Shadow Award 2017

Our second annual Shadow Award mega-issue is brimming with dark and offbeat poetry. We may not publish poetry often, but we don’t mess around when we do. Below you’ll find the 10 poems that rose to the top of a record-setting turnout, and primary judge Mary Lenoir Bond toiled long and hard to make sure we published the very best.

The poems you find here will also appear in our third-annual Prize Winners Anthology, due out this fall. Take a look at the results page to check out those poets who made it to the short list, but didn’t quite rise into the Top 10. And don’t forget that our Flash Worlds flash fiction is in full swing, with soft deadline fast approaching (July 31st).

But enough yammering. Let’s get to the poems…

Shadow Award 2017 Winner

Ten Years Later

by Erin Kirsh

2nd Place

Elegy for Nuestra Señora la Reina

by Matilda Berke

3rd Place

Elements Lost and Found

by Mori Glaser


4th – The Message

by Susan Adler George

5th – Soft and Supple Flesh

by Nicholas De Genova

6th – Fingers for the Ferryman

by Dan Diehn

7th – Kitchen, Sinister

by Laura Potts

8th – Why the Coyote Doesn’t Just Order Chinese

by Phill Provance

9th – Disco Vertigo

by Sam Morris

10th – Unsacred Cow

by Christopher P. Mooney


Shadow Award submissions are now closed.
Check back July 14th for results.

Slacker’s rejoice!

Procrastinator’s Special
keeps late entries open until July 7th
for a couple bucks more.


“A human being is only breath and shadow.”

– Sophocles

Submit to the Shadow Award

We’re looking beyond our typical hard focus on flash fiction and delving into a little poetry with our annual Shadow Award (you can check out last year’s contest winners here).

Despite this shift, this contest keeps in line with The Molotov Cocktail mission of providing a projectile for the dark and offbeat, for the strange and surreal. We want vivid language that surprises and astounds us, words that flow with a rhythm that drags us down to the murky depths or sends us floating up into the ether. 

Poets we tend to like are: Edgar Allan Poe, Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Carol Oates, Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, James Tate, Charles Simic, Amy Gerstler, Tomas Tranströmer, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Paul Celan, Joy Harjo, Anna Akhmatova, Tracy K. Smith, Octavio Paz, Anna Journey, Czeslaw Milosz, Andre Breton, Rita Dove, Johannes Bobrowski, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Gu Cheng, Yusef Komunyakaa, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Sylvia Plath.

Don’t know their poetry? No sweat. They’re just jumping-off points. The possibilities for your poems are as boundless as the English language itself. Just keep them dark, offbeat, fantastic, or surreal and you’ll have a fighting chance.

Our associate editor, Mary Lenoir Bond, who holds an MFA in Poetry, will be primarily judging the contest, with the assist from yours truly. Here’s some advice about what she’s looking for:

  • I enjoy free verse as much as anyone, but I also want to see some skill involved. Juxtaposition is a plus. I’d love to see some craft: use the magical tools of poetry. And this is Molotov, so it should be odd, have an edge. I don’t need a poem about your dog or cat, unless it eats people or can write a horror novel. Most of all, surprise me.
  • I have to admit, I’m often allergic to overly rhymed poetry, especially end rhymes, but I also don’t mind being proven wrong. Unintentional or subtle  rhymes, or even slant rhymes, are often preferred—unless you are using a very specific formal structure that requires artful rhyming.
  • As the great poet Marvin Bell says, (and I’m paraphrasing): there’s no wrong way or right way to write a poem. There are, however, hundreds and hundreds of tools that can and should be utilized. Some poets have a real intuition for writing good poems, but even geniuses practice the craft regularly and incorporate skills. Bell also advises poets to “learn the rules of poetry, then break them, then make your own rules, and break those.” Experiment, play with form and meter. Read good poetry ( is a great place to start, as well as your local library) and let that soak in as well as inspire you, then write and edit your own. Have fun. Be weird.
  • Some tips. Just like in any good writing: always avoid clichés, show don’t tell, and ground emotions with solid, unique imagery and description.
  • Combine the atmospheric elements from David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini films and your entry will likely rise to the top. 

The top three entries will win cold, hard cash:

$200 for the Shadow Award winner

$100 for 2nd place

$50 for 3rd place

We also give mad props to 4th-10th place, publishing them as Honorable Mentions in our Shadow Awards mega-issue and also in our next print anthology, due out in the fall!

Submit to the Shadow Award

Follow these guidelines, and you could have some extra coin in your pocket, and some bragging rights as 2017 Shadow Award winner. 

– Epic poems are best left to the masters. All poems must absolutely be no more than one page in length, but you may enter 1-3 poems per submission.

All contest submissions will be read blind, so we won’t be playing favorites. Sorry, Mom.

– All poems must be submitted via Word document attachment (we want to preserve your formatting, yo!). One poem per page, maximum 3 pages/poems per entry. Do not list your name anywhere in your submission or we’ll assume that you don’t know how to read.

Early bird rate is $6 to enter (1-3 poems per submission) and runs until May 15th, 2017. At that time, the regular submission rate of $7 (for 1-3 poems) will begin and run through our official deadline.  Procrastinator’s Special rate is $9 (1-3 poems per submission). Sorry, no refunds. 

– We reserve the right to extend deadlines if necessary (and you can probably expect our several-day Procrastinator’s Special–with corresponding increase in submission fee so it’s still fair and all). 

– Submissions must be previously unpublished work, and upon acceptance we only obtain one-time electronic rights and one-time print rights for our anthology. You will retain copyright (duh). By submitting to this contest, you are agreeing to these terms.

No limit on how many entries you can submit, but each entry is limited to 1-3 poems. Each poem will be considered on its individual merits, so one multi-poem entry could yield more than one spot in our Top 10.

Entries are accepted until 11:59pm (PST) June 30th, 2017 July 7th, 2017 during the Procrastinator’s Special. Winners announced by July 14th, and we’ll unleash the Shadow Awards prize-winners mega-issue shortly thereafter.

– And, most importantly, this is a poetry contest, therefore your entries must be poems. However, we are more than happy to consider prose poetry as long as it emphasizes vivid imagery and and isn’t simply a flash fiction piece. Language is more important to us than form in this contest. Remember, poetry is a condensed form of prose, so surprise us with language and you’ll be on the right track.

So that means you can go all…

or all…

or all…

or all…

or even all…

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”

– Carl Sandburg

Submit to the Shadow Award

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