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 2022-23 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.


GUIDELINES for 2023–4

For the 2023–4 prize we will begin accepting online submissions of book-length (i.e., more than 48 pages) poetry manuscripts on July 1, 2023. The final due date for submission will be October 15, 2023. The prize winner will be announced in early March, 2024.

Our judge for 2023–4 is Cynthia Cruz. Cruz is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently Hotel Oblivion, which won the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award and was shortlisted for the Kingsley Tufts Award. She is also the author of two nonfiction books—most recently The Melancholia of Class: A Manifesto for the Working Class—as well as the novel Steady Diet of Nothing, which is forthcoming this fall. The recipient of a Hodder fellowship from Princeton, Cruz teaches in the Goddard College Low Residency MFA program and is pursuing a PhD at the European Graduate School. She lives in Berlin, Germany.

To be eligible for the prize, poets cannot have published—or have under contract—more than one full-length book of poetry in English. (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 in English abroad also count toward eligibility, but not books reprinted abroad or published in another language. (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 that book was reprinted in the UK, you would still be eligible. If you published one book in the US in English and another book in, say, Poland in Polish you would still be eligible to submit to our prize as long as the book you were submitting to our prize was a not a translation of the book you published in Poland in Polish.)

Previously self-published books are ineligible for submission for the prize, as are translations and 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 five 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 book prizes, including the other Milkweed Editions prizes (the Ballard Spahr Prize, the Max Ritvo Prize, and the National Poetry Series). If your manuscript wins another prize, please notify us and withdraw your manuscript from the Jake Adam York Prize.

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 perhaps 1–2 emails per year about our book prize, subscriptions drives, etc.

Here’s the link one more time: SUBMIT.



Copper Nickel and Milkweed Editions are thrilled to announce that judge Amaud Jamaul Johnson has chosen Yalie Saweda Kamara’s book Besaydoo as the winner of the 2022–23 Jake Adam York PrizeBesaydoo will be published by Milkweed Editions in January 2024, and Kamara will receive $2,000.

Yalie Saweda Kamara is a Sierra Leonean American writer, educator, and researcher from Oakland, California, and the 2022–23 Cincinnati and Mercantile Library Poet Laureate (two-year term). She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the National Book Critics Circle, and Callaloo. Kamara’s poetry, fiction, interviews, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Callaloo, A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, Black Camera: An International Journal, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. She is the Director of Creative Youth Leadership at WordPlay Cincy and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati.

In choosing Kamara’s book Johnson says: “Sometimes, neighborhood is nation. And for the diasporic Black body, the City of Oakland is like a Station of the Cross. In Besaydoo, Yalie Saweda Kamara offers a love song dedicated to her hometown, a place shaped by humor, heartbreak, and humiliation. This debut poetry collection stands alone for its scope and aesthetic dexterity. Here, Kamara is radiant, tender, and true.”

There were 749 manuscripts submitted to the prize this year, which our screeners narrowed to 16 additional finalists and 7 semifinalists. It’s our opinion that every one of these manuscripts is outstanding and eminently publishable. With that in mind, the finalists were:

Bryan Byrdlong, Strange Flowers
Maria Isabelle Carlos, Constancia
Alicia Cuomo, Nocturnal Chirping
Thomas Dooley, The Perpendiculars
Chanda Feldman, Glance
Tennessee Hill, A Lifetime Trapped in Peach Brine
L. A. Johnson, Tempt Toward the Flood
Esther Lin, Cold Thief Place
Cate Lycurgus, Pending Light
Sebastian Merrill, Ghost :: Seeds
Stephanie Niu, Call It Miraculous
Brooke Sahni, In This Distance
Leigh Sugar, FREELAND
Angelique Zobitz, Seraphim
Aumaine Rose Smith, Habits of Adornments

The semifinalists were:

Raye Hendrix, What Good Is Heaven
Corey Miller, Studies for an Embrace
Trey Moody, A Natural History of Oblivion
Luke Patterson, Medic
Zack Rybak, When I Was My Brother’s Brother
Tara Skurtu, Faith Farm
Isaac Willis, Downstate

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:

Abdul Ali, author of Trouble Sleeping
Brian Barker, author of Vanishing Acts
Sara Eliza Johnson, author of Vapor
Janine Joseph, author of Decade of the Brain
Wayne Miller, author of We the Jury
Mark Neely, author of Ticker
Paige Quiñones, author of The Best Prey
Bunkong Tuon, author of The Doctor Will Fix It

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.