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PEN/Joyce 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, The Verging Cities

Winner of the 2018 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry

NATALIE SCENTERS-ZAPICO is from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, U.S.A. and Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, México. She is the author of Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press, forthcoming) and The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing, 2015). She has won awards and fellowships from PEN/American, CantoMundo, and GLCA.

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.


2017 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry Judges


Patrick Phillips’ third book of poems, Elegy for a Broken Machine, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015. A past Guggenheim and NEA fellow, he is also the author of Boy and Chattahoochee, which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Phillips’ first book of nonfiction, Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, was published by W. W. Norton in 2016. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Drew University.

Camille T. Dungy is the author of Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press: 2011), Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press: 2010), and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press: 2006). Her honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California BookAwards, a California Book Award silver medal, a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and a fellowship from the NEA. Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press), her newest collection of poems, will be published in February of 2017, and Guidebook to Relative Strangers (Norton), her first collection of personal essays, will be appearing in the summer of 2017. She lives in Colorado with her husband and daughter and is a professor at Colorado State University.
Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by the New York Times. Her other books include Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers.


Submission Guidelines

Submissions for the 2019 awards cycle will open on June 1, 2018. Please note that PEN only accepted submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors were not to submit their own book for this award.


    • Eligibility

      • Eligible:
        • Poets nominated for the award who have published no more than one book of poetry.
        • It is not required that the book of poetry be published in the current calendar year.
      • NOT eligible:
        • A poet cannot nominate themselves.


      • 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.
      • When submissions for this award open again, a link to the nomination form will appear 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.