Poetry Northwest’s James Welch Prize is awarded for two outstanding poems, each written by an Indigenous U.S. poet. The prize is named for Blackfeet and Gros Ventre writer James Welch, whose early poems were featured in Poetry Northwest and who went on to become one of the region’s most important writers.
About Our Judge
We are honored to have Elise Paschen as the judge of our 2022 prize.
Elise Paschen is an enrolled member of the Osage Nation and the author most recently of The Nightlife (Red Hen Press, 2017), Bestiary, Infidelities (winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize), and Houses: Coasts. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she received the Garrison Medal for poetry. She holds M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees from Oxford University. Paschen received the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs Medal in 2019. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker and Poetry Magazine, among other magazines, and in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2018 and Native Voices: Indigenous American Poetry, Craft and Conversations. She is the editor of The Eloquent Poem: 128 Contemporary Poems and Their Making as well as The New York Times best-selling anthology, Poetry Speaks to Children, and co-editor of Poetry Speaks and Poetry in Motion, among other anthologies. Former Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America, she is a co-founder of Poetry in Motion, a nationwide program which places poetry posters in subway cars and buses. Paschen teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute and lives in Chicago with her husband and their two children.
The prize is open to new, emerging, and established poets who are community-recognized members of tribal nations within the United States and its trust territories (including American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, and American Samoans). Only poets who have not published more than one book-length collection are eligible; however, previous publication is not a requirement. Eligible contestants must be community-recognized members of their tribal nation. Formal tribal enrollment is not the only way of acknowledging belonging, and this prize aims to recognize all Native writers who are in community. Previous first place winners of this prize are not eligible, but previous finalists are welcome to submit work.
About the Winners
The final judge selects two first-place winners. A small group of finalists is selected for print and/or online publication alongside the winner by writers and editors from our partner organizations and the editors of Poetry Northwest. Results are announced in May.
One of the two winning poets will be flown to Seattle to read with the judge as part of the fall Seattle Arts & Lectures series at Hugo House. The other winning poet will be flown to Missoula, MT (the city James Welch called home), to read with the judge at the Beargrass Writing Retreat. These two trips will include travel, lodging, meals, and a very celebratory welcome for the winners.
Every entrant will receive a copy of Poetry Northwest featuring the prize-winning poems.
Previous Winners & Finalists
Selected by Elise Paschen
Sublime Dream as the Fabulous Night Panther
On Moccasin Mike Road
Halee Kirkwood is a direct descendant of the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, with poems published recently in Poem-A-Day, Water~Stone Review, Muzzle Magazine, and others.
Calling Back the Birds
Melanie Merle is an associate editor for a literary and art publication, Inverted Syntax. Her work is forthcoming in the anthology Infinite Constellations: Speculating Us (University of Alabama Press).
Download a printable digital broadside featuring the winning poems:
selected by poets from the board and advisory committee of In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations Poets) with the editors of Poetry Northwest
Sean Sam • Jessica Cohn • Delaney Keshena • Max Early • Tacey M. Atsitty
POEMS BY 2022 WINNERS & FINALISTS APPEAR IN THE SUMMER & FALL 2022 ISSUE
The James Welch Prize is made possible by the generosity and participation of the following:
Including all who supported our successful 2021 Kickstarter campaign.
Adrienne Celt, Alex Higley, Alison Deming, Allison Morton, Amanda Powell, Andrea Gough, Andres Eduardo, Andrew Haley, Andrew Shattuck McBride, Anonymous, Annita Sawyer, Anya Backlund, April Christiansen, Arlynn Fishbaugh, Ashby and Amy Kinch, Betsy Teays, Bettye Walker, Bill Carty, Bojan Louis, Bookmonger, Brett Hall Jones & Louis B. Jones, Brittany Amborn, Bryce Emley, Camille Dungy, Carol Light, Caroline Barr, Cathlin Noonan, Charif Shanahan, Chelsea R Grimmer, Chris Dombrowski, Christian Gaines, Christina Montilla, Christopher Kondrich, Cin Salach, Clelia Castro-Malaspina, CommunityofWriters, Constance B. Wieneke, Corrie Williamson, Dan Hornsby, Danusha Lameris, David Gravender, Dean Rader, Deborrah Corr, Dylan B. Suagee, Elissa Washuta, Elizabeth Hubble, Ellen Welcker, Emily Darby, Erika Meitner, Erin Malone, Erin Melissa Curtis, Erin White, Gabriela Denise Frank, Gabrielle Bates, Garrett Hongo, Geffrey Davis, Greg Bem, Hannah Ensor, Heid Erdrich, Holly, Isla McKetta, J Morales, J. R. Lennon, Jacob Kuipers, Jane Sell, Jared, Jasmine Grewal, Jeanette Ashworth, jen soriano, Jennifer Foerster, Jennifer Perrine, Jenny, Jenny Graber, Jérémie Pinguet, Jerrold Bruno, Jessica Gigot, John Hoppenthaler, John Okrent, Jordan McNeil, Julie Elworth, Julie Felner, Justin Rigamonti, Kari Nielsen, Kasey Jueds, Katherine Sacco, Kathryn Hunt, Kathy and Mark Kuipers, Katie Farris, Keith McCoy, Kevin Craft & Carmen Zelaya, Kierstin Bridger, Kim, Kim Garretson, Kim Kent, Kim McKeehan, KT Herr, Lauren Haldeman, Lawrence Gullo, Leah Daugherty, Liezel M Hackett, Lily Frenette, Liz Fritsch, Lois Welch, lukepatterson1, Luther Hughes, lyrik, M. Ellsworth, Maggie Shipstead, Marc Mazique, Marci Cancio-Bello, Margot Atwell, Margot Kahn & Scott Case, Mark Rice, Mark Turcotte, Martha Silano, Mary Crauderueff, Mary Peelen, Matthew Kelsey, Meander Fiadhiglas, Meghan Dunn, Melissa, Meredith MacEachern, Michael Fox, Michael Heavener, Mishigosa, Moira Walsh, Molly Mendenhall, Morgan Wallace, Onyx, P. Scott Cunningham, Paisley Rekdal, Patrick Marx, Patrycja Sara, Paul Sarvasy, Rachael Lin Wheeler, Rachel, Rajiv Mohabir, Rebecca Kling, Richard P Fahey, RIchard Robbins, Risa Denenberg, Rob Atwood, Robert Baker, Ron Henry, Ron McFarland, Ruth Dickey, Ryan Teitman, Sandra Newman, Sara, Sarah Fritsch, Sharma Shields, Sharon Olds, Shelley Harlan, Sibelan, Skylar, Spencer Short, Susanna Childress Banner, Taylor Mali, Tess Taylor, The Creative Fund by BackerKit, Tom Carrigan, Tom Cordingley, Traci Brimhall, Trudy Skari, Valerie Wood, Vineet Kumar, Walker Bass, Wiley Brooks, Windflower Performance