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The Marthe Reed Book Award

The editors welcome full-length poetry collections that (em)body an attention to the personal and political and that use language as described by Marthe (below) in regards to her book (em)bodied bliss. We are particularly interested in manuscripts that introduce compassion into themes, subject matter and poetic thought regarding current political and social conditions that threaten to undermine our humanity.

“The compassion of human-to-human connection, afforded by language, is obliterated by torture, by the infliction of extreme suffering. Without compassion, without empathy we become isolated from one another, lose integrity and coherence, are reduced to an idea: “terrorist” and “torturer”, “suspect” and “infidel”. A gut reaction whose expression is language but the content of which is reductive, world-obliterating, violently utilitarian. One kind of “thing” does “something” to another kind of “thing” because that first “thing” “deserves” it. What language, what art must do in the face of such erasure is to return compassion to language…”

—Marthe Reed on her book (em)bodied bliss (Moria Books)
from an interview with Megan Burns at The Conversant:


picture of Marthe ReedMarthe Reed left us prior to two of her works being released into the conversation: the anthology Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing Within the Anthropocene (co-edited with Linda Russo) and her collection Ark Hive. In talking to her dear friend poet Laura Mullen about this Book Award, we tried to define some of the distinguishing characteristics of Reed’s attention to poetics and how poetry shapes our world. Whether she was turning her keen eye towards ecology, natural and man made disasters, gender politics, or torture, Reed believed fiercely in language’s ability to force us to radically imagine a future that can hold us all in a safer embrace. That is what compassion is: The lived experience of gazing into that which we would turn away from and delivering back our ability to transform suffering into joy, to believe in the ability of the human species to emerge from the current shell of violence and scarcity that threatens to destroy us all.  One of Reed’s books is aptly titled GAZE (Black Radish Books) as she understood observation changes experience. It changes time moving forward and Reed’s lasting impact was made most tangible in the outpouring of how many poets were touched by Reed’s gracious and supportive influence in the writing community as witnessed after her death.

“Transformation” is the word Mullen and I agreed upon; if anything defines Reed’s poetry and her work in life, it is the steadfast action and attention to bearing witness and calling attention to where transformation can occur. Where language and experimentation and sound and innovation can make us think radically about what it means to be human, what it means to exist in community, what it means to fight for a world where all beings can be safe and free.

Following the release of Ark Hive in Lafayette in 2019, about a dozen of Marthe’s dear friends and family who had spent the previous hours reading Reed’s poems in her absence sat down to dinner.  Some of us had just met and some of us had known each other for decades, and yet here we were once again brought together by a poet and her love of language and exploration. This is the secret alchemical magic of poetry; it has the ability to create bonds that defy death. It has the ability to carry love forward in time and to observe its effects is a gift. Reed gave us this gift, and my hope is that this Book Award honors her memory and her generosity in creating not just an opportunity to publish a book and share words with the world, but to enter into a bond with a group of people who champion our ability to lead with compassion: The ability to transform the world lies in our belief in the magic we can observe in one another. ‘…such gestures haunt the text’ Reed wrote in Nights Reading (Lavender Ink).

Let us be haunted.

—from Megan Burns, publisher Trembling Pillow Press


2020 Judge for the Marthe Reed Book Award: Metta Sáma

picture of Metta SámaMetta Sáma is author of the full-length collections, Swing at your own risk (Kelsey Street Press) & South of Here (published as Lydia Melvin through New Issues Press) & the chapbooks the year we turned dragon (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs), le animal & other creatures (Miel), After After/After “Sleeping to Dream” (Nous-zōt Press) and Nocturne Trio (YesYes Books). Sáma is a Senior Fellow of the Black Earth Institute, a member of Black Radish Books’ Advisory Board and Director of Center for Women Writers at Salem College, where she also serves as Director of Creative Writing, Chair of the English Department & Associate Professor of Creative Writing.


Marthe Reed Book Award Rules

In accordance with the idea of TRANSFORMATION, this book prize honors the spirit of poet Marthe Reed and her dedication to activism and research in her work. We are looking for works that push the limits of our radical imaginations, manuscripts that tackle the struggles of our current climate, that capture personal and/ or political discourses excavating the way language does and does not fail. Manuscripts that offer a sharp gaze into uncomfortable spaces and that lift poetry from the every day into the conversation of how art shapes all of us. How does the work transform our understanding as the reader? How does it inform a larger conversation in the world? How does it push our notions of what words and sound can carry?


Submissions are open Dec. 15, 2019- March 15th, 2020. Publication of the book will be in 2021.

There is a $15.00 reading fee, which will compensate our guest judge for their time and energy. Any remaining funds will be invested back into publishing books for the press. We appreciate your support.

Manuscripts must be at least 80 pages.

Manuscripts must have no identifying information on the submitted text.

Trembling Pillow Press does not print in color, so any manuscripts with color images must agree to printing in black and white, if selected.

Our selected judge reads all manuscripts with no author information attached. We ask that close family and friends whose work would be discernible to our judges not enter.

Our judge will select one book award winner and two finalists; Trembling Pillow Press’ publisher may select finalists for publication.

Award winners will receive 50 copies of their book upon publication.


Due to COVID-19, the results of the BOOK Award were delayed. While Metta Sáma did select a finalist for this award, due to circumstances, the author has decided not to pursue the publication of the book at this time. Out of respect to their privacy regarding this personal decision, we have decided to withhold the finalist information and due to the impact of the pandemic will not be pursuing further award prizes at this time. We thank all of you who participated in this prior to the world shutting down and especially to Metta Sáma who continued to read and judge in the midst of a global pandemic. I think Marthe would be proud that we tried to remain steadfast in poetry even as the world shifted beneath us.