Main Street Rag Poetry Book Contest

Congratulations to Cathryn Cofell of Neenah, WI whose manuscript, Stick Figure with Skirt, was the winner of the 2019 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.

Stick Figure with Skirt is available now for pre-order in the MSR Online Bookstore and is scheduled for release in November, 2019.

2020 Guidelines

Reading Fee: $25 ($27 for online entry)

Submission Period:

December 1 — February 1, 2020 (POSTMARK deadline–for those using snail mail).
Online Submission: Payment must arrive by 10pm Eastern time, Saturday February 1, 2020, manuscript by 11pm Eastern time

Please read the file preparation page prior to PAYING for email entries. Online payments will not be refunded.

Notification in April 2020 for Winter 2020/2021 publication.


Winner receives publication, 50 copies of the published book, and $1200.
Runners up will also be considered for publication.


  • Send between 52 and 88 pages of poetry (including section breaks), 8.5 X 11, no more than one poem per page, 12 point type in an easily readable font like Arial or Times New Roman.
    (Do not include Table of Contents in page count.)
  • Include 2 Title Pages: One with the TITLE ONLY, one with the title plus author’s name and complete contact information.
  • Author’s name should not appear anywhere else in contest entry.
  • Do Not include Dedication and/or Credits/Acknowledgements pages in entry.
  • If you want a notification of receipt and do not want to receive it by email, include a post card. Announcement of winners will be sent out via email and posted online. Those who prefer to receive a winners’ list by US Postal should include a #10 SASE (This is a standard business size: 4 X 10).
  • No Manuscripts will be returned, so please DO NOT send a manuscript return envelope.
  • No restriction on content style or subject–we’re looking for the best manuscript.
  • Although MSR frowns on simultaneous submissions for our magazine, it is acceptable for book contests. Upon notification, however, winner must immediately withdraw his/her manuscript from consideration elsewhere.

Mailing Instructions:

  • All checks should be made payable to Main Street Rag and sent to:
    Main Street Rag
    PO BOX 690100
    Charlotte, NC 28227-7001.
  • DO NOT USE US Postal Service Media Mail. The USPS has changed its standards for Media Mail and is enforcing it much more readily than it once did. First class is your best option.
  • DO NOT staple or bind manuscripts in any way. We have HUNDREDS of clips here from years of submissions and remove anything that comes in a binder or folder and throw away the binder or folder. If you want to pay for those materials and the additional shipping to get the manuscript here only to have it thrown away, that’s your choice. All manuscripts go to readers in the same format.
  • DO NOT send anything that must be signed for (Signature Receipt or Express Mail) since it means having to stand in line to receive it and we don’t have time for that–particularly on the days immediately preceding and immediately after the postmark deadline.


Contest Recommendations

***Postage Saver Special*** For those who read all the way down the page!!!

Email Submission Instructions

Main Street Rag does allow for email submissions, but the guidelines are even more specific, so please read them carefully before choosing this option and give yourself enough time to prepare the manuscript file properly.

Guidelines for email submissions

Reading Fee for Poetry Book Award:

Previous Winners List

2019: Stick Figure with Skirt by Cathryn Cofell

2018: Ticket Stubs & Liner Notes by Tim Hunt, Normal, IL

2017: Urbilly by Michael Dowdy, Columbia, SC

2016: Tasty Other by Katie Manning, San Diego, CA

2015: Miss Desert Inn by Ron Salisbury, San Diego, CA

2014: If You Find Yourself by Brian Heston, Atlanta, GA

2013: All the Heat We Could Carry by Charlie Bondhus, Bridgewater, NJ

2012: Shortly Thereafter by Colin D. Halloran, Boston, MA

2011: Elegies for New York Avenue by Melanie Henderson of Washington, DC

2010: God’s Optimism by Yehoshua November of Morristown, NJ
Was also a finalist for the LA Times Book of the Year.

2009: Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage by Leslie McGrath, Stonington, CT

2008: The Boy Whose Hands Were Birds by Roy Seeger, Aiken, SC

2007: The Lost Tribe of Us by Heather Davis, Front Royal, VA

2006: Salt Memory by Jennifer K. Sweeney, San Francisco, CA

2005: Conquistador by Jay Griswold, N. Fort Myers, FL

2004: The Hospital Poems by Jim Ferris, Verona, WI. Was also a finalist
for the Texas Institute of Letters Natalie Ornish Best Book of Poetry Award.

2003: Nearing Narcoma by Matt Morris, Elkview, WV

2002: Across The Dark by Pam Bernard, Boston, MA