cow creek chapbook prize

We're thrilled to announce the winner of the 2020 Cow Creek Chapbook Prize. This year's winner is:


 casey thayer, for love for the gun

Here's what judge Marcus Wicker has to say about Thayer's chapbook:


In Love for the Gun, the TEC-9 trappings of masculinity—“big guns, small bore”—are usurped, remixed & rearranged, until the rifle becomes a blunt instrument of intimacy between hunter & frail son: “I worked / at growing softer, held the pistol / like a hurt bird, perhaps a swallow. / Not like my father, as a man might do.” These poems are double-barreled in their approach: Ecstatic & elegiac. Reverent & irreverent. They are anthems for love & loss of god & country that modulate, expertly, between intellect & levity. Stirring with vulnerability & lyric precision, Casey Thayer’s aim is true.

The chapbook will be published in January, 2021. Check back for details on how to pre-order in December. 

Casey Thayer is the author of Self Portrait with Spurs and Sulfur. A recipient of fellowships from Stanford and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, he has published poetry in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. He lives in Chicago and works at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Thanks to everyone who submitted; it was a pleasure reading all of your poems. Our readers had difficulty narrowing them down, but here are this year's five finalists: 


Ashanti Anderson, for Black Under 

Dante Di Stefano, for Lullaby with Incendiary Device

Lana Ghannam, for Evolution of Stone

W.J. Herbert, for Riddles of Flock & Bone

Jen Karetnick​, for Weathering 

The Cow Creek Chapbook Prize is a poetry chapbook contest brought to you by Pittsburg State University and Emerald City. We're open to all styles and subjects. As long as the poems challenge and capture the imagination, we want to see them. The winning poet will receive $1,000 and 25 author copies. The next contest will open on February 15, 2021.

editorial staff:


Alysse Gopalakrishnan

Chloe Hanson

Grace Hendickson

Kayla McCollough

Mawi Sonna

Peter Vertacnik

Winniebell Zong

questions? contact us:

We subscribe to the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics. Guidelines and issues of conflict of interest can be found above. Part of that code is making our process transparent to the public. All chapbooks are initially read by the editorial staff. Exceptional chapbooks then go to a second round of readers, who narrow potential winners down to a limited number of finalists, which are sent to the guest judge for selection. 

© 2019 by Cow Creek Chapbook Prize