The award was established in 1975 to encourage the work of emerging poets and to enable the publication of a poet’s first book. It is made possible by financial support from the members of the Academy of American Poets.
The Walt Whitman Award is given to honor a poet’s first book. Applicants must be living poets who have neither published, nor committed to publish a book-length collection of poems (48 pages or more) with a registered ISBN, either in the United States or abroad. Poems may have been previously published in periodicals or chapbooks, but the collection must not have been previously published (including self-publications and e-books).
Manuscripts must be of original poetry, in English, by one poet. There are no restrictions on the style of poetry or subject matter. Translations are not eligible. Manuscripts must be between 48 and 100 pages, typed single-spaced (unless the poems are meant to be presented using nonstandard spacing). Multiple poems may not appear on a single page. Only one manuscript may be submitted per applicant.