Poetry@Tech, Detainee Allies, and Poetry International are delighted to share the results of the Dignity Not Detention Prize.

When we began this project, we had no idea how widely it would reach into the world: poets from three continents sent work for consideration. The winners, runners-up, and finalists include a broad range of poets: some are widely published, and have received such prestigious honors as the Yale Younger Poets Award, the Pushcart Prize, a Poet Laureateship, and Best American Poetry anthology publications, while others have never been published before.

Judge Ilya Kaminsky was so impressed that he chose two winners for each prize category (one category given to detainees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, California, and one given to anyone currently living outside of detention). We are delighted to share the winners and Judge’s citations with you here.




This poem is beautifully made, with refrains, memorable images, strong music. But it is the combination of imagery and emotion that finally sways me, a voice that’s tender and yet bold: “I would wash you with the softest words I know.”

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PLANS by K. Eltinaé

Lullabies. Wailing Songs. Spells. Those were our species’ first poems. I love how this poem weaves a spell, conjuring something into being, making the impossible feel possible: “Sometimes if you look / hard enough at something it will bloom in your eyes & / make countries for refugees no one took in.”

Read the poem   Author bio

Click here to read the full list of runners-up and finalists, as well as Ilya Kaminsky’s notes for each poem.


UNTITLED (AM I AN IMMIGRANT) by Daniel B., translated by Joel Fisaha

An honest voice, set to music, touches the heart. I admired the use of incantation in this poem, as well as its use of symbolism; the elegant simplicity of a letter from one person to the world.

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MY NATION by Marlon R S

“My nation has a people with a deportation order” this poet writes, and the directness and openness of its tone impacts us. Knowing the context of this poet’s dire condition gives additional power to the final lines: “lend my people a hand.” It is impossible not to be touched by this.

Read the poem

Click here to read the full list of runners-up and finalists, as well as Ilya Kaminsky’s notes for each poem.

DnD Winner Bios

K. Eltinaé

K. Eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent, his work has appeared in World Literature Today, The African American Review and About Place Journal, among others. A selection of his poems were shortlisted for the 2019 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Besides writing, he loves reading, the oud & kora, handmade foutas, old school rap, and Sarah Vaughan.

Dayna Patterson

Dayna Patterson is the author of Titania in Yellow (Porkbelly Press, 2019) and If Mother Braids a Waterfall (Signature Books, 2020). Her creative work has appeared recently in POETRY, Sugar House Review, Ruminate, Thrush, and Tupelo Quarterly. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Psaltery & Lyre and a co-editor of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry.

Daniel B.

Daniel B. comes from Eritrea and is presently detained at Otay Mesa Detention Center.

Marlon R. S.

Marlon R. S. comes from El Salvador and is currently in detention at Otay Mesa Detention Center.