PEN America Literary Awards PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry

The PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry is given in odd-numbered years and alternates with the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. It recognizes the high literary character of the published work to date of a new and emerging American poet of any age and the promise of further literary achievement and confers upon them an award of $5,000. Poets nominated for the award may not have published more than one book of poetry.


Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Natalie Scenters-Zapico, 2017 Winner

Judges: Patrick Phillips, Camille T. Dungy, Ada Limón

From the judges’ citation: “Natalie Scenters-Zapico is an important emerging poet whose formal and tonal range in The Verging Cities is impressive and disarming. Her voice is honest, engaging, and complex as she explores the liminal space of the U.S./Mexico border with vivid imagery that moves fluidly between Juárez and El Paso. At times both tender and funny, she writes so that the border becomes not just an idea, but a rich and real world. With poems that are as intelligent as they are urgent, Natalie Scenters-Zapico offers a necessary poetic voice in these perilous times.”




Featured Works

Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Lima Limon by Natalie Scenters Zapico




Previous Winners

1999  Nick Flynn, Some Ether: Poems (Graywolf Press)

2001  Richard Matthews, The Mill is Burning (Grove Press)

2003  Dana Levin, In the Surgical Theater (Copper Canyon Press)

2005  Yerra Sugarman, Forms of Gone (Sheep Meadow)

2007  Peter Covino, Cut Off the Ears of Winter (New Issues Poetry)

2009  Jeffrey Yang, An Aquarium (Graywolf Press)

2011  Ishion Hutchinson, Far District (Peepal Tree Press Ltd.)

2013  Rowan Ricardo Phillips, The Ground (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Tomás Q. Morín, A Larger Country (American Poetry Review)

2015  Saeed Jones, Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press)

2017 Natalie Scenters-Zapico, The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing/Colorado State University)



Selection Process


  • Only Professional Members of PEN who are in good standing may nominate a writer for this award. Review copies of the candidate’s work may be requested by the award judges.
  • Please nominate poets here. The online submission form will require:
    • A statement of support that describes the literary character of the candidate’s work. Most importantly, nominations should articulate the degree of promise which the nominated poet’s work indicates.  
    • Detailed information on publication of the candidate’s first and only poetry collection.