A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southern Humanities Review is given annually for a poem of witness in honor of the late poet Jake Adam York. The winner also receives travel expenses to give a reading at a poetry event hosted by the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University in Alabama in October with the contest judge. This year’s judge is Joy Harjo

Jake Adam York was an award-winning poet, the celebrated author of four collections of poetry, a fifth-generation Alabamian, and an undergraduate alum of Auburn University. He first came to poetry working with the faculty of Auburn’s Department of English and went on to write poems that, with both love and anguish, examined race relations in the South, celebrating the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement and questioning, as a native son of the South, his own complicity in its tragedies. The earliest versions of these poems—which went on to garner numerous awards and publication honors—can be found in York’s senior thesis, written at Auburn and housed in our library. 

Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and former Auburn professor of English, described York’s collection A Murmuration of Starlings as “a fierce, beautiful, necessary book. Fearless in their reckoning, these poems resurrect contested histories and show us that the past—with its troubled beauty, its erasures, and its violence—weighs upon us all . . . a murmuration so that we don't forget, so that no one disappears into history.” 

York died unexpectedly of a stroke at the age of forty in the winter of 2012, leaving behind a body of work that bears witness to our difficult past, and, as all great poems of witness do, lights a way toward understanding. The Auburn Witness Poetry Prize honors not only York’s work, but also his deep and enduring commitment to his home and community in Alabama and Auburn.

Each entrant may submit up to three poems of witness.

Please enter your personal information into the required fields and include a brief cover letter with your submissions, but do not include any personal information (name, mailing address, email, etc.) on your poems. All entries will be screened by SHR editors before being sent to a final judge. Submissions will be read blind after they are passed to the final judge. The final judge will select a first-place winner and any runners-up. SHR editors will select finalists. Results will be announced in early August, if not sooner.

Entries must be previously unpublished. We accept simultaneous submissions but ask that you please notify us immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere. You may withdraw your submission at any time via Submittable.

Every entrant will receive a copy of SHR featuring the prize-winning poems. For US entrants, the issue will be mailed to the address you provide while paying your entry fee. You may update your mailing address at any time by contacting us at shr@auburn.edu. International entrants will receive a digital copy of the issue.

All questions about the contest should be addressed to shr@auburn.edu.

Ends on $3.00

We invite you to submit all forms of literary essays and sub-genres of creative nonfiction including memoirs, personal essays, lyric essays, flash, research-based essays, literary journalism, travelogues, and other literary nonfiction. Send only one essay per submission and wait until you have received a response regarding your submission before submitting more work to SHR. While we are open to submissions of any length, the essays that get published in our journal are generally no more than 12,000 words.

We honor SHR's legacy by also considering scholarly essays. We seek essays that are directed to a general humanities audience (and avoid specialized jargon). Translations are welcome, if they include PDF scans of the original and written permission from the copyright holder (if applicable).


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Southern Humanities Review