Meet the Judges

Judges for the 2023 Poetry Anthology

(list will be updated as judges are confirmed)

Finalist Round

Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have  emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series “Def Poetry Jam.” A four-time National Poetry Slam champion, he is the author of four collections of poetry and a chapbook, The Whetting Stone, which won the 2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize. He is the author of the acclaimed nonfiction book, What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. In April of 2012, Mali donated 12 inches of his hair to the American Cancer Society after convincing 1,000 people to become teachers. He lives in Brooklyn where he curates the Page Meets Stage reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club.
You can find books and other items at his shop.

Preliminary Rounds

Obelia Akanke is a “true life poet.” She received a Voices of Color poetry fellowship from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, earned awards in writing contests, and has been included in several anthologies/series, including the centennial anthology from The Poetry Society of Virginia (2023) and novella collections of Authors of Main Street (2019 and 2020) and "Christmas on the Side" (2021). Obelia has written and published several short stories, novellas, and novels. Most are new adult women’s fiction that tend to sweet romance. Drawing from her education and experience in social services, she often includes messages or lessons to bring awareness to a situation and to help the reader grow in compassion and understanding for others.


Inside Nianda Speaks is a spoken word poet from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has published 4 books: Until Next Time...The Evolution of a Broken Heart, Persuaded Until Tomorrow: A Message to the Negropean, and The Epistemology Series 1& 2. He also co-owns and operates Sweet Royale Hotdogs and Poetry in Portsmouth, VA, a restaurant and entertainment venue which showcases Hampton Roads and surrounding talent of all forms. 
FB page
Back to blog