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Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

The Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

About Alternating Current’s Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

The Luminaire Award for Best Poetry is Alternating Current Press’ annual writing award to recognize the best poetry and hybrid work submitted to the press. All poetry submitted to Alternating Current is considered for the award, and there is no additional submission process. The winner is announced each spring from our poetry finalists, selected by our poetry editors, to receive publication, publicity, a monetary award, and other incentives from our press.

Award Process and Guidelines

Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics

We Subscribe to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Contest Code of Ethics: CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1.) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2.) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines—defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3.) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.

Alternating Current’s Selection & Judging Process

1.) We take submissions through Submittable and use its tools and our own to accept incognito submissions. The editor-in-chief has access to the information, but she does not read or accept submissions. While the editor-in-chief determines what is published on our press, she does not make judging decisions for awards.

2.) We ask submitters not to include their names, contact information, or any identifying marks within the documents, titles, and file names of submissions.

3.) Staff members of Alternating Current may have pieces published on The Coil or submit pieces for incognito submission consideration, but they are not eligible to win award prizes while serving on our staff.

4.) For all awards, the editor-in-chief compiles a spreadsheet of all the eligible pieces, makes sure everything is stripped of any contact information, and sends that spreadsheet to the poetry readers and editors at Alternating Current Press. The editors rank their selections from 1-12 to choose the top-12 finalists, including a first, second, and third place. The rankings are then tallied, and the incognito judging decisions are final.

5.) While the pieces are read incognito, the readers are asked to recuse themselves from judging if there are any pieces that they may recognize as posing a personal conflict of interest. Once selected, we will reveal the winner’s name privately to the readers before announcement to clarify that there is no conflict of interest. Should there be, the next finalist in line without conflict shall become the winner, or the conflicting judges shall recuse their rankings from the tally. Conflicts of interest are defined as: close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judges. We do not consider workshops to be disqualifying factors, unless the judge personally feels there is a conflict there. We leave the discretion of conflict identification up to the judges.

6.) All winners and finalists are notified prior to announcement. The results are publicly posted online at The Coil and on the press website.

Current 2021 Prize

The first place winner receives $100 (upon publication); listing on the Alternating Current Press awards page; publication of the poem on The Coil) and in our triennial print anthology in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats; complimentary digital copies of the anthology in all formats; our virtual gold award medallion for use on book covers, social media profiles, and websites; a certificate; and a press release mailing-list email blast.

Second place and third place winners receive $25 each (upon publication); listing on the Alternating Current Press awards page; publication of their poems on The Coil) and in our triennial print anthology in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats; complimentary digital copies of the anthology in all formats; our virtual silver award medallion for use on book covers, social media profiles, and websites; a certificate; and a press release mailing-list email blast.

Fourth and fifth place winners receive listing on the Alternating Current Press awards page; publication of their poems on The Coil) and in our triennial print anthology in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats; complimentary digital copies of the anthology in all formats; and a press release mailing-list email blast.

Seven finalists are published online on The Coil, with their finalist positions indicated.

All semifinalists and accepted pieces are published online on The Coil, without award indication. The Coil pays a small token payment for online publication of all pieces.

What is a Luminaire?

A luminaire is a complete electric light unit (used especially in technical contexts). The word comes from early 20th-century French, and some antique versions even had candles in them before electricity was widespread.

Lu•min•aire: \ˌlü-mə-ˈner\ n. Complete lighting unit, consisting of one or more lamps (bulbs or tubes that emit light), along with the socket and other parts that hold the lamp in place and protect it, wiring that connects the lamp to a power source, and a reflector that helps direct and distribute the light[1].

We chose the name specifically because it deals not only with electricity and lighting up a room, a home, a place, a world, a mind—but also because it refers to a complete lit unit, which is what we’re seeking: pieces that are complete in themselves from start to finish, pieces that have it all and light up our minds, the whole all-in-one package that outshines the rest.


[1] Concise Encyclopedia.

Luminaire Award Medallion Designers

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Devin Byrnes and SuA Kang of Hardly Square, for their creativity in designing our annual medallion imprint. Hardly Square is a strategy, branding, and design-based boutique located in Baltimore, Maryland, that specializes in graphic design, web design, and eLearning courses. Their invaluable design expertise has made our annual awards come to life. Learn more about our medallion designers.

Winners & Finalists for 2020 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

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Winners & Finalists for 2019 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “MacMahan Island” by Sarah Anderson
Second Place: “Molcajete” by Angelica Esquivel
Third Place: “Living in English” by Threa Almontaser
Fourth Place: “‘A Paper Doll Speaks’ or ‘Sometimes I Don’t Feel Like a Woman’ in Three Parts” by Shay Alexi
Fifth Place: “(Han)kuk” by Esther Ra

Winners & Finalists for 2018 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “Waking to Pablo Neruda Pumping My Chest” by Lindsey Thäden
Second Place: “Confiteor 2” by Teresa Sutton
Third Place: “Broken Waltz, City Street” by S. R. Aichinger
Fourth Place: “Post-Script: Denali” by Andrea L. Hackbarth
Fifth Place: “You Are Not Just Anything” by Mason O’Hern

Winners & Finalists for 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “I Thought Pigeons Were Vegetarians” by Barrett Warner
Second Place: “What form this time” by Torrie Valentine
Third Place: “things / i know to be true, / but will never prove” by Omotara James
Fourth Place: “Insomnia” by Barrett Warner
Fifth Place: “My Father at the Funeral” by Helen Park
Sixth Place: “Bird Woman of Wonder Valley” by Cynthia Anderson
Seventh Place: “Sacks of Cells” by Brendan Walsh
Eighth Place: “Where There Is a Life, There Is a Hope” by Brendan Walsh
Ninth Place: “Logged” by Barrett Warner
Tenth Place: “Grocery Shopping” by Rebecca Gould
Eleventh Place: “Misreading Belfast as Breakfast in a Poem” by C. C. Russell
Twelfth Place: “Ten Cents” by Gary Beaumier

Winners & Finalists for 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “Baldwin Apples” by Sarah Ann Winn
Second Place: “Coralee Robbins Mafficks the Fall of Art” by Amy Wright
Third Place: “vii. (the leviathan)” by Mary Buchinger
Fourth Place: “we move as dust” by Michael Bernicchi
Fifth Place: “the thing is, you see” by Normal
Sixth Place: “PSU Harrisburg” by Chris Middleman
Seventh Place: “Herding Autumn” by Kaye Spivey
Eighth Place: “Foot Sonnet” by Brendan Walsh
Ninth Place: “Nobody plays in firehydrant fountains but Tegs Turpin” by Amy Wright
Tenth Place: “Mumbai, 11th March, 15.30” by Rinzu Rajan
Eleventh Place: “Hometown Hero” by Aaron Graham
Twelfth Place: “I Consider Whether Shipping Your Memory Home Would Be Too Costly” by Sarah Ann Winn

Winners & Finalists for 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “mob of one” by Normal
Second Place: “Reign” by Jared A. Carnie
Third Place: “Sewing” by Noel King
Fourth Place: “Cause Célèbre” by Andrei Guruianu
Fifth Place: “After Abandon” by Michael Cooper
Sixth Place: “The Bends” by J. Bradley
Seventh Place: “Interview with a Rapid Snowfall” by Maison Demuth Olson
Eighth Place: “October” by Jared A. Carnie
Ninth Place: “My Afternoons with Dylan Thomas” by Lyn Lifshin
Tenth Place: “Madame Laveau, Fortune Teller and Police Psychic, Falls off the Wagon with a Resounding Thud” by Jason Ryberg
Eleventh Place: “color & contour” by Maison Demuth Olson
Twelfth Place: “Interstices” by Kelly Jean Egan

Winners & Finalists for 2014 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “Low Tide” by Pete M. Wyer
Second Place: “Miss Valley City, North Dakota” by Charles P. Ries
Third Place: “William Barret Question Mark” by CEE
Fourth Place: “Birch Street” by Charles P. Ries
Fifth Place: “With Apologies to Rose Bonne [The Hall of Ives]” by CEE

Winners & Finalists for 2013 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “No Sad Songs in the House of the Sun” by Shauna Osborn
Second Place: “Influences of Light” by Charles P. Ries
Third Place: “Another Birthday” by Sean Brendan-Brown
Fourth Place: “Waiting Tables in Reno” by Doug Draime
Fifth Place: “Still Victory” by Denis Sheehan
Sixth Place: “Estimated Losses” by Aleathia Drehmer
Seventh Place: “We Watch the Horse Fly Home” by Jane Stuart
Eighth Place: “Stp. Gran. Dad.” by Frankie Metro
Ninth Place: “Ten Thousand Shields & Spears” by Sean Brendan-Brown
Tenth Place: “Redhead” by Charles P. Ries
Eleventh Place: “Sometimes” by Doug Draime
Twelfth Place: “Land of Stinkin’ (New Salem, IL)” by CEE

Winners & Finalists for 2012 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “Kind to a Spider” by Tim Staley
Second Place: “Suggestion Box” by Ray Larsen
Third Place: “how to kill a flower” by Sharon Zeisel

Winners & Finalists for 2011 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “Amphitheater” by Gary Every
Second Place: “Quality Time” by Tim Scannell
Third Place: “Understanding Anita” by Bob Sharkey

Winners & Finalists for 2010 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “Contagious” by Stephanie Hiteshew
Second Place: “Yardwork” by Gary Every
Third Place: “Just Another Word” by Pamela Annas

Winners & Finalists for 2009 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “The Fall of Miss Sopa, Eater of Clay” by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder
Second Place: “The Rosebud” by Jason Fisk
Third Place: “A Mother’s Mantra” by Rebecca Schumejda
Fourth Place: “on art and war” by justin.barrett
Fifth Place: “Hayden Carruth Suite” by Glenn W. Cooper

Winners & Finalists for 2008 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “Cleaning Up at the Hamtramck Burger Chef” by Don Winter
Second Place: “Jumper” by Kevin M. Hibshman
Third Place: “in the poetry section of brown university bookstore, providence, ri” by Zoe A. Jaimot