Ninth Letter

There are presently no open calls for submissions.

Ninth Letter Ekphrastic Poetry Contest: Seriality, Sexuality, Semiotics

Fee: $18 for up to three poems responding to Hal Fischer’s photography (includes a one-year subscription to Ninth Letter).

Prize: The winner will receive $1,000, have their work published in Ninth Letter, and give a reading at the Hal Fischer Symposium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in November, 2021 (travel expenses covered).

Judge: Eduardo C. Corral

Eduardo C. Corral 

Eduardo  C. Corral is the son of Mexican immigrants. He’s the author of  Guillotine, published by Graywolf Press, and Slow Lightning, which won  the 2011 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. He's the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a National Endowment for  the Arts Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University.  He teaches in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.

Deadline: June 30th, 2021 EXTENDED THROUGH JULY 3, 20201

Guidelines: All entries must respond, in some way, to the work of photographer Hal Fischer. Multiple and simultaneous submissions accepted. All work must be previously unpublished.


Hal Fischer is a gay conceptual photographer and an alumnus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Beginning August 2021, the Krannert Art Museum is presenting the first full retrospective of Fischer’s work, an exhibit titled Hal Fischer Photographs: Seriality, Sexuality, Semiotics.

From MoMA:

“Fischer’s 1977 series Gay Semiotics…brought these theories to bear on gay culture in San Francisco’s Castro and Haight-Ashbury districts. A “lexicon of attraction,” as the artist has called it, this work classifies styles and types while acknowledging their ambiguity. For instance, images of men with handkerchiefs in their pockets feature text that explains the possible meanings of these items according to the “hanky codes” that gay men used to convey sexual preferences, but which also points out that the men could be carrying them for blowing their noses. Other images in the series consider gay fashion, media stereotypes, and BDSM culture.”

You can browse Hal Fischer’s work on his website:

Or via his monograph, The Gay Seventies:

What we’re looking for:

Ninth Letter invites the submission of original poems responding to Hal Fischer’s photographs.

If ekphrasis once designated the studious, careful description of a work of art, ekphrastic poetry has since come to embrace a diverse, wild, thrilling departure from mere description. Ekphrastic poems may still describe the artwork that inspires them, but, in addition, they can imagine what lingers beyond the lens, beyond the frame. They can give voice to silent figures and landscapes. They can include the author’s personal history, or their own interaction with the work of art. Ekphrastic poems can zoom in on shadowy corners, or zoom out to provide historical context. They can explore the artwork’s aesthetic and theoretical underpinnings. They can meditate on medium. They can remain faithful to the subjects and figures in the artwork, or they can attempt, instead, to capture its style or tone. And of course they can do so much more, can do what we haven’t even yet imagined—we always love to be surprised.

Read more about the Krannert Art Museum exhibit here:

This contest is made possible by Dr. Tim Dean and the James M. Benson Professorship, and by the Krannert Art Museum.

Ninth Letter 2021 Literary Awards - Submissions Open March 8-April 30

Ninth Letter is pleased to announce our eighth annual  Literary Awards call for submissions! We'll be accepting entries from  March 8, 2021 to April 30, 2021 for our Literary Awards in three  categories: Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction. The winning  manuscript selected in each category will receive publication in our  Fall/Winter 2021-22 issue (vol. 18 no. 2) and a publication rate of  $1000. Our publication fee purchases first North American print rights  only; all other rights are retained by the author.

The fee for entering each of the three categories will be $18, and all U.S. entrants will receive a one-year subscription to Ninth Letter.  All international entrants will receive a copy of our Fall/Winter  2021-22 edition. Your entry fee will cover one submission in one  category; you are welcome to send multiple submissions in multiple  categories provided a fee is paid for each entry. Electronic submissions  may pay online through Submittable; submissions sent by USPS should  send payment by check or money order made to Ninth Letter.

Submissions sent via email will not be considered.

Fiction and Creative Nonfiction submissions should be a maximum of 8,000 words.

Poetry submissions should include 3-5 poems, no more than 10 pages total in the submission

All entries should include a cover letter with author's name, contact  information and title(s) of work submitted. You may include this cover letter information in the “comments” section of the submission form, or  you may include it as the first page of your submission document.  Neither the author's name nor any identifying information should appear  on the manuscript itself beyond the cover letter.

Works submitted to the contest may be simultaneously submitted  elsewhere; please indicate on your cover letter if this is the case, and  please remove the submission from consideration immediately upon  acceptance elsewhere.

Guest judges for this year's awards are Tommye Blount (poetry), Gabriela Garcia (fiction), and Beth Kephart (creative nonfiction).



Ninth Letter will be accepting submissions of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a special online edition to be published at in Summer 2021.  Submissions will be open from  January 25 to April 5. No fee is required for submissions to this issue. 

The theme for this issue is Distanced. What forces push us apart? What choices made, or not, put distance  between us and our loved ones and places? Send us your distanced  pandemic stories, poetry and essays, but also those pieces that deal  with other separations. We want the topical as well as the unexpected,  and distances both great and small: the strained conversations of both  mask wearers and exes; families seen weekly on video calls and long-lost  relations; digital art gallery tours and moon rovers; dogs on leads and  dogs in head cones. What keeps things distanced, no matter the distance?

You  may submit up to three poems, or one piece of short prose (fiction or nonfiction) of up to 3500 words; you may also submit up to three pieces of flash prose totaling no more than 3500 words. Please also include a cover letter that  briefly explains how you see your work connecting to the theme. Note: work submitted without this information may be withdrawn. Acceptable file formats are .doc, .docx, .rtf, and .pdf. 

Submissions sent via snail mail or submitted through our print edition general submissions forms will not be considered for this issue.  

Please do not send multiple submissions or previously published work. Simultaneous submissions are okay as long as they are identified as such in a cover letter. Please withdraw your submission immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.

Authors  whose work is selected for this special feature will receive a small honorarium ($25 per poem, $75 per story or essay) and a complimentary  2-­year subscription to Ninth Letter




Ninth Letter is accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, and essays for our print edition from September 1 to February 28 (postmark dates). Please note our fee schedule as follows:

September and October: $3.00 per submission

November and December: no submission fee required

January and February: $3.00 per submission

Ninth Letter is published semi-annually in print at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. We are interested in prose and poetry that experiment with form, narrative, and nontraditional subject matter, as well as more traditional literary work. To make life easier for everyone, including yourself, please adhere to the following guidelines when submitting your work to Ninth Letter:

For poetry, submit 3-6 poems (max. 10 pages) at a time. For fiction and nonfiction, please send only one story or one essay at a time, or up to three pieces of flash prose, up to 8,000 words.

Please do not send a second submission until you have received a response to the first. We do not accept previously published work. Simultaneous submissions are okay as long as they are identified as such in a cover letter. Please withdraw your submission immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.

We do not accept submissions by email attachment—email submissions will not be read.

USPS submissions should be addressed to Fiction Editor, Poetry Editor, or Nonfiction Editor:

Ninth Letter 

University of Illinois Department of English 

608 South Wright St. 

Urbana, IL 61801

Please include your name and contact information on the first page of your manuscript; cover letters are optional. All mailed submissions must include an SASE for reply; we recommend a stamped business-sized envelope. If you wish to have your manuscript returned, you must include adequate postage and a properly sized envelope, and indicate such in your cover letter. We will recycle all unreturned manuscripts.

You should hear from us regarding your submission within 16 weeks; if you haven't heard from us in that time you are welcome to query about the status of your manuscript at

We can only review two submissions per author per reading period; if you have submitted twice before the end of the reading period, please do not submit again unless solicited to do so by an editor.

For material accepted to our print edition, Ninth Letter pays $25 per printed page, with a maximum payment of $150, as well as two complimentary copies of the issue in which the work appears. Writers will be sent contracts upon acceptance of their work, and will receive page proofs prior to publication; payment will be issued upon publication of the work. Ninth Letter publishes one print issue in the spring and one in the fall.

Ninth Letter