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Justin Jannise wins 19th annual A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize

A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize winner Justin JanniseRochester, NY—BOA Editions, Ltd. is excited to announce that Justin Jannise of Houston, TX, is the winner of the 19th annual A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. His winning manuscript, How to Be Better by Being Worse, was selected by esteemed poet Richard Blanco from an original pool of more than 700 submissions. How to Be Better by Being Worse will be published by BOA Editions in April 2021 as part of the A. Poulin, Jr. New Poets of America Series with a foreword by Richard Blanco. Jannise will also receive a $1,000 honorarium. 

“What a privilege to read through so many profound and powerful manuscripts.  It was a tough decision, one of the toughest I’ve ever had to make for such contests. But ultimately I kept waking up with Justin Jannise’s voice every morning, and it would stay with me throughout the day, has stayed with me to this day. In other words, How to Be Better by Being Worse it not just a great book but a memorable one!” said Judge Richard Blanco.

“I am so thrilled to get to share How to Be Better by Being Worse with the world, especially at a time when we could all use a little ‘self help’ I wish I had more wisdom to share, but I always turn to poetry to help me understand how I should live and what’s really worth caring about. At the same time, I believe that our literature should display not just our virtues but our errors, our wickedness, our stubborn refusals to learn and improve. This book took the better part of a decade to write — poetry being, for me, a slow and unsteady art. I feel honored and grateful to Richard Blanco and the awesome folks at BOA Editions for taking a chance on my work. And to those who’ve been trying unsuccessfully to publish their manuscripts for many years, I offer my heartfelt sympathies and encouragement. Hang in there!” said Justin Jannise after winning the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize.

In addition to the winning manuscript, Blanco also selected two finalists and two semi-finalists for the prize:


How to Be Better by Being Worse by Justin Jannise


World's Largest Ball of Paint by Charlie Peck

The Taste Beneath the Taste We Seek by Jason Myers


The Failure of My Music  by Robert Evory

I was not dead yet by Shay Lawz

Justin Jannise earned an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His work has appeared in Best New Poets, Copper Nickel, Yale Review, and New Ohio Review. He is the recipient of the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry, selected by Tomás Q. Morín. He lives in Houston, where he is the Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast

Richard Blanco is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work. He is the author of the poetry collections Looking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; the poetry chapbooks Matters of the Sea, One Today, and Boston Strong; a children’s book of his inaugural poem, “One Today,” illustrated by Dav Pilkey; and Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler. His latest book of poems, How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019), both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkept promise of its ideals. He has also authored the memoirs The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey. 

Established in 2000, the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize is awarded annually to honor a poet’s first full-length collection of poetry. The winner is selected each year by a nationally recognized poet from a competitive pool of manuscripts. Winning manuscripts are published within the A. Poulin, Jr. New Poets of America Series. Recent Poulin Prize winners have included Improvisation Without Accompaniment by Matt Morton, Documents by Jan-Henry Gray, Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, and When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen. Other renowned debuts in the New Poets of America Series include Rose by Li-Young Lee, Awake by Dorianne Laux, and The Philosopher's Club by Kim Addonizio. 

Submissions for the 20th annual A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize will be accepted August 1–November 30, 2020. Aimee Nezhukumatathil will judge. The winner will be announced in spring 2021. Eligibility requirements and submission guidelines for the Poulin Prize are available at

BOA Editions, Ltd. is one of the premier independent publishers of contemporary poetry and literary fiction. Founded in 1976 by A. Poulin, Jr. to provide a venue for both new and established poets, BOA has released more than 300 titles, including more than 40 first collections of poetry. Many BOA titles and authors have been recognized with literary awards, including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. 

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