“Broadway Is Closed. Write Poems Instead,” read a recent New York Times
headline. Indeed, Shakespeare wrote some of his most beloved poems when he was quarantined at home during the plague. As swaths of the world face the days and weeks ahead in physical isolation, the power of poetry is still available to us.
“A tool for dialogue and healing.” That’s how the British spoken word artist Sukina Douglas describes poetry. For within every state of fracture, the American poet Jane Hirschfield reminds us, there is an opening. To break also means to open. And poems, Hirschfield explains, take fragments of the human experience and “make [something] new by rejoining parts into a visibly changed whole.”
At a time when the world needs to come together, when the pieces need to be reassembled, it seems poetry might offer a way through. “My experience,” Hirschfield says, “is that every truly good poem has in it, somewhere, an anchor dropped down into wholeness.” And good poems, Hirschfield contends, invite the reader into a sense of interconnection and compassion. Poems, she says, can “loosen us from the loneliness of separation.”
This month, give us the world re-made whole, conjuring poetry into stanzas, meter, or free verse; or with an original piece of spoken word (poetry performed aloud). We’ll award two top prizes—one for a written poem, and one for a recorded performance.
In partnership with Mass Poetry
We’re excited to partner with Mass Poetry
to bring you this month’s competition. Mass Poetry works to broaden the audience of poetry readers, bring poetry to readers of all ages, and transform people’s lives through inspiring verse.
A Note on Spoken Word
- THE FORM: From the strict sonnet to the unbridled free verse, all forms of poetry are welcome.
- THE RHYTHM: 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.
- THE LANGUAGE: “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) anew? Imagery and other forms of sensory description are one of your primary engines, but you can also utilize figurative language (symbolism and metaphor), drawing a non-literal comparison to shed new light on your subject matter. Look in the Glossary for examples.
- THE HISTORY: Read poems, and listen to spoken word! 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.
Spoken word pieces are meant to be performed. In addition to considering the rhythm and cadence of your poem, take time to practice elements such as projection, enunciation, pauses and eye contact. Watching these performances will give you a sense of how the delivery of a piece creates mood and meaning just as much as the words themselves. You’ll also notice that the spoken word genre celebrates authenticity of voice and subject matter. As you experiment with your own lines, remind yourself that the power of spoken word comes from writing about what matters most to you, and expressing these sentiments in your own voice.
How to Record and Submit a Video File (optional)
This month, we'll award a prize for the best performance, as well as one for the best written poem. If you’d like to create a video version or audio recording, you may use any platform of your choice—simply copy the link within the text of your submission. Some options to consider:
Please note that these are public platforms and are not affiliated with WtW. If you need assistance getting started, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Who is Eligible?
Young writers ages 13-18
Anne-Marie Te Whiu
is a cultural producer, editor, weaver, theatre practitioner and a Maori-Australian poet. She is the co-editor of Solid Air: Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word
—the first anthology of its kind. She is also co-editor of Verity La’s spoken word stream ‘Slot Machine’ and ‘Discoursing Diaspora’. She was co-director of the Queensland Poetry Festival from 2015 to 2017. Born and raised in Brisbane, Australia, she is a proud descendant of the Te Rarawa tribe in Northland, Aotearoa, New Zealand.
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Best Entry: $100 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the winning piece, and an interview with the author will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Best Performance: $100 (Our guest judge’s commentary on performance, and an interview with the author will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Runner up: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the piece will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Best Peer Review: $50 (Our guest judge’s commentary on the best peer review and an interview with the reviewer will be featured on Write the World’s blog)
- Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the runner up and best peer-reviewer will both receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entries, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, April 13 and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
- April 6: Competition Opens
- April 13: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
- April 17: Reviews returned to Writers
- April 21: Final Submissions Due
- May 1: Winners Announced
Our Playwriting Competition opens Monday, May 4th.
Stay tuned for more details!