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
Heid E. Erdrich grew up in Wahpeton North Dakota and is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain. Her poetry collection Little Big Bully won a National Poetry Series award for 2020. Heid’s awards include a 2022 Bobbit Prize, a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship, and she has twice won a Minnesota Book Award for poetry. Heid edited the 2018 anthology New Poets of Native Nations from Graywolf Press and teaches in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program of Augsburg University. Heid served as the 2019 Distinguished Visiting Professor in Liberal Arts at University of Minnesota Morris, the 2021 Glasgow Writer-in-Residence at Washington and Lee, the 2022 Elliston Writer-in-Residence for University of Cincinnati, and she recently taught a term in Native American and Indigenous Studies at Dartmouth College.
The prize is open to emerging 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 literary work in any genre 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.
The contest deadline has been extended through March 15!
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.
Both winning poets will be featured in a reading with the judge (2023 location TBA). This reading will include travel, lodging, 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.
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