Colorado Prize for Poetry

Learn about the Colorado Prize for Poetry book contest

Colorado Prize for Poetry Books

The Colorado Prize for Poetry is an international poetry book manuscript contest established in 1995. Each year’s prizewinner receives a $2,500 honorarium and publication of his or her book by the Center for Literary Publishing.

The Colorado Prize for Poetry adheres to the following Contest Code of Ethics, as adopted by the Council of Literary Presses and Magazines, of which the Center for Literary Publishing is a longtime member: “CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines — defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.”

Current Winner

We are very pleased to announce that Gale Marie Thompson's Mountain Amnesia has been selected by final judge Felicia Zamora as the winner of the 2023 Colorado Prize for Poetry. Her book will be published by The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University on December 1st, 2023.

“All of this being alive is a long course/ of breaking open and grinding into the dirt.” Mountain Amnesia stretches thin the fibrous tissues of grief that inhabit the body, mind, and ether of existence from burrowing traumas. These lamentations expose the weight of abuse, longing and loss, unanswered prayers, and an inescapable natural law, “this I know: that even evil men die.” Here is a poetics of cobbling the self together in the wake of ruin and disorder through list making, the yearning for a caroling inside flesh, writing to quiet the imprints of violence, thinking about sharkskin and the waving of Saturn’s rings, a tethering to the more-than-human world, and a struggle to not reach toward the dirt before it’s time. Whether counting incisions or counting the dead, these poems seek a way through the doubt and destruction into connectivity by understanding that “We are mostly lonely when we change.” The poems intertwine in our animality, our closeness to the animals who bring words like “mercy” into the field, animals that hide “in an under-the-porch way, still marked/ with the blueprint of a predator,” the fox as a wobbling red star, the folded fawn, the whale returning home after months to finish a song, the dead squirrel, and the voles who emerge in the yard with new myth. These are worlds of new mythmaking, a desire for self-love beginning in the very spine of the body: “A loved posture can also be a speech act./ This is how it begins. What will seep will seep.” A gorgeous seeping occurs in these poems where the voice fights to not disappear, to keep touching the world. Mountain Amnesia is a heart-wrenching account of how the body remembers, becomes a feral archive, and sifts through the wildness: “For anything to emerge/ from crisis, crisis must show its face./ But crisis is only the beginning.” In carrying our wounds, we discover that “There is no one on the other side” of the mountains that we abandon or the mountains we live in the shadows of, except the self in waiting—to lull us back to our corporeal dwelling, to “sing in its ragged globe,” to find a devotion of healing.

--Felicia Zamora, final judge, author of I Always Carry My Bones

Gale Marie Thompson is the author of Helen or My Hunger (YesYes Books, 2020) and Soldier On (Tupelo Press, 2015). Her poetry and prose have appeared in American Poetry Review, Bennington Review, and Mississippi Review, among others. A winner of the Poetry Society of America's 2022 Emily Dickinson Award, Thompson has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. She is founding editor of Jellyfish Poetry and currently works as an editor in book development for YesYes Books. Gale lives in the mountains of North Georgia, where she directs the creative writing program at Young Harris College.

Submission Guidelines

Contest Procedures

When your manuscript arrives (if you submit by mail), it is logged into our Colorado Prize database by our office assistant. The top cover sheet (with your name and address) is removed and filed away until the contest is over. Identities of authors submitting their manuscripts online are not visible to any of the judges.

Once all the entries have been received--whether paper or electronic--and the authors’ identities removed, they are divided among six to eight (depending on the total number of entries received) outside preliminary judges; the Center does not use interns to judge for this contest. Each preliminary judge will select three to four manuscripts (depending on the number of preliminary judges we require), for a total of twenty to twenty-four finalists. If a judge recognizes the work of a colleague, student, or friend, he or she contacts the Center and that manuscript is sent to another judge.

The final judge then receives the finalists from which to select the winner. If the final judge wishes to see additional manuscripts from the preliminary judges, he or she may request them; the judge is not, however, permitted to request specific manuscripts. Friends, colleagues, and students (current or former) of the judge are not eligible to compete, and the judge agrees to refrain as well from selecting any manuscript that presents a conflict of interest (selecting, for example, a manuscript he or she has helped to develop)

Frequently Asked Questions

If your question hasn’t been answered here, e-mail us at or give us a call at 970-491-5449.