Contest Issue Reflection

Dear Tinderbox Readers,

Hello, you lovely humans. It’s been quite a year at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and also a while since we’ve written a letter from the editors. There’s been a lot of changes that we want to share with you, but much has remained the same: we continue to publish the best and brightest voices in poetry. This is only made possible by the support of our devoted volunteer staff, as well as readers like you. We want to take a minute and shout out some big events that happened over the last year.

  • In December of 2018, we said farewell to our devoted and divine Jenn Givhan, our founding editor who built Tinderbox Poetry Journal up over the course of four years. We are ever grateful for her leadership, and in her time away from the journal she’s released both a novel and a collection of poems. We miss you, Jenn!
  • January of 2019 marked the beginning of our first full year with no mandatory fees to submit. We continue to accept donation submissions and $5 feedback options, which help us pay for our Submittable and website subscriptions. It was our initial hope that this change would make submitting to our journal more accessible, which has been confirmed by our skyrocketing number of submissions each season.
  • March of 2019 represented our first issue where all contributing poets were paid an honorarium of $15 for their work. This has been a long-time goal of our journal, which was made possible by the funds raised by our annual Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize. We believe writers’ work should be compensated, and we hope to increase this honorarium when we have more funds available.

It’s been a big year, y’all, and we’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the responsibility we have as editors of a poetry journal. Our decision to go fully fee-free and to compensate our contributors represent two big steps in a longer process of making our journal more inclusive, equitable, and transparent for all. And now, we need your help to take another step.

We are debuting a donation button on our website so that our dedicated readers (that’s you!) can make contributions to our journal without submitting. It is our hope that as you read our free quarterly issues, each showcasing up to 20 talented poets and several reviews and interviews, you’ll feel inclined to make a donation to support our work. Because…

Tinderbox Poetry Journal’s next goal is to offer honorariums to our staff readers and editors. Our journal is currently 100% volunteer run. From our 2 feedback editors, 11 staff readers, social media editor, web editor, reviews editor, 2 poetry editors, and editor-in-chief: everyone’s time is volunteered. This journal is a labor of love–but we also know that uncompensated labor is not a sustainable model for any operation. We also know that uncompensated labor is especially a disservice to folks belonging to marginalized communities, who may not be able to make the same time commitment that those from more privileged backgrounds can. This is a big step–and we need your help to take it. 

As you read our contest issue showcasing the winners and finalists of our 2019 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize, we hope you’ll reflect on the value of our free online quarterly poetry journal. We don’t charge to read our issues, and we never will. Our submitters don’t have to spend a dime to have their poems read. Our contributors have their work compensated, as they should. And with your help, we’ll make sure that the tremendous work of our staff readers and editors is compensated, too. Will you donate $5-10 today to support our journal?

We hope that you enjoy the winter solstice and the many holidays that December brings us. We’re so excited to celebrate the winner and runner-up of the Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize:

The winner, selected by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, is Fatimata Seck, for “Recollection.” Of “Recollection,” Villarreal writes: “I’m stunned by its careful lyrical splits, enjambments, and double-meanings, its thoughtful consideration of the Atlantic as a container of lost memory and body, of the reclamation of that memory in the dream language poetry can give us. It recalls Ariel’s Ecology, Demonic Grounds, and M. NourBese Phillip—a kind of ecopoetics that refuses an absence of record and insists on itself as a document for the violences the earth remembers.”

The runner-up is Selma Asotić, for “Nana.” Villarreal writes: “[I]ncredible risks and shining language here, playing with the cognitive space between translation and myth.”

So dive into the new issue, reader! We’re so happy to share it with you.

Best wishes,


The Editors 

Hannah Dow

Majda Gama

Levi Todd

Geramee Hensley