Submissions have opened for this year’s annual Wells College Press Poetry Chapbook Contest.
English Department Chair Dan Rosenberg said the Chapbook Contest is a wonderful collaboration that invites a range of contemporary poets to not only share their work with the community but also transform it through Wells’ Book Arts Center.
“Chapbooks are small, intimate, flexible, often hand-made — that is, chapbooks are very Wells,” Rosenberg said. “We don’t have a consistent aesthetic, and we welcome submissions of all kinds, but we love poets who are doing surprising things with language, whose work feels genuinely distinctive. I’m personally excited when I read poetry that behaves in ways I haven’t seen before, where the language is energized by a worldview and a relationship to expression that is unlike my own.”
A group of award-winning poets and past winners of the contest are selected to serve as first readers and blindly evaluate the submissions. The final manuscripts selected by the panel go to Rosenberg to determine the winner. Rosenberg said the winning author is closely involved in the production of their chapbook. The most recent winner, James D’Agostino, won the Wells contest for his chapbook “This Much” in 2019. D’Agostino’s work from “This Much” was later published in a larger poetry collection that won a Waywiser Press Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize last year.
“We always tell the winner we’re excited to publish their manuscript as-is, but I’m happy to offer editorial suggestions to strengthen the collection further,” Rosenberg said. “Every winner so far has been open to working together in this way, embracing some notes and pushing back on others, which is exactly how it should be. And working closely like this with the poet prepares me to write my introduction, since I get to know their poems and their thinking so deeply. I was so excited to see James’ work go on to receive even more recognition and honored that he used some of my introduction to his chapbook as a blurb for the full collection.”
The chosen poet will receive 10 copies of a custom-designed, hand-sewn chapbook, plus a digital version of the book, and $1,000, including room and board, to come to Wells College for a reading from their new chapbook in the fall of 2024. The Wells College Press will also print and sell 50 special edition, signed, and numbered copies of the chapbook.
The WCP is an active print manufacturing workshop operated through the college’s Book Arts Center. It was founded in 1939 by Victor Hammer, active until 1948, and re-established with the founding of the Center in 1993. The WCP produces hand-crafted books, broadsides, certificates, and awards, and helps teach Wells students the book arts through many academic programs. Mary Tasillo, who joined Wells as the new Book Arts Center Director this summer, said she's excited for her first year collaborating on this project.
“As a book artist with an interest in poetry, it's a bit thrilling to join a small group of publishers creating tactile chapbooks with handmade components," Tasillo said. "Making visual art from poetry is an intimate kind of reading experience, getting to know the poems in a deeper way, and finding ways to connect someone else's work to your own creative process.”
The winner will be announced in April. Submission guidelines can be found on the WCP Submittable page. Follow the Book Arts Center on Facebook and Instagram and the Wells College Press on Facebook for more.