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
In 2021, we are honored to have Diné poet Sherwin Bitsui judging the inaugural contest.
Sherwin Bitsui is the author of three collections of poetry, Dissolve, Flood Song, and Shapeshift. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and the PEN Book Award. His poems have appeared in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. He is Diné of the Todích’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tlizílaaní (Many Goats Clan), and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Native Arts & Culture Foundation.
The prize is open to new, emerging, and established poets who are members of tribal nations within the United States and its trust territories (including American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, and American Samoans). Eligible contestants need not be previously published, but must be demonstrated (enrolled or community-recognized) members of their tribal nation. 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 Sherwin Bitsui
Kenzie Allen is a Haudenosaunee poet and transmedia artist. She is a descendant of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in Boston Review, Narrative, Best New Poets, The Iowa Review, and other venues.
Brendan Shay Basham
Do Not Drink from the Tailing Pond
Brendan Shay Basham (Diné), is the author of the forthcoming novel Swim Home to the Vanished (Harper, 2023). He received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
selected by poets from the board and advisory committee of In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations Poets) with the editors of Poetry Northwest
Melanie Merle • Abigail Chabitnoy • Kalehua Kim • Shelbi Fitzpatrick • Annie Wenstrup • Rachel Johnson • Josie Valdez • Michael Wasson
POEMS BY 2021 WINNERS & FINALISTS APPEAR IN THE SUMMER & FALL 2021 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, 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 Performan