to the Open Competition. Each winner will receive $10,000.


National Poetry Series Open Competition Guidelines

The National Poetry Series was established in 1978 to ensure the publication of five books of poetry each year. Winning manuscripts are selected through an annual open competition, judged by five distinguished poets. Each winning poet receives a $10,000 cash award in addition to having his or her manuscript published by a participating trade, university, or small press publisher. Publishers currently include HarperCollins Publishers, Fence Books, University of Georgia Press, Penguin Books, and Milkweed Editions. Recent judges include John Ashbery, Natasha Trethewey, Mary Jo Bang, Campbell McGrath, Denise Duhamel, and D.A. Powell.

Among the list of esteemed NPS winners are award-winning poets Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, Naomi Shihab Nye, Eleni Sikelianos, 2014 MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes, and Adrian Matejka—finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and 2013 National Book Award.

The National Poetry Series seeks book-length manuscripts of poetry written by American residents or American citizens living abroad. All manuscripts must be previously unpublished in their complete form, although some or all of the individual poems may have appeared in periodicals. Translations, chapbooks, small groups of poems, and books previously self-published are not eligible. Manuscript length is not limited. However, a length of 48-64 pages is suggested.

Manuscripts are submitted online via the website (, along with an entrance fee of $30.00 (per manuscript). The entry period begins on January 1, 2016 and runs through (and including) February 15, 2016.

The cover page of the manuscript should list the title of the manuscript ONLY.  Any manuscript containing personal information will not be considered for review.

Manuscripts must be:
  • Paginated (include a table of contents).  

DO NOT INCLUDE: Acknowledgments, explanatory statements, resumes, autobiographical statements, photographs, illustrations, or artwork. These will not be considered.

No additions, deletions, or substitutions once a manuscript has been submitted.
Entrants should inform NPS immediately if their manuscript is selected for publication elsewhere.

Finalists will be notified and may be asked to submit five (5) additional copies of their original submission.

Winning authors will be given the opportunity to make final changes prior to publication.

Please visit The National Poetry Series web site: for general updates throughout the competition.

If you require any additional information, write to the Coordinator, NPS, 57 Mountain Avenue, Princeton, NJ  08540 or email