Spencer Justice Poetry Prize

Autumn House Press is pleased to partner with the West Chester University Poetry Center for the Spencer Justice Poetry Prize (formerly the Donald Justice Poetry Prize.)

The Spencer Justice Poetry Prize is part of the Spencer Poetry Awards, which Kean W. Spencer created in honor of his mother, Iris N. Spencer. The prize recognizes the distinguished American poet, teacher, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Donald Justice. The WCU Poetry Center welcomes submissions of unpublished, original book-length manuscripts that pay attention to form for consideration in this competition. The winner of the competition will receive $1,500, and have their manuscript published by Autumn House Press.

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines. Please read carefully and reach out to poetry@wcupa.edu with any questions.

  • The annual competition is open to all American poets regardless of whether they have previously published a book-length collection.
  • The suggested length of the manuscript is at least 50 pages but it should not exceed should 100 pages.
  • No more than one-third of the manuscript may consist of permission-secured or public-domain translations.
  • Two copies of the manuscript need to be uploaded in the following format:
    • The complete original manuscript as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author’s name, address, e-mail address, and contact number. Dedications, references, and acknowledgments are permitted in this copy. The manuscript file format must be: Author last name_author first name_manuscript title
    • The second copy must be a “blind” manuscript with the title, content page, and poems only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the name of the manuscript only.
    • Submit the above as two separate documents here.
  • After submitting to the Dropbox site, please remit the entry fee of $25 for each manuscript here.
  • All manuscripts and payments must be received by November 15, 2023.

Notification of contest results will be provided via email.

The winner will receive their prize and give a public reading at the annual West Chester University Poetry Festival in June 2024.

Any questions regarding the DJPP should be directed to the Poetry Center, poetry@wcupa.edu.     


Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

Patricia Smith is the award-winning author of eight critically acclaimed books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was a  finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown;  the children’s book Janna and the Kings, and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. Her newest book of poems is Unshuttered, released earlier this year.