Department of English
Philip Levine Prize for Poetry
The Philip Levine Prize for Poetry is an annual book contest sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at California State University, Fresno. This contest -- open to any poet writing in English (except current or former students or faculty of Fresno State) -- offers a $2,000 prize and publication by Black Lawrence Press, a A New York-based publisher of contemporary poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction since 2004.
Current winner: William Archila
About the Contest
Through participation in our Engl 242 course, Literary Editing and Publishing, Master of Fine Arts graduate students are given an opportunity to serve as manuscript readers and staff for the Prize, as well as to learn about other facets of contest administration, book publishing and promotions.
Editorial Assistants for 2023: Phoua Lee, Hermelinda Hernandez Monjaras, Victoria Monsivaiz, Yamille Moss
The contest is named for the late poet Philip Levine, who served as the contest's final judge in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2013.
Levine was one of the leading poetic voices of his generation, “a large, ironic Walt Whitman of the industrial heartland,” according to poet Edward Hirsch. He is one of the most highly honored and widely read American poets of the 20th Century. Among his many accomplishments:
- He served as poet laureate of the United States from 2011-2012;
- He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995;
- He won two National Book Awards, in 1980 and 1991;
- He published 16 books of poems, as well as several volumes of translations and two collections of essays;
- He also won two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the American Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Distinguished Poetic Achievement, and the Wallace Stevens Award.
Levine and fellow poets and professors Peter Everwine and C. G. Hanzlicek established the Creative Writing Program at Fresno State. He taught here from 1958 to 1992, retiring as a Professor Emeritus of English.
He died Feb. 14, 2015 at the age of 87.
Even after his retirement, Levine remained deeply connected to the Fresno State MFA program for the rest of his life, visiting classes, attending and giving readings, and teaching mini-courses.
The annual Philip Levine Prize for Poetry honors promising new voices in poetry each year, and it actively engages 15-20 graduate students in literary publishing.
The Fresno State Winery produces a limited edition special wine blend called "Picaresque" to honor Levine, with the proceeds benefiting creative writing students through the Philip Levine Scholarship, which was established in 2012 by the College of Arts and Humanities.
The Philip Levine Reading Room inside the Library on campus was opened in May 2017.
Read tributes to Levine on the We Grow Writers blog.
Submit Your Manuscript
Contest opens: July 1, 2023
Deadline: September 30, 2023
Final judge: Douglas Kearney
Award: $2,000 prize and publication by Black Lawrence Press; 25 author copies of the published book; and a public reading at California State University, Fresno
Please read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript.
Author photo by Bao Phi
Douglas Kearney has published seven collections, including Optic Subwoof (2022), the 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize-winning Sho (2021), and Buck Studies (2016), winner of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award, the CLMP Firecracker Award for Poetry, and California Book Award silver medalist (Poetry).
M. NourbeSe Philip calls Kearney’s collection of libretti, Someone Took They Tongues (2016), “a seismic, polyphonic mash-up.” Kearney’s Mess and Mess and (2015), was a Small Press Distribution Handpicked Selection that Publisher’s Weekly called “an extraordinary book.” WIRE magazine calls Fodder (2021), a live album featuring Kearney and frequent collaborator, Val-Inc., “Brilliant.”
Kearney is the 2021 recipient of OPERA America’s Campbell Opera Librettist Prize, created and generously funded by librettist/lyricist Mark Campbell. His operas include Sucktion, Mordake, Crescent City, Sweet Land (the Music Critics of North America’s Best Opera of 2021), and Comet / Poppea commissioned by AMOC (American Modern Opera Company). He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly Award for Poetry, residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Altadena, California, Kearney teaches Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and lives in St. Paul with his family.
The Philip Levine Prize for Poetry seeks previously unpublished, full-length poetry manuscripts and is open to any poet writing in English.
- Individual poems in a contest manuscript may have been previously published in magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks, but the work as a whole must be unpublished.
- Translations are ineligible for this prize, as well as previously self-published books.
- Current and former faculty and students of California State University, Fresno are ineligible.
- Close friends and family members of the final judge are also ineligible.
Before submitting, please carefully review the guidelines below to ensure that your manuscript is formatted correctly. Double-check your work. Address any errors or mistakes before you submit your manuscript. We will not be able to assist in addressing or fixing errors that occur as a result of failure to review the guidelines. If you make a mistake, you are welcome to make a new submission and withdraw your old submission through Submittable, though you will be charged another $25 entry fee. At this time, we are unable to provide refunds. Please carefully review your manuscript before you submit it.
- Include a table of contents and number your pages.
- Manuscript should be 48-80 pages in length (not including title page, table of contents, etc.). Each poem should start on a new page.
- If needed, you may attach a ‘Notes’ page.
- Please do NOT include the following in your manuscript document: a cover letter; a dedication or thank-you page; an acknowledgements page; any biographical notes; your name or any identifying information.
- Within the document, please include a single title page with only the title of the manuscript so that your entry remains anonymous.
- Do NOT include your name or personal information in the file name or in the title of the manuscript.
Simultaneous submissions to other publishers or contests are permitted, as long as you notify Levine Prize staff promptly if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere.
We are no longer accepting hardcopy manuscripts.
All entries must be certified by Submittable (online) by September 30, 2023.
We are no longer accepting hardcopy manuscripts.
- An entry fee of $25 (U.S.) must accompany each online submission.
- Multiple submissions are accepted so long as a separate entry fee accompanies each submission.
- A limited number of fee waivers to cover the $25 submission fee may be made available on a case-by-case basis. For more information, please email the contest coordinator, Mai Der Vang: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Be sure that your document is complete and formatted correctly before uploading.
- Reminder: Do NOT include contact information in the body of your manuscript, in the file name, or in the title of the manuscript.
- Include a title page with manuscript title only and enter your contact information separately into Submittable so that the manuscript remains anonymous.
The Philip Levine Prize for Poetry endorses and abides by the Ethical Guidelines of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP):
CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest.
To that end, we agree to:
- Conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors;
- To provide clear and specific contest guidelines — defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and
- To make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public.
This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contest contributes to a vibrant literary heritage.
Submittable will provide automated notification of receipt. Please keep this for your records.
Results will be announced in early February 2024. We notify all entrants in two ways:
- via email;
- online via our MFA program’s website, social media, and elsewhere.
Southern California author William Archila won the 2023 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry book contest, which includes a $2,000 award and publication of his poetry collection, S is For, with Black Lawrence Press.
Archila’s The Gravedigger’s Archaeology (2015) won the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, and The Art of Exile (Bilingual Review Press, 2009) won an International Latino Book Award. He was awarded the 2023 Jack Hazard fellowship and the Alan Collins Scholarship at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He is a PEN Center USA West Emerging Voices fellow. He lives in Los Angeles, on Tongva land.
Archila has been published in Poetry Magazine, the American Poetry Review, AGNl, Copper Nickel, Southern Indiana Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, the Missouri Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, and the anthologies The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry, and The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States. He has work forthcoming in the Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, Salamander, and Guesthouse.
Levine Prize final judge Douglas Kearney — a widely published poet, essayist, opera composer and McKnight Presidential Fellow — chose Archila’s manuscript as the winner. There were 736 submissions. Kearney wrote of the winning entry:
“Searing — not merely how I’d describe William Archila’s gaze at the desperation and depredation attendant in power’s abuse, the violence dogging the migrant, the slayings of those who stay. No, also, searing in the sense of that which burns a mark into a surface, how the poet’s prosody scorches language into the line, into the throat, into the air. Heat, here, that makes light, signal visible even from exile, even to a distracted North who may not/may only notice that ‘Yesterday a cutthroat carved a copper / who carved a cutthroat, 224 wounds / for the smallest of spoils.’ Archila tallies these wounds and those that set fire to the heart. Here, S is for searing, for song, for sorrow. S is for sunlit, for shot, for shattered. S is for sublime. Stunning. Staggering.”
Kearney also noted four manuscripts as contest finalists:
- Bluff by Michal ‘MJ’ Jones of Oakland, California;
- Desahógate by Gisselle Yepes of Bronx, New York;
- Within Sky Kissing God by Ayesha Raees of Cincinnati, Ohio;
- Bodypolitic by Aerik Francis of Denver, Colorado.
|S is For
|Juan Felipe Herrera
|A Sleep That Is Not Our Sleep
|Cathy Park Hong
|Life Cycle of a Bear
|C. G. Hanzlicek
|C. G. Hanzlicek
|Tina Mozelle Braziel
|Known by Salt
|C. G. Hanzlicek
|The Church in the Plains
|C. G. Hanzlicek
|Mercy Spurs the Bone
|Barbara Brinson Curiel
|Mexican Jenny and Other Poems
|Ariana Nadia Nash
|Instructions for Preparing Your Skin
|The Book of Lamenting
|The Snowbound House
|The Lost Country of Sight
|C. G. Hanzlicek
|Lynn Aarti Chandhok
|The View From Zero Bridge
|Corrinne Clegg Hales
|Roxanne Beth Johnson
|The Pyramids of Malpighi
|Breathing In, Breathing Out