The Shann Palmer Poetry Contest

Shann Palmer Poet

We will be open for submissions starting January 8, 2021.

The Shann Palmer Poetry Contest is a partnership between James River Writers and Richmond magazine to encourage Virginia poets to share their best work.

The contest is named after Shann Palmer, a long-time JRW volunteer and board member, beloved poet, and a wild- and wise-hearted creative who shared her spirit and talents freely, inspiring and encouraging others in the literary community. She passed away in December 2013, and the contest (formerly “Best Poetry Contest”) was renamed in her honor the following year.

First prize: $500, publication of winning poem(s) in Richmond magazine, and a ticket to the annual James River Writers conference.

The Shann Palmer Poetry Contest will be held January 8 – February 28, 2021.


Up to four original, unpublished poems (see rules below). Submissions and payment will be accepted only through the online form that will go live January 8.

Entry fee: $20


Poems must be original, unpublished, not scheduled for publication prior to November of the contest year, and must not have previously won an award in this or any other contest. Up to four (4) poems may be submitted in one packet. Poets may not enter more than once per contest year. Employees and board members of either James River Writers or Richmond magazine (including regular freelancers) are ineligible to submit work, as are Shann Palmer Poetry Contest committee members and judges. Please ask if you have questions about eligibility.

Each submission packet must:

  • be uploaded as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) or PDF attachment to the online form (which goes live January 1 of the contest year)
  • include a cover sheet with:
    • the author’s name
    • contact information (include email, mailing address, and phone number)
  • include title(s) of the poem or poems on your cover sheet

One cover sheet is sufficient for up to four poems. This is not a cover letter; include only the items listed above. To protect the anonymity of the poems, the judge does not see the cover pages.


Since each poem is judged anonymously and independently of others, each page has to stand alone. Make sure your submission complies with the following format rules:

  • Maximum of one page in length per poem
  • No more than one poem per page
  • Single-spaced
  • 12-point standard font (such as Times New Roman, Arial, or similar)
  • Page size = 8 1/2″ x 11″
  • Title of the poem at the top of the page
  • No page numbering the pages and no headers or footers
  • No name on the page with the poem
  • Write in English

Additional Information

  • Poet must be a resident of Virginia, a student at a Virginia college or university, or a member of JRW.
  • Submissions must be submitted using the form linked to this page.
  • Author retains the copyright.


Entrants will be notified of the results by the end of June of the contest year. The winning entry will be published in Richmond magazine in the September issue, and the winner will be celebrated at the next James River Writers Conference in October.

Contest Winners

2018 Winners

The 2018 winning poem is “How to Meditate,” by Fred Everett Maus. The two finalists are Tony Gentry’s “Immigrant Reflection” and Annie Woodford’s “Till You Said Something Neither of Us Knew.”

To read the poems, visit Richmond magazine.

The 2018 judge is Tarfia Faizullah.

Tarfia Faizullah was born in 1980 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Midland, Texas. She is the author of Registers of Illuminated Villages (forthcoming from Graywolf in 2018) and Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of a VIDA Award, a GLCA New Writers’ Award, a Milton Kessler First Book Award, Drake University Emerging Writer Award, and other honors. Her poems are published widely in periodicals and anthologies both in the United States and abroad, are translated into Persian, Chinese, Bengali, Tamil, and Spanish, have been featured at the Smithsonian, the Rubin Museum of Art, and elsewhere, and are the recipients of multiple awards, including three Pushcart Prizes, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry, a Fulbright Fellowship, and other honors. In 2016, she was recognized by Harvard Law School’s Women Inspiring Change. Faizullah currently teaches in the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program as the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor in Poetry.  She received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

2016 Winners

Zoa 2016 JRW Poetry Contest Winner
Zoa accepting the award for the Shann Palmer Poetry Contest. Photo by Caroline Brae.

James River Writers and Richmond magazine partner to announce Zoa as the winner of the Shann Palmer Poetry Contest, for his poem “A New Emotion.” Head judge and Virginia Poet Laureate, Ron Smith, said “Every time I come back to this poem, it moves me and intrigues me.” A native of Ortonville, Michigan, Zoa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and literature at Eastern Michigan University. He works as a copy editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


M. Lee Alexander, “Sestina of Turku in Winter”
Bill Glose, “Inspecting the Fields”

2014 Winners

Gail Giewont 2014 JRW Poetry Contest Winner
Gail Giewont is the 2014 JRW Poetry Contest Winner

First place was awarded to the poem “The Planets Move but Not Alone” by Gail Giewont. Ms. Giewont is an educator at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology and was inspired to begin work on “The Planets Move but Not Alone” while watching a Pittsburgh building burn in 2002 and returned to the poem for revisions over the years.

Fred E. Maus and Polly Lazaron were awarded joint Second Place for their poems, “South Beach in Winter” and “Creamed,” respectively. Polly Lazaron is an artist and former Richmond resident who now lives in a rural setting near Charlottesville. Fred Everett Maus is a musician and writer who teaches music courses at the University of Virginia. He returned to poetry writing a year ago, and the Shann Palmer Contest is the first poetry contest he has ever entered.

Earlier winners – Best Poetry Contest


Wendy Miles, “Egg”

Allison Seay, “Secret Room”
Darren Morris, “Theory on the Occurrence of Cicadas”

Honorable mention
Polly Lazaron, “Aligning with Birth Stars”
Joanna S. Lee, “incongruent”
John L Morgan, IV, “The Barn House”
Shann Palmer, “Bad Girls”


Laura Davenport, “Sermon: New Orleans, 2003”

Heidi Johannesen Poon, “The Problem of the Forest”
Henry Hart, “White Goddess”

Honorable Mention
Wendy Miles, “The Green Place & Memory: Virginia (Two Poems)”
Sallie Lupton Jennings, “He Stays”
Mil Norman-Risch” Remains”
Virginia Rider, “From Miller’s Lane”


Sharron Singleton, “With my Daughter and Granddaughter at the Korean Spa in a Strip Mall North of Seattle” & “A Thin Thread of Water & Wisdom of the Arch & Unfastened (4 Poems)”

Elisabeth Murawski
Henry Hart

Honorable Mention
Darren Morris
Derek Kannemeyer
Melissa Dobsonn
Greg Bowles
Erin Lambertn