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Poetry and Spoken Word Competition 2017

Full Details

*This competition is now closed but you are still welcome to read through the published writing and blog posts.  *  

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it", wrote Gustave Flaubert. This month, take a look at these particles of life—from the sounds in cities and nature to the images that flood us from the past or imagined future. What ideas and emotions do those particles trigger in you? In the world? Writing poetry is about taking the most beautiful and the most difficult images, ideas, and sounds and putting them in an order, line by line, to unveil the true essence of the human condition.
In this way, the writer Audrey Lorde explains, “poetry lays the foundations for a future of change". From the lines of Langston Hughes ushering in the Harlem Renaissance, to women in modern-day Afghanistan secretly sharing their poems over social media, to spoken word artists calling for change in our streets and schools, poetry has long celebrated the rhythms of language and the right of self-expression, all while sowing the seeds for revolution. 
Give us the world in a new form this month, dear writers, by conjuring poetry into stanzas, meter, or free verse; or with an original piece of spoken word—poetry performed aloud (and submitted via audio/video!). We’ll award two top prizes—one for a written poem, and one for a recorded performance.
  • 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) 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), 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.
This month, we'll award a prize for the best spoken delivery 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
Who is Eligible?  
Young writers ages 13-18  
Guest Judge
Nate Marshall: Writer, MC & Director of National Programs for Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival.
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions? 
Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.       
Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.       
Expert Review: Submit your draft and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.