The Penny-Farthing Prize for Lyric Poetry is now open for submissions.

PENNY-FARTHING: "The first machine to be called bicycle. Named after the British penny and farthing coins (the latter equal to ¹/₄ of a penny), one much larger than the other, so that the side view resembles a penny leading a farthing."

Guesthouse is pleased to announce The Penny-Farthing Prize for Lyric Poetry, designed to honor the best lyrical poetry written today and harness the community-building power of competition in the arts. We hope to model a new formula for our poetry contest by borrowing what we see working among our peers and predecessors but also testing the waters of a transparency-based approach. As is suggested by the contest’s title, we will divvy up the contest proceeds into four pots.

From each $12 entry:

  • $3.00 will go directly to the winner as a cash prize;
  • $3.00 will provide an honorarium for our guest judge;
  • $3.00 will go back into Guesthouse’s coffer to pay administrative fees (we want to get on Submittable, produce a podcast, and other initiatives that require modest capitol); and
  • $3.00 will be donated to the Iowa Youth Writing Project, an Iowa City-based nonprofit that "that aims to join Iowa City’s unique literary heritage with Iowa’s larger community by empowering, inspiring, and educating Iowa’s youth through language arts and creative thinking." More info about the IYWP here.

We will keep a running ticker on our website so our readers and submitters can track the growth of the sum pot; we hope that it will be exciting to watch the number grow as we accrue more submissions, and that the extent of the prize money will remain a surprise until our reading period closes.

2018 Judge: Diane Seuss


We're so proud to announce that Diane Seuss, Issue 1 contributor, will serve as the judge for the inaugural Penny-Farthing prize.

Diane Seuss’s most recent collection, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, was released in 2018 by Graywolf Press. Four-Legged Girl, published in 2015 by Graywolf Press, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open won the Juniper Prize and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. Her poetry has appeared in a broad range of literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The New Yorker. Seuss was Writer in Residence for many years at Kalamazoo College and has been the MacLean Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of English at Colorado College. She was raised in rural Michigan, which she continues to call home.


Each entry may comprise up to five poems. Deadline is November 5, 2018 at 12AM CST. There is no page limit per poem or submission, but do begin each new poem on a new page.

  1. Send submissions to: as an attachment in .docx, .doc, or .pdf form.
  2. Each submission must be accompanied by an entry fee, payable securely below. Please use the same e-mail address to process your payment as you do for your e-mail submission. 
  3. No identifying information can appear anywhere on your manuscript, but please do put your full name and the titles of all of your poems in the body of the e-mail. Cover letters should be addressed to our contest directors, Jackie Vega and Belinda McCauley. 
  4. Multiple entries are fine and encouraged, just pay one entry fee per submission.
  5. Poems must be previously unpublished, but we welcome simultaneous submissions so long as you inform us (by e-mail) if your work is accepted elsewhere.
  6. Please do not submit if you have a close relationship to our final judge that would make it so that they could recognize your work. If you want to confirm with us whether or not your entry might present a conflict of interest, just shoot us a note and ask.

We’re looking for:

  • poems that have a dedication to the lyric tradition in diction, sound, and/or voice;
  • poems that commit to the lyric tradition of emotional centeredness and truthful expression; 
  • poems that are rigorous in their use of image;
  • poems that usurp, break, or reframe the lyric tradition in form and/or content;
  • and/or poems that re-define the lyric tradition in a way we can't yet anticipate.
Farthing Prize entry fee
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Current pot: