The Undergraduate MoRe Prize offers prestige and prize money to one talented undergraduate writer each year. In this, the fifth year of the contest, we’re accepting only poetry submissions, which will be judged by the author of 21 books, professor, and Prairie Schooner editor-in-chief, Kwame Dawes. The undergraduate writer whose poem he selects as the winner will receive $50 and publication in our 2019 issue.

The submission period for the Undergraduate MoRe Prize is Oct. 1 – Dec. 1. Submissions are currently closed.

Our 2018-2019 Guest Judge: Kwame Dawes

Photo credit to Chris Abani

Kwame Dawes is the author of 21 books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. In 2016 his book Speak from Here to There, a co-written collection of verse with Australian poet John Kinsella, appeared along with When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life (Pacific University Press), which he edited. His most recent collection, City of Bones: A Testament (Northwestern University Press), appeared in 2017. Also in 2017, Dawes co-edited with Matthew Shenoda Bearden’s Odessey: Poets Responding to the Art of Romare Bearden (Northwest University Press). In 2018 a new edition of his 1995 epic, Prophets, was released by Peepal Tree. His awards include the Forward Poetry Prize, The Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, The Musgrave Silver Medal, several Pushcart Prizes, the Barnes and Nobles Writers for Writers Award, and an Emmy. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and is Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. He also teaches in the Pacific MFA Program. Dawes serves as the Associate Poetry Editor for Peepal Tree Books and is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund. He is Series Editor of the African Poetry Book Series, and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. In 2018 Dawes was elected a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets and named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Undergraduate MoRe Prize Winner 2018-19: Jennifer Woolard
Winning poem: “Whalebone”
Jennifer Woolard is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Writing & Literature within the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Currently focusing on surrealism and imagism in poetry and prose poetry, Jennifer also practices visual arts including ink drawing, painting, book arts, and photography. In the future she hopes to pursue freelance and collaborative work in creative/multimedia writing and art-making.
 Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2018-19: Pei Ja Anderson
Poem: “The Dance Began”

Our 2017-18 Guest Judge: Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 IndieBound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. Her more than thirty books have also topped the USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and have been published in over twenty countries.

She has written several young adult novels including The Isle of the Lost, Witches of East End, Blue Bloods, The Gates of Paradize, just to name a few.

She grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English. Melissa de la Cruz lives in West Hollywood, California with her husband and daughter.

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Undergraduate MoRe Prize Winner 2017-18: Jeremy Shaban

Winning story: “Summer in Autumn”

Jeremy Shaban is currently a senior at Allegheny College, where he is the Personnel and Submissions Manager of its national undergraduate literary journal, The Allegheny Review. He also copy-edits for Film Criticism and works as both a writing consultant and grammar tutor. He will be graduating in May 2018 as an English major with a Creative Writing emphasis.

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2017-18: Hannah Diaz

Story: “A Story Never Told”

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2017-18: Lauren Caldarella

Story: “There Goes That”


nikkigiovanniOur 2016-17 Guest-judge: Nikki Giovanni


Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943. One of the world’s most well-known African-American poets, her work includes poetry anthologies, poetry recordings, and nonfiction essays, and covers topics ranging from race and social issues to children’s literature. Although she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, she and her sister returned to Knoxville each summer to visit their grandparents. Nikki attended her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University, and graduated with honors in 1967.

In her autobiography for her website, Giovanni states, “I highly recommend old age; it’s fun. I have been awarded an unprecedented 7 NAACP Image Awards which makes me very very proud. I have been nominated for a Grammy; been a finalist for the National Book Award. I am very proud to have authored 3 New York Times and Los Angeles Times Best Sellers, highly unusual for a poet. I am a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. I don’t have a lot of friends but I have good ones. I have a son and a granddaughter. My father, mother, sister and middle aunt are all deceased literarily making me go from being the baby in the family to being an elder. I like to cook, travel and dream. I’m a writer. I’m happy.”

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Undergraduate MoRe Prize Winner 2016-17: Nesha Ruther

Winning poem: “A Love Poem to Ernst Winter”

Nesha Ruther was born and raised in Takoma Park, Maryland. She was a member of the 2015 DC Youth Slam Team and has competed in slam poetry competitions such as Louder Than A Bomb, Hyperbole, and Brave New Voices. She has performed her poetry at the State Theatre in South Africa and was a 2016 Young Arts Finalist in Spoken Word Poetry. She currently is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a member of the Tenth cohort of First Wave, the university’s hip hop and urban arts Scholarship program.

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2016-17: Isabella Barsalona

Poem: “Black Coffee”

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2016-17: Annie Ochs

Poem: “How to Love”

Our 2015-16 Guest-judge: Ellen HopkinsauthorPhoto-e1315801199400


Ellen Hopkins is a poet, freelance writer, and the award-winning author of twenty nonfiction titles and five NY Times Bestselling novels-in-verse. She has published hundreds of articles on subjects ranging from aviation to child abuse to winegrowing. Ellen mentors other writers through her position as a regional adviser for the Nevada chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She is a regular speaker at schools, book festivals and writers conferences across the US, and now throughout the world.

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Winner 2015-16: William Reily Cook

Winning story: “Wake”

Reily Cook lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he attends Centenary College. He is an English major and is currently working on a critical study of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Once a musician, he now finds the poetic in telling stories. His belief is William Faulkner’s: the writer’s privilege is to “help man endure by lifting his heart,” and he continues to write with that conviction in and about his hometown. Along with the MoRe Prize, he has won the Zeak Monroe Buckner Award.

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2015-16: Jordan Carter

Story: “We do Shit to get High to Forget the Shit we do to get High”

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2015-16: Nels Foslien

Story: “Tunnelbeast”

Our 2014-15 Guest-judge: Taylor Malimaliimage


Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Def Poetry Jam. A four-time National Poetry Slam champion, he is the author of two collections of poetry and a book of essays, What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. In April of 2012, Mali completed a 12-year project of convincing 1,000 people to become teachers and marked the occasion by donating 12 inches of his hair to the American Cancer Society. Years ago he was the official voice of Burger King.

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Winner 2014-15: Eran E. Eads

Winning poem: “[My grandmother says I’m cold]”

Eads currently attends the University of Alaska-Fairbanks where he studies English and is the editor of Icebox, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks’s national undergraduate literary journal. He is the social media editor for Coldfront and his poems previously have appeared in The Allegheny Review, SOFTBLOW, and Deep Water Literary Journal.

Undergraduate MoRe Prize Honorable Mention 2014-15: Kate Belew

Poem: “Spooky Little Girl.”

You can read these prize-winning pieces in the newest issue of The Mochila Review, available here.