NOW OPEN: Submissions for 2021 Peseroff Prize in Poetry, featuring finalist guest judge Chen Chen!

“Whenever something new develops in poetry, many will argue, ‘That’s not poetry.’ Think of the reception of William Carlos Williams . . . spoken word poets, poets who incorporate graphics, poets who write in code so robots can read them. It’s all poetry.” –Joyce Peseroff


The Peseroff Prize honors Joyce Peseroff’s work as a poet, teacher, editor, innovator, and mentor. She helped found the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston, served as its first director, and retired from teaching in 2014.


Head shot of Chen Chen, the guest judge for the 2021 Peseroff Poetry Prize.
photo credit: Paula Champagne

Chen Chen


We're thrilled to announce Chen Chen as our guest judge for the 2021 Peseroff Prize in Poetry!


Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. His work appears/is forthcoming in many publications, including Poetry and three editions of The Best American Poetry (2015, 2019, and 2021). He has received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Kundiman and the NEA. He teaches at Brandeis University and also serves on the faculty for the low residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast. With Sam Herschel Wein, he runs the journal Underblong.



Need some inspiration on what to submit? Look no further than from the poet himself.


"It’s essential to me that I’m not just writing another poem for the sake of having written something. I want to be surprised, deliciously startled into a deeper aliveness. An important 'test' for a poem is whether I feel that I’ve made some real discovery through the act of writing. Have I learned something? Do I experience an aspect of the world or of myself differently? Is the poem saying something that, before it existed, was unsaid, unsayable (for me)? Or is the poem making room for the unsayable to exist more freely, with all its fuchsia tentacles waving?" –Chen Chen



Submissions for the Peseroff Prize are open from FEBRUARY 1 to APRIL 15.


Submit up to three poems and a $10 entry fee. There are no restrictions on content or form: “it’s all poetry.” Poems should be previously unpublished. We accept simultaneous submissions, but please notify us if submission is accepted and will be published elsewhere.

prize: $1000 and publication in our next forthcoming issue

fee: $10

Please do not submit your work if you are associated with the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston or the Finalist Judge.


Ready to submit? breakwaterreview.submittable.com/submit