Deadline: May 31, 2022

Prize: $1,000 and publication

About the contest

The world is always changing. But there are also inflection points in history when the world feels changed. Art can possess the prophetic quality to imagine where we are going. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that in a world-historical moment of global upheaval and transformation, speculative literature and other futurist arts are enjoying a renaissance.

As a creative faculty, speculation is Janus-faced, as likely to produce insight about the past as about the future.

The word itself invites thinking about how speculation has often driven the machinery of global politics. Speculation about the value of land and resources has fueled colonialism, empire, ideas of race and ethnicity, slavery and other exploitative labor systems, the booms and busts of commodities markets, and the ecological game of roulette that has left our planet teetering. Speculation continues to actively shape how and where we live through forces of displacement, gentrification, urbanization, and redevelopment.

But speculation can lead us to collectively imagine better futures, or better ways of understanding our past. Afrofuturism, for example, seeks to imagine a sustainable future for Black folks by first uncovering a workable past. Abolition, civil rights, and Black Lives Matter all speculate about a future free of racial violence, just as MeToo imagines one free of gendered violence.

In some of our most joyful private moments, we speculate about what will be delicious and pleasurable, about what notes will sound good played together on an instrument, about spirits and the afterlife, about what we wish a lover would say to us, about what aliens might be like if we ever met them. Such works of the speculative imagination are, thankfully, almost boundless, though we imagine them within the bounds of who we are and what we assume to be true about the world.

Speculation starts in the imagination but then goes out into the world with a variety of effects, not always predictable. Share with us your feats of imagining the past and future that help us better understand what it means to be present in the world. We welcome texts that deal with the roots, spaces, and impact of speculation. Tell us where speculation has gone wrong, and where it has triumphed. What roads have speculation led us to?

Complete guidelines:

  • All entries must be related to this year’s theme of Speculation. We want the theme to be very broadly interpreted, but we also shouldn’t have to guess at the connection between the theme and your entry.
  • The winning author will receive $1,000 and have their work published in Boston Review’s special literary issue Speculation (February 2023). Some finalists and semi-finalists will also be published in the issue or online.
  • Send up to 5 poems or 10 pages, whichever comes first. The poems must be unpublished.
  • “Unpublished” means the poems have never received print publication of any kind, nor are they available anywhere on the Internet.
  • Simultaneous submissions are OK but if your poems are accepted or published elsewhere (including anywhere on the Internet), you must immediately withdraw them via Submittable. Individual poems can be withdrawn by adding a note to the entry. This does not invalidate the other poems from being considered; however, failure to notify Boston Review that some poems in the entry are no longer available may result in the entry as a whole being invalidated.
  • Do not include a cover note. Your name should not appear anywhere in the uploaded file. All entries much be in English; translations are acceptable if they are done in collaboration with the author and the poems are unpublished in any language.
  • Submissions may not be modified after entry. The contest judge and Boston Review staff, however, reserve the right to recommend edits to the winning story as well as finalists and semi-finalists they are interested in publishing.
  • Contest entrants cannot have a close personal or professional relationship with this year’s judge or with any editors, staff, or contest screeners at Boston Review. It is fine to have met these people, talked with them, perhaps even taken a workshop. For our purposes, “close” can be glossed as if you would socialize with any of these people, be in a position to ask them to help you with something (for example, write a recommendation or offer advice), or if there is any chance they would recognize your work even without seeing your name.
  • Make sure your address (mailing and email) in Submittable is correct, as this is the address where your free copy of Speculation will be sent in early 2023.


Entries are accepted exclusively through Submittable. Please make sure to select the correct form, paid or free, depending on your circumstances. Submit your poetry entry here.

VoW Research
Author: VoW Research

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