First and second prize: $100/$50
Submissions open March 8-22
See below for details

Poetry Contest

Backchannels will celebrate poetry month in April with an all-poetry issue and a no-fee contest with prizes! Our goal is to become a paying market and we’re slowly getting there. Celebrate with us by sending in your poems and enjoy the poetry issue this spring!


  • Follow our poetry submission guidelines and general guidelines
  • One entry per writer
  • First place prize is $100
  • Second place $50
  • Runner-ups and honorable mentions will have spotlights in our poetry issue, slated for release in late April
  • Submissions accepted March 8-22
  • All entries will be considered for our April issue
  • We will notify writers in mid-April

A note about contests:
As editors, we read so much great work and work that doesn’t fit that we sometimes forget–for a moment–what it feels like to have someone else judge your work. We read amazing stuff and stuff we don’t love from the same writers at different times. We disagree with each other. Sometimes we disagree with ourselves when we go back to read again. Sometimes a piece doesn’t fit because we had too much similar work this submission period. Sometimes the piece just needs a little more love, we think, and then another magazine snatches it up exactly as-is. Which is to say, if the idea of a contest makes you uncomfortable (we get it!), maybe consider “rejections” like we do, which is never a reflection on you as a creator or person. It’s a necessary part of curating any body of work and we strive to make it as supportive and encouraging as possible because we appreciate your efforts, whether the work is a favorite or not. Art is such a contextual, subjective thing; we’re just grateful to share your creations. We’re so excited about this contest because it gives us a chance to champion favorites, reward a couple writers, and read–we hope–a ton of your work. Send us your stuff… and HAVE FUN!

Want to submit? Scroll down for our submission guidelines.

We publish emerging and established writers. We are based in Eastern Iowa’s Creative Corridor, and writers from all over the world are encouraged to submit. There is a place for your creative work, and we hope that we are one of those places. Our editors are compassionate, creative souls who invite all writers and artists to share their work here.

Benefits of submitting your work to Backchannels: we let you know when we have received your work, we keep in touch throughout our reading process, our editors work with you as needed to prepare for publication, we give personalized feedback to all who submit work. Finally, we value all work that you share with us. We know it takes magic to create and even more magic to share your work with the world.

To keep things running smoothly, we have a bunch of guidelines for our contributors. Please follow them carefully. We want to consider all work, and to do so, we need you to help us out by following the guidelines. Because we receive so many submissions and try to respond as personally as possible, work that doesn’t meet the guidelines will likely be sent back to you.

We chatted with Jim Harrington about submission content here:

For all work:

  • Submit all work as a MS Word attachment via email to (Please use the contact form for inquiries only, not submissions.)
  • There is no fee for submissions.
  • We accept only one submission in one genre per writer/artist in each submission window. If you work in multiple genres, send us something now and something in the next submission period.
  • Use Times New Roman, font size 12 for bios and writing. Creative (read: weird) fonts don’t always come across. Make your point and create your style using words–not fonts.
  • All submissions must be made by the artists themselves.
  • All written submissions should be original English language works; we do not accept translations.
  • We accept only original work that has not been previously published. The occasional exception is work published on your personal blog; please note that in your submission.
  • We do accept simultaneous submissions (work sent to more than one publication and awaiting review) but please notify us if your work is accepted elsewhere.
  • You retain the rights to your work; by submitting your material to us you are giving us first publishing rights and non-exclusive electronic permissions for online archival purposes. If you publish your work elsewhere later, we ask that you credit first publication to Backchannels.
  • Please include a short bio (about 350 characters) in the body of your submission email. Please start with your name and use third person. Keep places/published works to a reasonable number—pick your favorites. Free to promote yourself, including Twitter or Facebook accounts. Let us know how you heard about us. Finally, please indicate how you want your work to be labeled (poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, essay, non-fiction, multi-genre…the possibilities are probably not endless, but there are a lot of them.)
    • Example: Jamilla Smith is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Her work appears in Green Lantern Review, The Last Straw, Best American Short Stories (2015) and others. Her latest book is Poems I Never Wrote (Panda Attack Press, 2017). She can be found on Twitter at @jsmithwrites or
  • All submissions will be acknowledged within a month of receipt. Our acceptance response time is usually 3-6 months. We respond to submissions on a rolling basis.

Poetry submissions:

  • Submit up to five poems not longer than ten pages total.
  • Poetry should be single spaced within stanzas and double spaced between. Indents and multiple spaces may not translate to our online format; creative spacing or formatting demands may cause problems with publication.
  • All kinds of poetry are welcome; we care about form, theme, and function. We want to laugh, cry, chortle, and say, “What the…?” when we read your poems.

Prose submissions:

  • Fiction, nonfiction, personal essay, memoir, creative nonfiction or multi-genre work should be doubled-spaced with no tabs or no double spaces after periods.
  • Prose submissions must not be more than 3500 words.

Visual art submissions:

  • Images should be high quality but resolution only needs to be 72 dpi for online display.
  • We invite visual artists to submit five images per submission.
  • We LOVE original work in any medium. In addition to your bio (follow guidelines above), please include a short note about the medium you work in and creative process.

About content:

We are always interested in strong story lines, characterization, and dialogue. Here’s the deal: we like sex as much as the next person, but we are not publishing erotica or pornography. Also a note about sexual violence: if it is a part of your work, it needs to be contextually and socially important; if you’re not sure what that means, you can always email for additional clarification.

We invite work from all voices and experiences, especially those outside the mainstream. If you create work about race, racism, or sexualities, we highly recommend you write from experience or use care and consideration of your subject matter and understand the complexities and social and historical context of what you take on.

All told, we like a bit of everything: surrealism, realism, post-modern, Victorian, post-post-modern…whatever label you’d like to use. Intrigue us. Inspire us. Confound us.

HEY! If you have questions about submitting – ASK US. Shoot us an email and ask! We are always nice – hey, we live in Iowa, it’s a requirement here. WE WANT to publish your work.