The Shadow Award

shadow award cover4

Well, this is new.

The Molotov Cocktail has been around for well over six years now, and this is the very first time that poetry is gracing our pages. We were ecstatic to see such a strong turnout, and the quality was out of this world. Our primary poetry judge,Mary Lenoir Bond, had her work cut out for her.

Don’t forget to check out our results page to take a peek at the coveted close-but-no-cigar shout-outs. Our next quarterly contest, Flash Icon, is in full swing and requires that you include an iconic person, place or thing. Get weird with it!

But enough about me…


Shadow Award Winner

The Devil’s Taken His Dress Off

by Amanda Chiado

2nd Place

stark raving naked

by Christopher P. Mooney

3rd Place

Children of the Damp

by B.T. Schweitzer


Honorable Mentions

4th – The Divine Heap

by Amanda Chiado

5th – Mud Ceremony

by Sara Ryan

6th – Visitation

by Frances Klein

7th – Persephone Hangs Insulation

by Elizabeth Vignali

8th – Changeling

by Hannah Craig

9th – A Water Can Sprays a Flowerbed City

by John Gosslee

10th – The Black Dog and Goat

by Forrest DePoy




the raven
The Shadow Award poetry contest has ended.

Check back June 14th for the results!


Procrastinators Rejoice!

For a couple bucks more, you can still sneak in a few last minute poetry entries until June 7th.



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

– Carl Sandburg


Submit to the Shadow Award poetry contest 

Throughout The Molotov Cocktail‘s six years of existence, we’ve published nothing but flash fiction. That’s about to change.

Now, we’re not looking to read a page from your diary, no matter how rose-scented it may be. (Unless you were abducted by aliens or have traveled through time; in that case, hand over that diary.) Instead, we’re keeping 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, 100s and 100s 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 cliches, 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 runner-up

$50 for second runner-up

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 poetry contest

Follow these guidelines, and you could have some extra coin in your pocket, and some bragging rights as our first ever 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 April 1st, 2016. At that time, the regular submission rate of $7 (for 1-3 poems) will begin and run through our official deadline. Entry fee jumps to $9 during Procrastinators’ Special. 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 we only get one-time electronic rights and one-time print rights for our anthology. You will retain copyright (duh).

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.

– Since this is our first poetry contest, we’re allowing ample time for submissions. Entries are accepted until 11:59pm (PST) May 31st, 2016 June 7th for Procrastinators’ Special. Winners announced by June 14th, and we’ll unleash the Shadow Awards prize-winners mega-issue on June 15th, 2016.

– 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 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…


Bust out your best poetry chops and be among the first poems that The Molotov Cocktail has ever published. 

Submit to the Shadow Award poetry contest

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