James Hearst Poetry Prize

James Hearst Contest Header Graphic | Headshot of Hearst above a forest shrouded in mist

The James Hearst Poetry Prize is a competition intended to recognize the finest poetry. We welcome all forms of previously unpublished poetry and up to five poems per submission. James Hearst wrote like he farmed, with an eye for clean fields and straight fences. A writing professor at the University of Northern Iowa for four decades, he also served as a contributing editor and guiding light for the North American Review. The Complete Poetry of James Hearst was published in 2001 by the University of Iowa Press. The winning entry, runners-up, honorable mentions, and finalists will be offered publication in the North American Review’s spring issue. Results will be announced in January. 


2025 Contest Information

  • Contest Opens: August 1, 2024 at 10:00am CST
  • Contest Closes: November 2, 2024 at 2:00am CST
  • Entry Fee: $23.00USD
  • Entry Length: 1–5 poems
  • Winner’s Prize: $1,000.00USD
  • Contest Judge: Stephanie Burt


The Judging Process

  • All submissions to the James Hearst Poetry Prize will be handled through our online submission system, Submittable.
  • Simultaneous submission to other journals or competitions is allowed with notice should your poems be accepted elsewhere.
  • Work previously published online or in print is ineligible for submission.
  • Submissions are gathered through Submittable and packaged by the Contest Manager, who may not serve as a Contest Reader or Coordinator.
  • Submissions are read by the Contest Coordinators, who are NAR Editors, as well as by fifteen or more Contest Readers, most of whom are undergraduate or graduate students at the University of Northern Iowa.
  • Contest Readers receive the initial entries and select a slate of semifinalists.
  • The Contest Coordinators then reduce the semifinalist list to a pool of finalists; these poems are sent to the Prize Judge.
  • The Contest Judge selects a Winner, Runners-up, and possibly a number of Honorable Mentions from the pool of finalists.
  • All finalists and semifinalists will be announced on the NAR website in an Open Space post.


Manuscript Preparation Rules

  • All poems need to be submitted in a single file, and each submission can only include a maximum of five poems.
  • We only accept Microsoft Word (.docx) and Google Doc (.doc) files; we do not accept PDFs.
  • Remove all identifying information from the document: no names, addresses, or other identifying information should appear anywhere on the manuscript.
  • Remove all pagination as we have an internal system for managing page numbers.
  • Do not include a cover page.
  • Bold and left align each title of each poem, which should begin at the top of its own page.
  • If possible, please name your file stating the number of poems contained within the file.
  • If possible, please use single-spaced Times New Roman 12pt font with one inch margins.
  • These rules allow for a consistent double-blind reading and management of the contest, which reduces the possibility of unconscious bias.
  • Disregarding these rules may result in disqualification; no refund will be offered.
  • Should you have questions or concerns about your submission, please send a message via Submittable or contact the Contest Manager at nar@uni.edu.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • All contact with writers will be managed through Submittable and the NAR email account, nar@uni.edu.
  • We will accept multiple submissions, but each submission will incur the $23.00 entry fee.
  • We will accept submissions from domestic and international writers.
  • We value both free verse and formal poems in rhyme and meter—both open and closed forms.
  • Current University of Northern Iowa students are ineligible to submit.
  • Friends of the Contest Judge are ineligible to submit.
  • The Entry Fee includes a copy of the spring issue (a $15 value) in which the Winner and all Finalists will appear. If you submit multiple times, we will send you subsequent issues, rather than multiple copies of the same issue.
  • The Contest Coordinators may offer publication—in a future issue of North American Review or on Open Space—to any notable work submitted to the contest.

Announcing Past Winners