PEN America Opens Submissions and Nominations for 2021 PEN America Literary Awards

The multiple interconnected crises facing our nation have forced us to reimagine our norms and institutions from the ground up,” said poet and PEN America Trustee Gregory Pardlo. “As individuals and organizations, we have had to call on the ingenuity of our foremothers to ‘make a way out of no way,’ as Zora Neale Hurston puts it, ingenuity that yields opportunity where, previously, there had only been struggle.

PEN America today announced the opening of submissions and nominations for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards. Publishers and agents can submit books between now and August, and PEN America Members can nominate writers for the organization’s landmark career achievement awards.

Opportunity Knocks For


This year, PEN America announced it has increased the cash purse for the PEN Open Book Award to $10,000. The award is offered annually to a writer of color. It’s meant to challenge the lack of diversity in publishing by championing literary voices that traditionally do not see wide media coverage, encouraging the development of these talented writers, and recognizing the exemplary publishers and small presses who discover, nurture, and publish writers of color. Past winners of the PEN Open Book Award include Claudia Rankine, Meena Alexander, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others.

“The multiple interconnected crises facing our nation have forced us to reimagine our norms and institutions from the ground up,” said poet and PEN America Trustee Gregory Pardlo. “As individuals and organizations, we have had to call on the ingenuity of our foremothers to ‘make a way out of no way,’ as Zora Neale Hurston puts it, ingenuity that yields opportunity where, previously, there had only been struggle. Strategic alterations to the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards demonstrate PEN America’s resourcefulness in pursuit of real structural change. Through the reimagined Literary Awards, PEN America redoubles its commitment to celebrating the talent and voices of the poets and writers most often marginalized by business as usual, and marshals its influence to counter inequities that distort the American literary landscape.”

PEN/Voelcker Award for


The literary and free expression group will also offer a newly reimagined award, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection, for the best poetry collection of the year. In partnership with Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, PEN America will confer an increased cash purse for the 2021 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. PEN America will additionally confer two PEN/Jean Stein Grants for Literary Oral History, with increased cash prizes of $15,000 each.

Director of PEN America’s public programs Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf and the organization’s senior director of literary programs Chip Rolley are available to discuss:

  • The role literary awards play in diversifying the American literary canon;
  • How PEN America’s awards have changed careers over its half-century history;
  • And what PEN America’s enhanced awards program will offer emerging and established writers at a moment of acute financial difficulty for writers nationwide.

The 2020 PEN America Literary Awards, held March 2, conferred some $330,000 of transformative support on writers and translators. Hosted by Late Night’s Seth Meyers, it was the largest ceremony in the Awards program’s 56-year history. Honorees included Yiyun Li, Tom Stoppard, Tanya Barfield, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Rigoberto González, among others.

Click here to learn more about the PEN America Literary Awards.

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!


For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

I Still Recall . . . and other poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

Photograph courtesy of Jude Beck, Unsplash

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”  Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

And this being Tuesday, it’s time to share the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, Hello Nazim . . . Hello, June 10, which invited poets to share memories and thoughts on their fathers. Some share good stories and some share sad experiences, not unlike the world’s populations writ large.  Thanks to Benedicta (Akosua) Boamah, Anjum Wasim Dar, Irma Do,  Irene Emanuel, Joan Leotta, Frank McMahon, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Nancy Ndeke, and Adrian Slonaker for this distinctive and relatable collection  Enjoy! . . .

. . . and do join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt. All are welcome: beginning, emerging, and pro poets. This is a safe place to exercise your poetic muscle, to introduce yourself to our community, and to meet other poets who may be new to you.

a stern look
the outer resilence
of a man who instills discipline.

2020, Benedicta (Akosua) Boamah

You can read more of Benedicta’s poetry using the search engine on this site.

Dear Father, if you were alive today

Life would have been so different, I would
have spent a day with you, served you hot tea,

Discussed some aspect of English Language
then played an exciting game of Scrabble with you.

You inspired us all, by your elegant professionalism
I admired you in uniform you honored it so rightly.

Up early getting ready for office, I remember the
sweet smell of lather, the small foamy shaving brush

You would lovingly tease me by touching my cheek
with it, your silver table mirror swinging back from

time to time, and had to be adjusted again and again,
the small mug of warm soapy water, I watched in awe

when you changed the blade after shaving the cheeks
a bit of chin, you respected the beard but never kept it.

I remember the brand name Treet, sharp metallic cutter,
wrapped in yellow and purple, while music played on

Radio Ceylon,Triple 5 cigarette tin stood at attention,
uniform clean pressed stiff, brass pips shining, awaited you

How lovingly and expertly you would treat us in times when
we injured ourselves running and falling, or getting fever,

Your love of music always surprised us in joyful suspense
till the needle of Grundig touched the HMV 75 rpm record,

this reflected the musical moods of the Renaissance. The best
collection was of books,every month from England

“The Companion Book Club”classics arrived. I know all that
reading created the writer in me. Thank you Father, I love you,

miss you, I could write so much more, as there is so much more,
with you in heaven, then I talk to you in silent prayers,

I am fortunate to receive so much affection, care, teachings of
true values of life in this world. Your best lesson was:

“Have a big heart, forgive and relax, always try to do good with
patience and courage, to be alive is a blessing”.

Father,  You were a true soldier, served actively in Burma and Java, experienced a brush with death against the Japanese, a healing doctor of humanity, veteran of WW II, awarded the Burma Star, King George the 6th Queen’s Medal 1950, Royal British Indian Medical Service Medal and Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Service and Indo-Pak War Medal 1965.

© 2020, Anjum Wasim Dar

I Still Recall

I still recall the moments

when I sat up in bed crying

for how long?

I do not know,no one came

for quite some time, perhaps

because it was

in the late hours of night-

I was hardly four or five

playing more and eating less-

I was crying for food

I guess…

and then he was by my side-

Father sat patted and said,

“What’s the matter dear?

is it something that you fear?

Its not the cold nor heat nor pain,

its hunger you need something to eat”.

And so I still feel the taste so sweet

delicious to the root,full juicy was the

tinned mixed fruit.

Father opened the can right there

made me eat with love and care

what else so ready could he get,as

I felt hungry in the middle of the night…

No sooner had I eaten

when all tears were forgotten

I was overtaken by peace

and fell off into a very deep sleep.

Father your love was profound

it sustains me still.

© 2020, Anjum Wasim Da

Anjum-ji’s sites are:

“POETRY PEACE and REFORM Go Together -Let Us All Strive for PEACE on EARTH for ALL -Let Us Make a Better World -WRITE To Make PEACE PREVAIL.” Anjum Wasim Dar


I zero in
On the cracks in the walls
The spaces between the tile and grout
The layer of dust on the grand piano
The peeling Formica under 80’s sought after giveaway cups
The places where your innovative nature took precedence over getting the job done right.

I zero in
On the grays in your hair
And the spots on your hands
The slowness in your cane aided walk
Your mouth agape during your afternoon nap
The hand me up shirt you’ve been wearing for decades because it still fits

I zoom out
And see the humor and kindness in your eyes
The hands that lovingly prepare my favorite meal
The 20 year old bed that fits generations
The clock where time has stopped but happiness lives on
The struggle of remembering and honoring and forgetting and accepting.

I zoom out
And notice what you do without
What you’ve sacrificed
What you’ve preserved
What you’ve done with love
What you’ve done for love.

I zero in on that detail.

© 2020, Irma Do

Irma’s site is: I Do Run, And I do a few other things too . . . 


My heart’s bereft
now you have left this Earth.
Just thoughts of you
to see me through the years.
When last did I
see eye to eye with you?
Your World and mine,
by age and time, were different.

As memories come creeping in,
why, only now, do I begin to see your worth?
How dumb and blind;
how closed my mind to everything of you.
You tried your best,
why did I test your love?
Love and warmth were always there,
I just never gave my share to you.

And now you lie beneath the ground,
my words of love are tightly bound inside me.
So all the times I ever had
to say ” I love you, Dad,” are gone forever.
Too late I’ve woken,
the words unspoken remain unheard.
Why did you go
before I let you know
how much I loved you?

© 2020, Irene Emanuel


He was otherworld;
othertime, otherplace;
he was othertongue;
otherman, otherface.
He was a Polishman;
strongman; bright and aware;
wiseman, everybody’s friend,
busyman, goodman, always there.
He was a workman;
kindman; animal lover.
He was caring and gentle,
adored his kids, worshipped our mother.
He was a sickman;
weakman, fading away,
he lingered on until he died
one glorious bluesky day.
He was Polish Henek, English Henry,
different names and time—–
for me, he was my fatherman,
my dearest Daddy, mine.

© 2020, Irene Emanuel

You may read more of Irene’s poems by using the search engine on this site.

Dreaming Across the Styx

My father walks into my view.
He is in a long, narrow room,
wearing his tan trench coat.
A finely blocked felt hat
tops his jet-black, wavy hair.
He tamps down the tobacco
in his cherry wood pipe, then turns
to me, his brown eyes twinkling.
He steps back into
a poorly lit hallway I do not recognize.
Dad removes his coat and
sits in an orange plastic chair.
Coat on his lap,
he draws softly on the pipe and
nods toward me .
Cherry -flavored tobacco smoke
soothes me.
Dad is waiting for me,
as always.
Through theatre classes
piano lessons, dance lessons.
Patiently enmeshed in his own thoughts,
he waits without complaint.

Suddenly I wake.
I’m at home.
No hallway. No chair.
No cherry tobacco.
Only the smell of coffee.
My father smiles from his photo.
Some say dreaming across the Styx means
Ferryman Charon will soon arrive.

Not for me.

Instead of Charon,
my own beloved father
waits, patiently, to
ferry me across the Styx
in his white 1960 Thunderbird.

First published, Red Wolf Journal, Summer 2014, this is an excerpt from Joan’s collection Languid Lusciousness with Lemon

© 2020, Joan Leotta

Donut Dialog with Dad

Once a month on an

afternoon when my

dad worked night shift,

he’d pull up to my school in

his white Ford Thunderbird

at one, to fly downtown.

so the orthodontist could poke,

prod, and adjust the cacophony of

wires and metal bands

promising to shape

my teeth into a better smile.

By 2:30 it was over.

Dad would check his watch.

“Time for a donut?”

We headed to the swirly counter stools

of the Mayflower Coffee Shop.

Dad ordered coffee, and I hot chocolate.

Sour cream cake donut—

always his choice.

I vacillated between Boston Cream

and vanilla cake with chocolate icing.

One afternoon, after our donuts came,

I poured out a litany of all the day’s

wrongs – friends, studies.

“Why do I need a better smile, if

I have nothing to smile about?”

Dad sipped his coffee quietly.

When I finished, he pointed to the

ceramic mosaic behind the counter

with its iconic poem and read,

“Keep your eye

upon the donut, Joanie,

not upon the hole.”

Words to live by,

not just when eating donuts.

First published in ovunquesiamo spring, 2020

© 2020, Joan Leotta

Joan tells us: “I still miss my father. He passed in 1988.” Joan’s site is: What Editors Want You to Know


Lost, replaced, now traced at last,
my father’s.
Neat cursive script in different hands,
no wasted words:
ships, dates, evaluations,
a carpenter in a world
of steel and water.

Winnipeg2/ chartered once by Pablo Neruda/ to take from France/
Spanish refugees/ and carry them to Chile/
“The critics may erase all of my poetry if they want/
But this poem, that today I remember, nobody will be able to erase”/

Convoy ON-139
A line of life stretched taut
and fear haunts each keel.
Curse/ bless the storm pounding
against the knuckled rivets;
pray that the head grinding
down against the crushing walls,
pray that the head will rise and breathe,
pray that the engines will not fail,
pray you will not be lost
in the ocean’s wrack.
U-443, Wolf Pack Puma.
This line of life, men and cargo,
war, time and water intersect.

49°,51’ North, 27°,58’West
Two sudden blows.
The pictures show a ship in a gentle ocean,
scuppers nearly under water, men in lifeboats.
I magnify and peer, hoping I will see him.

21.48. The line of life, a shipmate
who saw he wasn’t there,
who went below, hefted him
over his shoulder. Four days unconscious.

Only once he talked about what he had seen and heard,
annihilating seas and storms, men burning in oil.

A father discharged from life
with honour.

This is an except from Frank’s debut collection, At the Storm’s Edge, (Palewell Press, London, January 2020)

© 2020, Frank McMahon

At the Storm’s Edge is available through Amazon US HERE and Amazon UK HERE.

..father’s side of the family..

it goes deep. they came from malta. maybe gibralta. they rhyme you see.

it was because of her accent, her size and working in the laundry. sun light

was the name.

she could not say electricity nor mattress i believe. thought it leaked through

the wire.

he was deaf when i found him, could not hear my words, so not the right

answers there, wherever it was.

we wonder , we wander in drifts.

even if we knew the truth, it may be wrong.

for us.

© 2020, Sonja Benskin Mesher


my father told me that he was too deaf for the war

so stayed in britain instead

of fighting

my father said he did not understand my mother’s illness

no one told him beforehand

the incidents

said that the doctor advised his leaving; the desertion

he said that he was there at my brother’s funeral;

stood back

where no one saw him, no one heard him

my father said he was always around if we had needed him,

so i said where?

but he did not hear me.

© 2020, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Sonja’s sites are:

Story in the History of a Man

The name that is also a thing,
What a story in the history of a man,
The man who give me his love wrapped in a name,
Ndeke; loosely translates to Aeroplane,
A bird too, both creatures of flight,
A man married to the soil of his land before a wife,
A man true to the seasons,
Now, firmly rested in the very soil that so amazed his hands,
Every cup of coffee bears memories of this man,
Every bird, every jet and chopper,
A poet melting metaphors of the crops and sweat,
A boon to his brood and provisions,
A legacy of tireless endeavors,
Laughter was a short affair in a grunt,
Discipline came with a stern look and a wave of the head,
When he pointed a finger in admonishment, raised remorseful regret spoke,
For this rough and refined figure of my father,
Led the example with his own ways,
School meant much to him, and rebuke came by way of sample failures,
Never heard a single ” I love you child ” from his tongue,
Yet, never doubted this love withheld verbally,
Only once in my life,
Did I hold my father close to my heart,
A hard time fell on his son,
And age added to great sorrow,
Brought my father to my bossom,
He said nothing, but said everything in that moment,
A year later, he went his sky way,
Now, he lives in my name and bones,
And the wonder of his efforts,
That’s a testimony to this verse.
May all father’s leave something to hold for their children.
I have a name.
And a legacy too.

© 2020, Nancy Ndeke

Nancy Ndeke’s Amazon Page is HERE.

Vinyl Run

In a burgundy Buick LeSabre
stopped before a storefront
stammering “Records! Records! Records!”
waited a professor
with salt-and-pepper hair,
puffing on a pipe
packed with Dutch Masters tobacco,
on a break from weekend yardwork
while his bespectacled kid with brackety braces
lingered inside,
fingering forty-fives and albums and
mulling over which artistes
merited his allowance
and the privilege of spinning on
the stereo supplied
by the chap in the car
watched through a window
by an incredulous clerk who
clucked, “That must be
the world’s most patient man.”
Blushing with shame,
the teen high-tailed it to the till,
swapped crumpled banknotes for
rock ‘n’ roll and
rushed to shower his chauffeur
with contrition and thanks.

© 2020, Adrian Slonaker

You can read more of Adrian’s poetry by using the search feature on this site and on The BeZine.

Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!


For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

Maintain the movement.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton