2018 Yemassee Journal Poetry Contest

Winner: “The Rapture,” by nicole shanté

Poetry judge Donika Kelly said the following about the piece:

The Rapture” comes into itself at the moment dominance becomes absent. The poem pushes a thick black line into a future where those have been made marginal move center, the lines tumble as in in disbelief, and we can finally flourish. Whatever script is lost, we are made free in this poem.

nicole shanté

nicole shanté white is definitely the quiet one yo mama warned you about. The choreopoet is a collage of Midwest slang, Southern hospitality, and East Coast grit. She writes, dances, and teaches from a black queer womanist lens. She believes Gucci Mane is the hood’s Shakespeare and yellow is your favorite color’s favorite color.

: “Lauren,” by Lauren Yarnall
Semi-Finalists (selected by our editors): Bevin O’Connor, Ellen Cantrell, Mamie Morgan, A.R. Zarif, Jeddie Sophronius, Lorena Parker Matejowsky

Guest Judge


Donika Kelly is the author of Bestiary (Graywolf 2016), winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (2017), long listed for the National Book Award (2016), and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award (2017), and the chapbook Aviarium (500 Places 2017). She is an Assistant Professor at St. Bonaventure University, where she teaches creative writing. 

Overview: Yemassee is now accepting entries for its 2017 Writing Prizes, including the 2017 Poetry Contest. The author of the winning poem will receive $750 and publication in Yemassee 24.2. The editors will select ten finalists and pass those poems on to the guest judge. The ten finalists will receive acknowledgment and all entries will be considered for publication in an upcoming issue of Yemassee.

Timeline: Submissions open November 15, 2017 and close January 31, 2018.

Entry Instructions: To enter, submit up to three pieces of unpublished poetry. An entry fee of $17 must accompany each entry.

Discounted Subscription: Entries accompanied by $20 qualify the submitter for a one-year subscription to Yemassee. Please select the appropriate fee category.

Formatting and Other Guidelines: Submissions that do not conform to these guidelines may be disqualified at the editors’ discretion. Entries must be submitted online using Submittable; paper submissions will not be accepted. The author’s name must not appear anywhere in the submission or in the file name. We welcome multiple entries. However, each entry must be submitted separately and accompanied by an additional entry fee. While we do allow simultaneous submissions, please inform us immediately if the submission is accepted elsewhere by withdrawing in Submittable. Note that no refunds will be issued for submissions that are withdrawn or disqualified. All entries must be submitted by the deadline.

Eligibility: Current or previous Yemassee staff, close personal friends or family of the Yemassee staff, and writers who have been published in Yemassee within the past two years are ineligible for entry.

Applicants may enter here on Submittable.

Winner of the 2017 Yemassee Poetry Contest

“thunder’s baby” by Irène Mathieu

“thunder’s baby” gathers energy and emotional weight from accumulation, each section ending in a new way of seeing that makes more clear what it means to live (to survive?) as a woman.  The images of the poem are brilliant, and the way the poem seems to figure and think for itself is astonishing. –Jericho Brown, 2017 Poetry Contest Judge