The Winners

The Jake Adam York Prize

The Jake Adam York Prize for a first or second poetry collection is a collaboration between Copper Nickel and Milkweed Editions.

Book-length manuscripts can be Submitted via Submittable from July 1 through October 15. (See the Guidelines. See information about the 2019–20 winner.)

The prize-winning poet receives $2,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions.

Initial screening for the prize will be facilitated by the poetry editors of Copper Nickel. (All screeners for the prize will have published at least one book of poetry.) The winner is announced in early March.

Our goal in instituting the Jake Adam York Prize is to honor Jake’s name and legacy with a top-tier, ethical book prize that will offer not just publication but also high-quality design, marketing, and strong national distribution­. Milkweed Editions—which has an excellent marketing team and national distribution through Publishers Group West (PGW)—can offer these things. We at Copper Nickel are grateful and excited for their partnership.



For the 2020 prize we will begin accepting online submissions of book-length (i.e., more than 48 pages) poetry manuscripts on July 1, 2020. The final due date for submission will be October 15, 2020. The prize winner will be announced in early March, 2021.

Our judge for 2020 is poet Randall Mann. Mann is the author of five poetry collections: A Better Life (forthcoming in 2021), Proprietary (2017), Straight Razor (2013), Breakfast with Thom Gunn (2009), and Complaint in the Garden (2004). His book of criticism is The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry (2019), and he co-edited the seventh edition of the textbook Writing Poems (2007). Recipient of the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize from Poetry, Mann lives in San Francisco.

To be eligible for the prize, poets cannot have published—or have under contract—more than one full-length book of poetry. (Chapbooks of less than 48 pages and individual poems in magazines are OK.)

Self-published books count as previous book publications if they are at least 48 pages and saw any real distribution whatsoever. (I.e., if your self-published book has an ISBN, and/or has been distributed through Amazon, and/or has had a web presence—even a very limited one—that counts as a previously published book.) Separate books published abroad also count toward eligibility, but not books reprinted abroad. (I.e., if you published one book in the US and a different book in the UK, you would be ineligible to submit, but if you published a book in the US and then that book was reprinted in the UK, you would still be eligible.)

Previously self-published books are ineligible for submission for the prize, as are co-authored books.

Poets must be US Citizens (living abroad is fine) or must live in the US and be writing in English.

Poets who are family, current colleagues, close friends, or recent students (within the past three years) of the judge are not eligible to enter. Former student editors and interns of Copper Nickel and Milkweed Editions are also ineligible.

Entrants to the Jake Adam York Prize are welcome to submit to other Milkweed Editions prizes (the Ballard Spahr Prize, the Max Ritvo Prize, and the National Poetry Series). All these prizes are facilitated differently and, each year, have different screeners and different judges.

Manuscripts can—but don’t have to—include work previously published in literary periodicals and/or chapbooks. If your manuscript includes previously published work, please include an acknowledgments page.

Final judging for the prize is anonymous. For this reason, please do not include your name or other identifying marks on the manuscript itself. (We will be able to obtain that information from Submittable, and the information will not be forwarded to the final judge.)

All entrants will receive a one-year subscription to Copper Nickel (worth $20) in exchange for a $25 reading fee, and all money raised beyond production costs for the prize will go toward paying Copper Nickel contributors.

Please note that when you submit your work to the Jake Adam York Prize you’re adding yourself to our contact list and, thus, consenting to receiving infrequent emails about our book prize, subscriptions drives, etc. We send no more than 2-3 of these emails per year.

Here’s the link one more time: SUBMIT.



Copper Nickel and Milkweed Editions are thrilled to announce that judge francine j. harris has chosen Kathryn Smith’s book Self-Portrait with Cephalopod as the winner of the 2019–20 Jake Adam York Prize.Self-Portrait with Cephalopod will be published by Milkweed Editions in February 2021, and Smith will receive $2,000.

Kathryn Smith is the author of the full-length collection Book of Exodus (Scablands Books, 2017) and the chapbook Chosen Companions of the Goblin, winner of the 2018 Open Country Press Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared in Bellingham Review, The Journal, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Redivider, and elsewhere, and she has received an Allied Arts Foundation award, a Spokane Arts Grant Award, and a Pushcart Special Mention. She received her MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University and lives in Spokane, Washington, where she also makes collage and mixed media art.

In choosing the book, francine j. harris says: Kathryn Smith’s Self-Portrait with Cephalopod is lush and obsessed and frantic and deathy. At times, there is a pre-apocalyptic reverence and reflection in this collection that feels almost monastic. Beautiful and timely work.”

There were 780 submitted manuscripts, which our screeners narrowed to 24 finalists and semifinalists. It’s our opinion that every one of these manuscripts is outstanding and imminently publishable.

With that in mind, the finalists were:

Megan Arlett, The Garden Party
Monique-Adelle Callahan, Rupture
Ina Cariño, Feast
Chelsea B. DesAutels, Metastasis
Bryce Emley, Martyrs
Nicholas Goodly, The Dowser
Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Stepmotherland
Amanda Galvan Huynh, Lotería
Mara Michael Jebsen, The White Year
Rachel Mennies, The Naomi Letters
Emily Pérez, Chambered
Brandon Rushton, The Air in the Air Behind It
Kirk Schlueter, First the Blade
Michael Schmeltzer, In the Great War I Become Cake
John Allen Taylor, To Let the Sun
Laura Villareal, Girl’s Guide to Leaving

And the semifinalists were:

Cassandra Bruner, The Book of Chimeras
Jeremy Clark, The Trouble with Light
Benjamin Dombroski, Murmur
Emily Hockaday, Ghost Signals
Bethany Schultz Hurst, Animal Skin
Stephanie Schlaifer, Well Waiting Room
Aimee Seu, Velvet Hounds

And since screeners do essential—if too-often unsung—evaluative work narrowing the field of entrants, we think it’s important to note each year who our screeners are (both to say thank you and in the interest of transparency). This year’s screeners were:

Nicky Beer, author of The Octopus Game
David J. Daniels, author of Clean
Niki Herd, author of The Language of Shedding Skin
Su Hwang, author of Bodega
Douglas Manuel, author of Testify
Wayne Miller, author of Post-
Analicia Sotelo, author of Virgin
Claire Wahmanholm, author of Redmouth

Finally, we want to mention something briefly about our process: Since a number of entrants had previously published in Copper Nickel, and since other entrants knew one or more of our screeners on a personal level, we were sure to pass the manuscripts among the screeners until no one was tasked with screening work by anyone she had published or with whom she had a personal relationship. We believe strongly in running an ethical contest, and we work hard to ensure that we continue to do so