2021 Yeats Poetry Prize

Spencer Reece, Judge


Spencer Reece is a poet and presbyter. He graduated from Wesleyan University (1985). Reece received his M.A. from the University of York (UK), his M.T.S. from the Harvard Divinity School, and a M.Div. from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Divinity School. He was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 2011.

At Wesleyan, Spencer took a class in writing verse with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Annie Dillard (Tinker at Pilgrim Creek), whom he describes as "an early encourager," along with James Merrill, the Stonington poet with whom Spencer corresponded. His 2004 book, The Clerk’s Tale, was published by the Houghton Mifflin Company (A Mariner Original). The Clerk's Tale was the winner of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize and was judged by former U.S. poet laureate Louise Glück. The title poem describes a day in the life at a store in the Mall of America. Reece worked for many years as a sales associate at Brooks Brothers in the Mall. James Franco based his short film on the title poem.


Reece's second book, The Road to Emmaus, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in April 2014. His work has appeared in Boulevard, The New Yorker and The American Poetry Review. The Road to Emmaus was a long list nominee for the National Book Award and a finalist for the Griffin Prize in Canada. 2017 saw the publication of Counting Time like People Count Stars: Poems by the Girls of Little Roses, San Pedro Sula, Honduras (Tia Chucha Press). This anthology of poems in Spanish with English translations was edited by Reece. The project was born from his time teaching at the Orphanage of Our Little Roses in Honduras.


In 2019, Common Prayer: Reflections on Episcopal Worship was published, containing a chapter by Reece. His contribution, "The Little Entrance" is based on the idea "that poems are like Byzantine icons, portals to the divine," and includes "a series of meditations" on the poets George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson and James Merrill. 

Recently, he completed a prose book, represented by the Wiley Agency, called The Secret Gospel of Mark: a Poet’s Memoir.  The work considers seven poets—Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, George Herbert, James Merrill, Emily Dickinson, Gerald Manley Hopkins—and culminates in a self-portrait.

Submissions Period

Opens: Oct 11, 2020
Closes: Feb  1, 2021

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Click button for full guidelines and to submit poems - Starting Oct 11, 2020

2020 Results

First Prize

Martha Greenwald for “Selfie@Fifty”

Second Prize

Christopher Buckley for “On a Late Birthday—After Vallejo”

Honorable Mention

Pamela L. Sumners for “Nazareth”

Pages from 2020 Yeats Poetry Prize Spenc

Click on Cover for Full Report and Text of Poems