Milkweed Editions

Max Ritvo Poetry Prize

Following Max Ritvo’s untimely passing in August 2016, we worked with Ariella Ritvo Slifka to establish the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. Funded by the Alan B. Slifka Foundation and designed to honor Max’s literary legacy and reward outstanding emerging poets for years to come—the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize has awarded $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions to the authors of six debut collections of poems.

Last fall, after selecting Weijia Pan’s Motherlands as the seventh recipient of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize in her role as judge, Louise Glück passed away. Also in the fall of 2023, the prize and its funder were added to a boycott list by Writers in Solidarity with Palestine. Both developments were unexpected, and have led to much dialogue with our Milkweed community. While these conversations continue, we are pausing to reassess the initiative.

In the meantime, please join us in celebrating Weijia Pan’s Motherlands. It is a remarkable debut by a wonderfully accomplished artist, a voice and a book that merit our attention. We also encourage you to revisit Max’s collections of poems Four Reincarnations and The Final Voicemails, both of which remain profoundly original and inspiring, as well as the beautiful correspondence between Max and Sarah Ruhl shared in Letters from Max: A Poet, A Teacher, A Friendship.

  • 2023 Judge: Louise Glück

    Louise Glück was born in New York City in 1943 and grew up on Long Island. In 2020 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” Glück was the author of twelve books of poetry, including The Wild Iris, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Faithful and Virtuous Night, winner of the National Book Award, and Poems 19622012, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, as well as the essay collection American Originality. She passed away in October 2023.

  • 2023 Winner:
    Weijia Pan

    “These elegant poems reflect a mind deeply concerned with the ripples of history, the ties between people, and the power of art to impact both. Weijia Pan’s debut is as imaginative as it is philosophical, as adroit as it is earnest. It is abundantly clear to me why Louise Glück selected it for the prize.”—Daniel Slager, Publisher & CEO, on Motherlands

    Learn more»

  • 2022 Winner:
    Jackson Holbert

    “In this beautiful book, poems of life are tempered by the shadow of mortality. Written in an exacting, minimalist style, with great silence, it records the tumult, the solemnity, and the spiritual survival of a young man.”—Henri Cole on Winter Stranger

    Learn more»

  • 2021 Winner:
    Ryann Stevenson

    “We live in an era when our humanness is worn down—by virtual beings, bots, synced devices, battery life, data, radiation, sulfates, and lead—so we must practice mindfulness to keep from losing track of who we are. This brave, tough book suggests that flowering maples, yoga, orcas, and the hands of our mothers might help us preserve our innocence.” —Henri Cole on Human Resources

    Learn more»

  • 2020 Winner:
    Michael Kleber-Diggs

    “Michael Kleber-Diggs’s poems quietly put pressure on us to live up to our nation’s ideals. He gives voice to the experiences and aspirations of middle-class Black America, and though the promised land is far away, he finds grace in the natural world, long marriage, and fathering. These supple, socially responsible poems seem to me a triumphant, paradoxical, luminous response to a violent time in our history” —Henri Cole on Worldly Things

    Learn more»

  • 2019 Winner:
    Allison Adair

    The Clearing is a lush, lyrical book about a world where women are meant to carry things to safety and men leave decisively. Out of dry farming soil come these wise, mineral-like poems about young motherhood, mining disasters, miscarriages, memory, and much more. Allison Adair’s poems are haunting and dirt caked, but there is also a tense beauty everywhere. I found The Clearing devastating.”
    —Henri Cole on The Clearing

    Learn more»

  • 2018 Winner:
    John James

    “The poetry of the earth is intensely alive in the poems of John James. In this luminous first book, there are poems of a son and a young father. Many of the best inhabit a tormented Kentucky landscape where there is a field with horses, a house and a barn, a flooding river, a cemetery where a parent lies, and bees or flies hovering. Out of the sorrowful fragments of personal history, John James has a created a book of unusual intelligence and beauty.” —Henri Cole on The Milk Hours 

    Learn more»

  • Inaugural Winner: Grady Chambers

    “This powerful, absorbing first book has the sound and feel of a younger generation,” says acclaimed poet and prize judge Henri Cole. “Brilliant language, intelligence, and feeling make North American Stadiums matter. Factory lights, border patrol, gin, handguns, smoke stacks, and war are the geography of many of these eloquent poems, but the solitary poet is always scrutinizing the world with the eyes of a lover.”

    Learn more»

  • 2017–2022 Judge: Henri Cole

    Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan. He has published nine collections of poetry, including Middle Earth, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Lenore Marshall Award, and the Medal in Poetry from the Academy of Arts and Letters. His most recent book is Orphic Paris, a memoir, published by New York Review Books. He teaches at Claremont McKenna College and lives in Boston.

    Complete Guidelines

    • Poets may submit one complete, book-length collection, defined as a manuscript of forty-eight or more pages. Poems may have been previously published in periodicals, chapbooks, or anthologies, but the poet must not have published, nor committed to publish, a book-length collection of poems. Manuscripts must be of original work by a single poet; translations are not eligible.
    • The submitting poet must reside in the United States. Please note: By law, Milkweed Editions must report cash prizes awarded to individuals to the Internal Revenue Service. Individuals in possession of a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) will receive a 1099. If the individual does not have a SSN or ITIN, they will receive a 1042 and could be subject to a withholding of a percentage of the cash prize.
    • Only online submissions via Submittable will be considered. There is an entry fee of $25.*
    • Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but poets must notify Milkweed Editions immediately by withdrawing their manuscript via Submittable if it is accepted for publication elsewhere.
    • Submissions will be reviewed anonymously; the winner will be chosen from finalists selected by named first readers. Manuscript formatting: No identifying information may appear on the pages of the manuscript. If the author’s name appears within the body of the text, please omit it, black it out, or use a pseudonym (this may be changed if the manuscript is selected for publication). Please include a title page (with the author’s name omitted) and a table of contents. Pages must be numbered. Please do not include an acknowledgments page in the manuscript (you will be prompted to submit this information separately via Submittable). No manuscript revisions can be considered during the course of the contest, but the winning poet will have an opportunity to make revisions prior to publication.
    • We aim to ensure an ethical contest with a transparent process. Poets should refrain from entering the contest if their relationship to the judge constitutes a conflict of interest; poets may not have studied with the judge in full-time accredited courses within the last three years. Submissions will not be accepted from employees of the Alan B. Slifka Foundation or Milkweed Editions, their families, or relations.
    • Milkweed Editions reserves the right to disqualify any entries deemed to jeopardize the integrity of the contest.

    *Note: Milkweed Editions is an independent, nonprofit literary press. Entry fees help defray the costs of administrating the contest and publishing the winning collection.



    Max Ritvo’s Legacy

    “All poets are heroes. Your book is your hero story. Take your reader on an adventure.”
    —Max Ritvo

    Max came into our life at Milkweed Editions in May 2016 and quickly became our hero. Although he passed away just four months later, our experience publishing Four Reincarnations has underscored what it means to champion writers who are our heroes. We are delighted and deeply honored to celebrate Max’s legacy with this prize, and to continue publishing outstanding emerging poets. Thank you to the Alan B. Slifka Foundation and its president, Riva Ariella Ritvo-Slifka, for supporting the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize.

    The Max Ritvo Poetry Prize Presents

    The Max Ritvo Poetry Prize event series, billed as The Max Ritvo Poetry Prize Presents, brings a vibrant group of poets and poetry advocates together for an evening of celebration, poetry, and conversation. Milkweed Editions is proud to amplify the voices of debut poets through the annual Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, particularly because fostering a dynamic poetry community was integral to Max Ritvo’s work and life. This annual virtual event series will provide Max Ritvo Poetry Prize winning poets a platform to introduce their work to readers across the country with the support and enthusiasm of their publisher and the Academy of American Poets, the nation’s leading champion of American poets and poetry.

    Launching in 2021, the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize event series will reach thousands of poetry enthusiasts across the country with its virtual format. This format affords access to any reader, no matter their ability or geographic location. The event series will include ASL interpreters and CART (communication access real time translation). This series is made possible through the collaboration of Milkweed Editions, the Academy of American Poets, and the Alan B. Slifka Foundation.

    Max Ritvo Poetry Prize Audiobooks

    Designed to honor the legacy of one of the most original and accomplished poets to debut in recent years—and to reward outstanding poets for years to come—the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize awards $10,000 and multi-format publication by Milkweed Editions to the author of a debut collection of poems.