Award for Poetry

Announcing the winner of the 2017 Press 53 Award for Poetry!

Leona Sevick of Bridgewater, Virginia, has been named winner of the 2017 Press 53 Award for Poetry by Tom Lombardo, Poetry Series Editor for Press 53. 

Ms. Sevick's poetry collection, Lion Brothers, was selected from a field of 315 entries from poets across the United States.

Lion Brothers will be published by Press 53 as A Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection on April 1, 2017.

Leona Sevick is provost at Bridgewater College in Virginia. Her work appears in The Journal, Barrow Street, Potomac Review, North American Review, The Florida Review, Poet Lore, and in the anthologies All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood (Sage Hill Press, 2016) and Circe’s Lament: Anthology of Wild Women Poetry (Accents Publishing, 2016). Her work is forthcoming in The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks (Univ. of Arkansas Press, 2017). She is the 2012 first place winner of the Split This Rock poetry contest, judged by Naomi Shihab Nye, and a semi-finalist for the 2015 Philip Levine Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, Damaged Little Creatures, was published in 2015 by FutureCycle Press, which you can find at

Judge's comment: The poems in Lion Brothers excited me with their high levels of emotion delivered in a clear and compelling voice. Using distinct diction and figuration in a pleasing flow, the poet presents stories freshly, with surprises, while maintaining strong connections between readers and the world. This collection holds together nicely with its overarching narrative of the dark corners of domestic life.


Anatoly Molotkov of Portland, Oregon, for Unfalling the Stars

Jennifer Holley Lux of Atlanta, Georgia, for White Portal



Cherise Pollard of West Chester, Pennsylvania, for Writhe

Devi Laskar of Los Altos, California, for Leave Your Gods at the Door

Eleanor Kedney of Tucson, Arizona, for Twelve Days from Transfer

Kathleen Nalley of Easley, South Carolina, for Gutterflower

Maura Way of Greensboro, North Carolina, for Another Bungalow

Megan Merchant of Prescott, Arizona for Grief Flowers

Susana H. Case of New York, New York, for Drugstore Blue


A note to everyone who entered:

Narrowing 315 manuscripts to ten finalists, and then selecting a winner, was an extremely difficult task. The quality of our entries continues to impress each year. Tom read many of the manuscripts more than once, and our finalists received at least three thorough reads. We want to thank everyone who entered and we hope to read more of your work in the future.


Submissions for the 2018 Press 53 Award for Poetry will open April 1, 2017. 

Please check back or register for our free email updates.


Award includes:

Publication by Press 53 of the winning poetry collection as a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection under a standard publishing contract.

$1,000 cash advance

1/4-page color ad in Poets & Writers magazine

The Press 53 Award for Poetry is awarded annually to an outstanding, unpublished collection of poems. This contest is open to any writer, regardless of his or her publication history, provided the manuscript is written in English and the author lives in the United States and its territories.


Dates for submission: April 1, 2017—July 31, 2017. Submissions will close at midnight Eastern Standard Time on July 31. (Note: Deadline can be extended at the discretion of Press 53.) Revised manuscripts cannot be accepted after deadline.

Winner and Finalists announced: The winner of the Press 53 Award for Poetry will be announced on or before November 1, 2017, on the Press 53 website, and via email, Facebook, and Twitter. We will also include a list of finalists.

Award: The author of the winning manuscript will receive a cash advance of $1,000, publication of the manuscript under a standard publishing contract in April 2018 as a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection under a standard Press 53 book contract, a 1/4-page color ad in Poets & Writers magazine, and 10 copies of the completed book with an option to purchase unlimited copies at a discount for as long as the book is in print. 

How to submit:

ONLINE: Press 53 will take electronic submissions via Submittable, your online submissions manager.

MAIL: Send one printed copy of your manuscript, postmarked by July 31, 2017. Include one cover sheet with the title of your entry and your contact information, and mail to Press 53, 560 N. Trade Street, Suite 103, Winston-Salem, NC 27101.

Reading fee: A reading fee of $30 must be paid for each entry. Reading fees are nonrefundable.

Judging: Press 53 Poetry Series Editor Tom Lombardo will be the only judge of the contest; the contest will be judged solely on the strength of the poems as a collection.

Eligibility: The competition is open to unpublished manuscripts written in the English language from writers at all levels who live in the United States and its territories. 

Ineligibility: Previously published collections in any form, including self-published collections as ebooks or print, are not eligible. Authors and editors who work for Press 53 or have published a book with Press 53 are not eligible to enter.

Manuscript Guidelines:

1. Manuscripts should be roughly 60 pages to 120 pages in length. We do not favor one length over the other. We are only concerned with the quality of the manuscript. Note: revised manuscripts cannot be accepted after deadline.

2. The author's name should not appear on the manuscript; include manuscript name and author contact information on a separate cover letter.

3. Manuscript pages should be numbered.

4. Include a table of contents; an acknowledgments page is not necessary.

5. Use a standard, easy-to-read font such as 12-point Times New Roman, Garamond, etc.

6. Poems previously published in journals, magazines or anthologies, and poems that have won awards, may be included in the manuscript. Poems previously published in chapbooks are fine, but please do not include the chapbook as a section in the manuscript.

7. Previously published collections are not eligible, including self-published collections available as ebooks or in print.

8. Authors may submit more than one manuscript to the competition for consideration. Each submission will require a separate reading fee.

9. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but please withdraw your manuscript if it is accepted by another publisher. Withdrawal can be completed via Submittable or, if mailed in, by email. Reading fees are not refundable.

10. Confirmation of receipt will be sent via e-mail immediately after we receive your entry. An announcement of our finalists and winner will be sent to all entrants via email, as well as posted on the Press 53 website, Facebook, and Twitter on the dates indicated above.

If you have any questions or concerns other than technical issues with the submissions manager, please email Press 53 or call 336-770-5353.