Ends on January 31, 2018

NFSPS 2018 College Undergraduate Poetry Competition

Submission Period:  December 2017—January 2018


Two winners will be chosen for the College Undergraduate Poetry (CUP) Competition, one receiving the Edna Meudt Memorial Award; the other receiving the Florence Kahn Memorial Award. For each winner, prizes include:

  • $500 cash prize.
  • Publication of the manuscript as a perfect-bound 6"x9" chapbook, marketed through Amazon.com.
  • 75 free copies of the chapbook.
  • Invitation to read from winning work at the 2018 NFSPS Convention in Denver, CO.
  • $300 travel stipend, if attending the convention.
  • Complimentary registration for the entire convention.
  • Complimentary dinner on Friday evening when the winners read. (Winners are responsible for the balance of their convention costs, e.g., meals and lodging, and for any guests who accompany them.)
  • Complimentary one-year membership in an NFSPS-affiliated state poetry society of the winner's choosing and in NFSPS.­­­­
  • Book release at the NFSPS annual convention. While winners are present at the convention, they will be assisted in selling their stock of books directly and/or in the convention book room and will receive all proceeds from those sales. 


Undergraduates working toward a degree in an accredited U.S. college or university during the contest submission period are eligible to enter the CUP Competition.


  • Application and Manuscript. Complete the application form and upload your manuscript file at www.nfsps.submittable.com. The manuscript must be a single document that contains only your title page followed by ten poems. Once you have uploaded the file, you cannot make edits. Acceptable file formats include .doc and .docx (MS Word) and .pdf.
  • Fees. There is no contest submission fee and no charge to open an account at Submittable.com. You may keep your Submittable account permanently.
  • Submission Period. An electronic switch will open the Submissions function in the first minute December 1, 2017, and close it automatically at midnight Pacific Standard Time on January 31, 2018. Make sure to note your local time relative to PST. Students in Hawaii and Alaska are advised to submit no later than January 30. Indeed, we urge every entrant to submit early so that our committee can advise if you encounter problems; we likely cannot help if you wait until the last day of the contest.
  • Alternative Submission Request. Approval by the contest chair's prior to January 15, 2018, is required to enter the competition by any other means than online submission as described above. She will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to accept paper manuscripts. Unauthorized paper manuscripts or e-mailed manuscripts will not be accepted. If the chair approves an alternative submission, she will provide instructions on how to proceed. Send your name, address, telephone number and email address with your request to: Shirley Blackwell, CUP Chair, P.O. Box 1352, Los Lunas, NM 87031. If she allows a paper submission, it must reach her by noon, Jan. 31, 2018 (be advised: Los Lunas is rural and mail can be delayed).

MANUSCRIPT GUIDELINES:  Not following ALL guidelines disqualifies a submission.

  • No Identification. There must be no author identification on any page of the manuscript.
  • Title Page and Ten Poems. The manuscript will include only the title page and ten (10) original, unpublished poems. Note that poems posted on a public website or public social media are considered published. You will be required to confirm that your poetry is original and unpublished.
  • Titles. Except for haiku and related Japanese forms, each poem must be titled.
  • Poem Line Width. Line width limit is 60 characters, including punctuation marks and spaces between words.
  • Erasure poems and others derived from prose. Contestants may not use any material copyrighted by another author as the basis for their poems. Please identify any source and verify that it is in the public domain.
  • Title Page. The first manuscript page will include only the manuscript title, centered both vertically and horizontally on the page and followed by a page break.
  • Poem Arrangement. Manuscript page two will be the first of your ten poems, with the others following in the order they would appear in a chapbook. Insert a page break after the text for each poem.
  • Font and Spacing. Use a 12-point standard font (e.g., Times New Roman) in black text. Colored text and script, fancy, or unusual fonts will not be accepted. Single-space your poems and start lines at the left margin, unless you are clearly using spacing as a poetic device.
  • Pagination. Each page must include a footer with the title of the manuscript in the lower left corner and the page number in the lower right corner.
  • Auxiliary Pages (dedication, acknowledgments, cover letter, bio, etc.)  Do NOT include auxiliary pages in your initial entry. If you win, you will be asked for a brief biography and will have opportunity to include other elements during the editing phase.
  • Literary Standards. While we honor the First Amendment right of free speech, be aware that any profanity used must be necessary to the literary integrity of your poem. Our judge will view the gratuitous use of profanity as a crutch for shoddy craftsmanship or as cliché that has lost its shock value. The NFSPS will not give prizes for, nor publish work that perpetuates derogatory stereotypes. Nor will it accept work that is obscene, prurient or sexually graphic, hate-mongering, or abusive of any social, racial, ethnic, religious, or gender group. 


  • Judging. Manuscripts will be screened for compliance with contest rules. Up to 60 entries will be sent to a judge who will remain anonymous until winners are announced. Manuscripts are judged blind (identified only by machine-generated number) from those entries complying with all contest guidelines. Decisions are final.
  • Notification of Winners. By email on Monday, March 12, entrants will be notified of who has won and/or placed in the competition. Winners will be announced in the April issue of Strophes, the NFSPS newsletter, available at www.nfsps.com.
  • Contact Information. If there is any change in your contact information before results are announced, please notify Shirley Blackwell by email at sonneteer@earthlink.net. Be sure to provide a mailing address that will be valid even after the spring semester ends.
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