This competition is now closed but you are still welcome to submit a poem!
Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.[i] Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.[ii] Poetry is an act of peace.[iii]
“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it,” wrote Gustave Flaubert. Poetry is in the songs we hear, the trains we ride, the forests we wander. And, when we choose to look, we find it residing within ourselves.
“If we are looking for something which is new and something which is vital,” wrote Audrey Lorde, “we must look first into the chaos within ourselves.” In this way, writing poetry requires a two-way looking glass. We must search inside ourselves in order to find a truth worthy of reflecting back to the world. And sharing what we discover is how, word-by-word, we come to understand our place in the universe. Poetry “lays the foundations for a future of change,” Lorde said. From the lines of Langston Hughes ushering in the Harlem Renaissance to women in modern-day Afghanistan secretly sharing their poems over social media, poetry has celebrated the rhythms of language and the right of self-expression while also being the first small voice to spark a revolution.
The poet “stands between two marvelous and complex things,” explains Mary Oliver: “an experience (or an idea or feeling), and the urge to tell about it in the best possible conjunction of words.”
That, dear poets, is the task before you this August. Do you have the urge?
From the strict sonnet to the unbridled free verse, all forms of poetry are welcome.
Like musicians, poets are highly attuned to the rhythm of language. It’s sometimes assumed that poems should therefore rhyme, but many come to life with non-rhyming cadence. Poets use repetition of sounds, the positioning of stressed and unstressed syllables, and pauses and line breaks to build rhythm. Check out the Glossary resource for more information.
“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar,” wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley. Poets, this is a tall order! You must magnify certain parts of the world so the reader can experience them, as if for the first time. Can the sea be described in such a way that the reader feels she is seeing it (or smelling/hearing/feeling it) in a new way? Imagery and other forms of sensory description are one of your primary engines, but you can also utilize figurative language (symbolism and metaphor), using a non-literal comparison to shed new light on your subject matter. Look in the glossary for examples.
Although it’s sometimes useful to break a poem down into parts and examine its anatomy, ultimately, your poem should feel and read as one entity. Babette Deutsch, the author of Poetry Handbook
explains it this way, “We may temporarily anesthetize the poem, as it were, lay it on the table, and examine distinct parts of it. But we know very well that only when these organs… function together in one body will the poem breath and move like the living thing it is.”
: Read poems. Spend just as much time absorbed in the work of other poets as writing poems yourself. This is how we learn technique, and also learn where we fit within the history of poetry. Read poems from decades long past as well as those written yesterday.
Joshua Bennett is a performance poet from Yonkers, NY. He has recited his original works at events and venues such as The Sundance Film Festival, The NAACP Image Awards, The Clinton Global Citizen Awards and President Obama’s Evening of Poetry and Music at the White House.
$100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
Best Peer Review:
$50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
The winning entrant will receive $100, and the runner-up and best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
Submit your draft by Monday August 10th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
Submit draft for Expert Review (optional)
Reviews returned to Writers
September Competition: Fashion Journalism opens Monday, September 7th. Stay tuned for more details!
“Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.”
- Paul Engle
[i] Lawrence Ferlinghetti
[ii] Carl Sandburg
[iii] Pablo Neruda