The Poetry Center Book Award

The Poetry Center Book Award has been presented annually since 1980 by The Poetry Center, San Francisco State University, to a single outstanding book of poetry published in the previous year. The award carries a cash prize and an invitation to read, along with the award judge, at The Poetry Center in San Francisco.

The Poetry Center Book Award goes to Lauren Levin for The Braid (Krupskaya Books).

The Poetry Center Book Award Reading will take place Thursday, February 21, 2019, at The Poetry Center, with Poetry Center Book Award winner Lauren Levin reading along with award judge Melissa Mack.

Judge's Statement: for The Braid by Lauren Levin

Many of the books I read for the Poetry Center Book Award spoke to me, were doing urgent and interesting work, shared vital rhythms, sounds, forms, and concerns. But The Braid rose. It articulated and worried – as in worked, as in worried – some of my (and I would venture to say ‘our’) most pressing concerns. What I’m looking for is a way to join with the world / and love won’t let me do that any more than hatred will. And the way it did so was expansive and specific, so good at the vague grammar of consciousness and the precision of “personal” experience. Maybe I should call this poem that refuses to stop / ‘the care-giver’ / or ‘the shepherdess’ or ‘the murderess’… Levin’s long poems made of long lines allow tenderness and aggression to coexist, like in the game Levin plays with daughter Alejandra, “Little bee, little bee, don’t sting your mama” / while she nudges my face with her mouth and nose … / and shouts into my mouth, STING! Also, the principal of the braid as a combinatory form in which the source materials remain fully themselves, even when brought together, I found so respectful and responsible in this era of cooption, merging, networks. Different bodies at different times in different places have different experiences. The obvious things are worth saying instead. Once, my niece, five years old or so, told me, of a party she’d been to, “There was a part where I didn’t feel included.” I felt included in this braid alright. Levin’s examination of whiteness as the pastoral – willful innocence and a desire to be soothed, to be able to exit the scene at any time – and of persistent anxiety was gripping. But I do believe that it is meaningful / where relief and solace come from // If I am not afraid / because I have been listening to Reagan speeches / vs. if I am not afraid // Because the bravery of my murdered friends / has taken my fear away / That is a meaningful distinction. The Braid is rigorous and uncomfortable and beautiful and I am glad to have picked it for this award and I hope everyone reads it.

—Melissa Mack

Guidelines for submission of 2018 books

The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University seeks submissions for the annual Poetry Center Book Award. Entrees will be accepted from FEBRUARY 1, 2018 thru JANUARY 31, 2019. Published original books of poetry by a single author (no collaborative works, anthologies, translations, or manuscripts) must be copyrighted 2018. Entrees can be submitted by publisher, author, or by a reader. An entry fee of $15 per book (all of which goes directly to the benefit of the award winner and award judge) must accompany each book. Please include a cover letter indicating the author's name, book title(s), name of person or publisher issuing check, and check number. Checks should be payable to The Poetry Center and entrees mailed to:

The Poetry Center/SFSU
Book Award
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco CA 94132

*The judge for the award will not be announced in advance.

View the recipients from 1980 forward for the Poetry Center Book Award.

The Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Award

The Poetry Center is pleased to sponsor The Academy of American Poets/Harold Taylor Award at San Francisco State University. Founded in 1955 with ten schools, the University & College Poetry Prize Program now includes more than 175 prizes across the country. Many prominent American poets won their first recognition with an Academy College Prize, including Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Tess Gallagher, Louise Gluck, Allen Grossman, Jorie Graham, Kimiko Hahn, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Li-Young Lee, Charles Wright, Sylvia Plath and others.


Check postings on campus for deadlines. SFSU students may submit to The Poetry Center up to 10 pages of poetry, constituted by any number of poems. (Example: One ten page manuscript would constitute an entire single submission) Manuscripts must be clearly typed and legible. Manuscripts will not be returned. Names should not appear on manuscript pages. The writer's name, address, telephone number and social security number should be included in a cover letter accompanying the manuscript. The Winner will receive a $100 check from the Academy of American Poets. Results are announced in late April.


  • 2018:  Kimberly Reyes
  • 2017:  Sophie Eden (Honorable Mention: Nathan Truong)
  • 2016:  Brooke Harries
  • 2015:  Ryan Nash (Honorable Mention: Phillip Baron)
  • 2014:  no award given
  • 2013:  Jennifer Cheng and Jackson Meazle (Honorable Mention: Luke Dani Blue)
  • 2012:  Amy McNeely (Honorable Mention: Matthew Keuter)
  • 2011:  Monica Regan (Honorable Mention: Susan Calvillo and Carolyn Ho)
  • 2007:  Tina Petrakis  (Honorable Mention: Lorena Santos)
  • 2006:  Paul Dertien
  • 2005:  Zaid Shlah and Kathryn Pringle (shared award)  (Honorable Mention: Lauren Shufran and James Brook)
  • 2004:  Elise Ficarra
  • 2003:  Brandon Brown
  • 2002:  Megan Pruiett

San Francisco Browning Society Award

The dramatic monologue as evolved by Robert Browning is a poem written in the first person singular in which the speaker expresses his or her own character (as well as the character of a person spoken about in the poem) through a discourse with a silent listener, who may or may not be the subject of the poem.

Other interesting features of a dramatic monologue include: 1) The reader takes the part of the silent listener. 2) The speaker uses a case-making, argumentative tone. 3) We complete the dramatic scene from within, by means of inference and imagination. While the heart of the form relies on a first-person speaker, note that previous winners have taken some artistic liberties.

See the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics for a fuller description of the dramatic monologue. Students are encouraged to read Robert Browning's My Last Duchess, Porphyria's Lover, or The Laboratory to become familiar with the dramatic monologue form.


  • Deadline: 5pm, November 1, 2018

  • Open to SFSU Creative Writing Students.

  • All entries must be original, unpublished dramatic monologues.

  • Any SFSU Creative Writing student may submit up to 3 poems of not more than 5 pages each.

  • Attach a cover letter to your manuscript with your name, address, phone number and social security number.

  • The poems will be judged anonymously, so please do not put your name on the poems!

  • Use a separate cover sheet for each entry. All entries must be original, unpublished DRAMATIC MONOLOGUES.

  • Submit by hand an original and 2 copies of your work (that's 3 copies total) to: THE POETRY CENTER, HUM 511
    Or by mail (receipt date November 1):  The Poetry Center, Browning Award, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco CA 94132
    No email submissions.

  • Poets retain full rights to their work, but manuscripts will NOT be returned.

  • All winners will be invited to attend the Spring meeting of the Browning Society, usually the second Friday in March. Winners will be announced by mid-February.


  1. First Place $300.00

  2. Second Place $200.00

  3. Third Place $100.00

  4. Three Honorable Mentions $50.00 each

The Piri Thomas Poetry Prize

The Piri Thomas Poetry Prize was initiated in 2009 by Friends and Family of Piri Thomas (September 30, 1928 – October 17, 2011), and is given annually by The Poetry Center to an undergraduate student enrolled at SFSU in creative writing. The prize is administered by the Academy of American Poets.

Piri Thomas's autobiography, Down These Mean Streets, was published in 1967 to wide acclaim, and chronicled his early life on the rough streets of El Barrio in Spanish Harlem, New York City. He worked for many years as an educator and advocate for young writers and readers, with a PBS film produced in 2003, titled Every Child is Born a Poet. A stellar recording for American Clavé shares the same title, and features the poet in performance with an outstanding array of artists from the jazz and Latin music world.

The Piri Thomas Poetry Prize carries a $100 cash reward. Candidates for the prize are nominated by SFSU faculty.


  • 2018:  Brittany Nguyen
  • 2017:  DeMareon Gipson
  • 2016:  Vanessa Hamill
  • 2015:  Joshua Gill-Sutton
  • 2014:  Branden Balenzuela
  • 2013:  Jenna Littlejohn
  • 2012:  Eliza Dzulkafli
  • 2011:  Jillian Claire Graves
  • 2010:  Robert Ellis Lee

The Frances Jaffer Poetry Prize

The Frances Jaffer Poetry Prize was initiated in 1999 in memory of the late poet Frances Jaffer and is given annually to an undergraduate student in Creative Writing at SFSU on the basis of the student’s outstanding innovative work. Note: funds for the Frances Jaffer Poetry Prize were exhausted in 2017, thus we have had to discontinue awarding the prize to new recipients until further notice.

Ms. Jaffer was prominent as a poet and editor in the Bay Area literary community, and was influential particularly on a younger generation of women writers. Author of two books of poetry, She Talks to Herself in the Language of An Educated Woman (Kelsey St. Press, 1981) and Alternate Endings (HOW(ever), 1985), Frances Jaffer was a founding coeditor of HOW(ever), the San Francisco-based literary journal devoted to exploring historical and contemporary innovative writing by women.  A volume of the poetry of Frances Jaffer is being prepared for publication, edited by Kathleen Fraser and Rob Halpern.

The Frances Jaffer Poetry Prize was funded through donations from friends of Frances Jaffer, and carried a cash prize. Candidates for the Jaffer Prize were nominated by SFSU faculty.


  • 2017:  Chiara Maria Phillips
  • 2016:  Phillip Chavez
  • 2015:  Nicole McKeon
  • 2014:  Denise Massingill
  • 2013:  Chelsea Turowsky
  • 2012:  Marissa Carter
  • 2011:  Benjamin Lopez
  • 2010:  Alexander West
  • 2009:  Nicole Escobar
  • 2008:  Diana Ybarra
  • 2007:  Leslie Patron
  • 2006:  Christopher Girard
  • 2005:  Jose Villaran
  • 2004:  Unju Chi
  • 2003:  Hongyu Min
  • 2002:  John Sakkis
  • 2001:  Mary DeNardo
  • 2000:  Cynthia Sailers