Best New Poets is an annual anthology of fifty poems from emerging writers. The anthology began in 2005 under series editor Jeb Livingood with George Garrett serving as the first guest editor. Our audience has grown over the years, in large part due to the efforts of Jazzy Danziger when she served as series editor from 2011 to 2015, and the book is currently distributed nationally as a University of Virginia Press title and produced in cooperation with Meridian, a semiannual literary magazine from the University of Virginia.

Bookstores and other outlets interested in stocking Best New Poets can place orders via Longleaf here.

The anthology takes submissions from three sources:

  • nominations from literary magazines in the United States and Canada,
  • nominations from graduate-level writing programs in the United States and Canada, and
  • entries from an annual open competition.

All entries go into a single masked/anonymized pool where readers rank the submissions. A finalist pool of 150 to 300 poems then goes to a guest editor for review, and that guest editor selects the final fifty poems for the book.

2019 Timeline

March 1 Nominations from programs and magazines begin
April 10 Program and magazine nominations close
April 1 Open Competition begins
May 20 Open Competition ends
September 15 Fifty final selections announced

Jeb Livingood will continue as series editor in 2020. Our 2020 guest editor is Brian Teare.


The Poems

  • The poems submitted for Best New Poets 2020 must be unpublished work, or work published after January 1, 2019, where the writer currently retains all rights (allowing the writer to publish it again without permission from another magazine or publisher).
  • Because many of our initial readers are former or current editors of Meridian, poems previously published in Meridian are NOT eligible.

The Poet

  • Best New Poets 2020 is a book for emerging writers. We will only accept submissions from writers who have NOT yet published a book-length poetry collection. This includes self-published books if they were sold online, in stores, or at readings. For the purposes of BNP eligibility, we do not consider chapbooks to be "book length," and poets with only chapbook publications remain eligible to enter.
  • Poets with forthcoming books may enter if their first book's publication date is after April 1, 2020.
  • Writers who have edited and published an anthology or a collection of other writers' works remain eligible.

To help reduce the appearance of any bias, we ask poets with significant connections to UVA, Meridian, and the editors not to enter. Poets with the following connections to our anthology should not enter:

  • former editors or staff of Meridian
  • friends, former professors, or family of current Meridian editors and staff
  • friends, family, or former and current students* of the series editor, Jeb Livingood
  • friends, family, or former and current students* of our guest editor, Brian Teare
  • former or current University of Virginia MFA in Creative Writing students
  • former UVA undergraduate APLP or APPW students who graduated after April 2015
  • poets featured in the prior year's anthology

* We define a "student" as someone who has done semester-length coursework with the editors, or someone for whom the editors served as an undergraduate or master's level thesis advisor. Poets who attended 1-2 week workshops or retreats with the editors remain eligible.

If you believe you might have disqualifying ties to the University of Virginia, the editors, or the reading pool that are not explicitly mentioned above, write to our series editor before entering.

Multiple and Simultaneous Submissions

  • Writers in the open competition may enter as many times as they desire, but we recommend two or three entries at most.
  • Poems under consideration for our anthology may be simultaneously submitted to other magazines and competitions.
  • Writers nominated by literary magazine and programs may submit additional work to the open competition.

Submit Your Poems

Our open competition is open April 1 to May 20, 2020, on our Submittable site. You can submit your work here.

If you were nominated by a writing program or magazine, we'll be contacting you shortly with a nomination link.

Nominate a Poet

In early March 2020, we will email links to eligible writing programs and magazines for them to make nominations. U.S. and Canadian writing programs can nominate two poets each (though the poets themselves can be international students). Magazines can nominate two poems from their recent publications. Please see our eligibility rules on the poets you can nominate. We have a page that shows which programs and magazines have already made a nomination this year, and those we have sent a nomination link, here.

Eligible programs must be state-accredited, graduate-level writing programs/departments that offer an MFA, MA, or PhD degree in creative writing or poetry writing (or offer a graduate English degree with a concentration in creative writing or poetry writing) in the US or Canada. Schools that offer multiple graduate poetry degrees should nominate only two poets total. We're sorry, but writer retreats and post-MFA/PhD fellowships can no longer nominate their students or residents. We know you support new poets too, but we need to make this change to keep our eligibility rules as concise as we can.

In this day of internet journals, ePUB, and print-on-demand, defining exactly what makes a magazine eligible can be difficult. But you probably know what we are after: a US or Canadian print or online journal that publishes at least once a year and whose published poems are generally not by the people who run the journal itself. When a magazine nominates poems, it may not nominate poems by people on its masthead or its former staff. Undergraduate literary journals are not eligible to make nominations. Other books and anthologies are not eligible to make nominations. If you are not sure if your magazine qualifies , write us.


Your open competition requires a reading fee? Why?

All of the money from entry fees goes directly into producing the anthology or paying our readers and editors. Not a penny goes to support outside projects. We don’t publish Best New Poets to make money—the series just covers its cost of production. The series editor and guest editor receive only a nominal sum for their time. Readers also receive modest pay to offset the hours they spend with your work.

Do the magazine and writings program nominees pay an entry fee?

No, those are free nominations. We wanted broad participation and decided that some free nominations were essential, and also a very good way to reward organizations that support emerging poets.

Who reads my work and what feedback will I get?

Former Meridian staff and editors form the backbone of our reading pool. They rate your material in an online database. Alas, we cannot show you their brief remarks. We receive thousands of submissions and have to move through them as efficiently as we can.

How does your judging process work?

Six to seven readers take an initial cut at the submitted manuscripts and rate them. The readers review the manuscripts blindly, and every manuscript gets at least one reading. Some receive additional readings when the first reader wants a second opinion or believes another reader might judge the poem more fairly. We pass somewhere between 150 and 300 semi-finalists to the guest editor, who selects our fifty winners. The guest editor also reads without knowing poet names, seeing only a tracking number. He/she then reports the fifty winning numbers back to the series editor, who "unmasks" the entries and contacts the winners.

When will you announce the list of winners?

We will announce our final fifty poets in August by posting the results on our website and Facebook pages, and by notifying entrants through our submission system.

Do you publish the names of all the poets whose work is sent to the guest editor?

No, we do not publish the names of the semi-finalists who go to the editor, only the fifty selected poets. While some magazine competitions do publish a list of semi-finalists, this is usually when they have one winner and a handful of runners-up, not fifty winners and hundreds of semi-finalists. We do sometimes quietly contact a few runners-up in case we have a winning poem that turns out to be ineligible.

What kind of poetry do you like?

Each pool of readers has its own eclectic tastes, and the guest editor changes every year. We’re not usually wildly experimental or postmodern, but we’re open to poets who push boundaries. Our best advice is to just submit your best work.

I'm unpublished. Do I have a shot?

Absolutely. Because our readers read masked/anonymized submissions, it all comes down to the quality of the poem on the page.

I published a chapbook. Does that make me ineligible?

No. We love chapbooks, but for the purpose of this anthology, we do not consider them "book length." You may enter the competition.

What is your distribution?

We typically print about 2,500 books, and roughly 2,100 of those go out to bookstores. Thanks to a partnership with the University of Virginia Press, we are distributed through Longleaf directly to stores near you, as well as online retailers.

Who publishes this book?

The book is currently produced by Meridian and Samovar Press, a press founded by the first series editor to create Best New Poets. The University of Virginia Press features the book in its catalogue and distributes it nationally and online.

Thanks ...

... and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.


Finalists for 2020

Our fifty poets for the 2020 anthology appear below. Congratulations!

  • Threa Almontaser, "Hidden Bombs in My Coochie"
  • Aldo Amparán, "Thanatophobia"
  • Jasmine An, "Sports Science"
  • Desiree C. Bailey, "Orfeu Negro / Black Orpheus"
  • Kathleen Balma, "Lap Dance with No Ending"
  • Daniel Barnum, "Would I Change All I Know for Unknowing"
  • Caroline Parkman Barr, "For Some Time After"
  • Kaveh Bassiri, "Homecoming"
  • Mark Kyungsoo Bias, "And Now That I’m Done, I Give Him Back to You"
  • Mary Block, "After Rebmann and the Safari Collection Brochure"
  • Rachel Busnardo, "I Came From Beneath the Sea"
  • Rob Colgate, "Chicken Skewer"
  • Andrew Collard, "Badlands Flashback"
  • Leyla Çolpan, "Daughter Conditionals, or If Winters Were of Two Kinds"
  • Michaela Coplen, "Gate Control"
  • Colby Cotton, "Devotional"
  • Imani Davis, "Everything Must Go"
  • Steven Espada Dawson, "Salvation Sonnet"
  • Jai Dulani, "My Name"
  • Sara Elkamel, "Field of no Justice"
  • Liza Flum, "Nuptial Dive"
  • Benjamin Garcia, "Huitlacoche"
  • Benjamin Goldberg, "Dog-Head's Creation Story"
  • torrin a. greathouse, "Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination Before a Diagnosis Can be Determined"
  • Jackson Holbert, "Letter Sent to a Friend Who Frequently Requires Horses but Has None"
  • Andrew David King, "Untitled [Iowa field, three crosses]"
  • Zach Linge, "Fingers on a Gay Man"
  • Cameron Quan Louie, "Shaving before We Go to Visit Your Father "
  • Erin Marie Lynch, "St. Helens"
  • Thomas McGuire, "Four Ways of Looking at Magpie—A Most Becoming Bird"
  • Carling McManus, "To Eat An Ortolan"
  • Kelly McQuain, "The Moon in Drag"
  • Isabel Ries Neal, "All Winter"
  • Jae Nichelle, "Three Churches Burn in Louisiana"
  • Catherine Pond, "Forest Horse"
  • Paige Quiñones, "Aubade"
  • Cintia Santana, "Reign"
  • Johann Sarna, "Love"
  • Simon Shieh, "Kindness Comes Too Easily to Wicked Men"
  • Sophia Stid, "Apophatic Ghazal"
  • Dujie Tahat, "salat to be read from right to left"
  • Courtney Faye Taylor, "Grief for the Horizontal World"
  • Michael Torres, "All-American Mexican"
  • Tasia Trevino, "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack"
  • Jesús I. Valles, "Gatorade, pepino y limon"
  • Troy Varvel, "Complete"
  • Michael M. Weinstein, "Anniversary"
  • Jim Whiteside, "Clock with Reverse Gears"
  • Jameka Williams, "My Sister Says"
  • Jessica Yuan, "Disorientation"

Updated Sept. 8, 2020.

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