X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize Submission Guidelines 

X.J. Kennedy, for whom this contest is named, is a distinguished poet, translator, anthologist, editor, and author of children's literature and textbooks on English literature and poetry. The list of awards Kennedy has won for his poetry includes the Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medal for lifetime service to poetry in 2009.

Jesse-GravesJesse Graves, our final judge for 2018, grew up in Sharps Chapel, Tennessee, about 40 miles north of Knoxville, in a community his ancestors settled in the 1780s. He is an Associate Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at East Tennessee State University, where he won the 2012 New Faculty Award from the College of Arts & Sciences. His first poetry collection, Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine (Texas Review Press), won the 2011 Weatherford Award in Poetry from Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association, as well as a Book of the Year Award from the Appalachian Writers’ Association. He was given the 2013 Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. His second collection of poems, Basin Ghosts (Texas Review Press), also won the 2014 Weatherford Award in Poetry, making him the first poet to win the award more than one time. His poems have appeared in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Connecticut Review, and in the Poem of the Week feature for Missouri Review. He is editor of several volumes of poetry and scholarship, including three volumes of The Southern Poetry Anthology: Contemporary Appalachia, Tennessee, and North Carolina (Texas Review Press), Jeff Daniel Marion: Poet on the Holston, and Complete Poems of James Agee (University of Tennessee Press, 2017). Graves was awarded the 2014 Philip H. Freund Prize for Creative Writing from Cornell University, and the 2015 James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

  • We only accept online submissions through Submittable.
  • Manuscripts may contain up to 100 pages. We prefer poetry to be single spaced, but each poem should start on a new page.
  • Author’s name must not appear anywhere on the manuscript.
  • The author’s contact information, including a standard cover letter with bio is to be typed into the online form provided by Submittable.
  • A reading fee of $20 must accompany each manuscript.
  • Winning manuscripts will be published the year after acceptance.
    (Upon acceptance for publication, Texas Review Press acquires first North American serial rights; copyright reverts to author upon publication.) 
  • Winners will receive 20 free copies of their books.
  • Click Here to Submit

The 2017 XJ Kennedy Prize Winner is:

Jay Udall (Thibodaux, LA)
for Because the Fire in Our Heads

The 2017 X.J. Kennedy Prize Runner-up is:

Elisabeth Murawski (Alexandria, VA)
for Heiress

The final judge for 2017 was David M. Parsons, 2011 Texas Poet Laureate

The preliminary judge for 2017 was Larry D. Thomas, 2008 Texas Poet Laureate 

Previous Winners of the XJ Kennedy Poetry Prize

click covers to read about each book or buy a copy

  • The Empress of Kisses by Gwen Hart
  • Inked by Corinna McClanahan Schroeder
  • The Garden of the Fugitives by Ashley Mace Havird
  • A Little Luck by Jeff Worley
  • We are the Bus by James McKean
  • The View from Jackass Hill by George Drew
  • Maker of Shadows by Joshua Coben
  • Basic Heart by Renee Ashley
  • “Bocage” and Other Sonnets by William Baer
  • Aphrodite’s Daughter by Becky Gould Gibson
  • Landscape with Silos by Deborah Bogen
  • A Woman and a Man, Ice-Fishing by Lee Rudolph
  • Terrestrials by Eric Nelson
  • Reliquary by Jan Lee Ande
  • Asleep in the Lightning Fields by Jorn Ake
  • The Long Surprise by Barbara Lau
  • Good Friday by Philip Heldrich
  • The Surface of Last Scattering by Gray Jacobik