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March 2008

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Welcome to our March newsletter. This is the companion to our online database, The Best Free Poetry Contests. It alerts you to upcoming contests and important contest changes, highlights quality resources for writers, and announces achievements and great poems by our readers.

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Last Call!
Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31
Now in its 16th year. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and five Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. Submit any type of short story, essay or other work of prose, up to 5,000 words. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. $12 entry fee. Submit online or by mail. Winning Writers is assisting with entry handling for this contest. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Last Call!
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Online Submission Deadline: April 1
Winning Writers invites you to enter the seventh annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, called "infamous" by Writer's Digest. Fifteen cash prizes totaling $3,336.40 will be awarded, including a top prize of $1,359. There is no fee to enter. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

War Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31
We seek 1-3 original, unpublished poems on the theme of war for our seventh annual contest, up to 500 lines in total. We will again award $5,000, including a top prize of $2,000. Submit online or by mail. The entry fee is $15. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Postmark Deadline: June 30
Now in its fifth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Fourteen cash prizes totaling $5,250 will be awarded, including a top prize of $2,000. The entry fee is $6 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: September 30
Now in its sixth year, this contest seeks poems in any style, theme or genre. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Fourteen cash prizes totaling $5,250 will be awarded, including a top prize of $2,000. The entry fee is $6 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.


Jendi Reiter was one of five runners-up in the inaugural Southern Hum Women of Words Award. Her poetry chapbook Hound of Heaven will be published later this year. Read a sample from this book on her blog. The winner of the $250 prize was Winning Writers subscriber Carolyn Moore for her chapbook The Last Night of Maskmaking.

Congratulations to Srinjay Chakravarti. He won one of the $7,500 top prizes in the 2007 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Annual Poetry Prizes for his poem "Ikebana of the Blind". The winning poems are published on the contest website. This contest offers over $100,000 in prizes annually for short lyric poems based on personal experience that "celebrate the spirit of life". The next deadline will be October 18.

Congratulations to Dove Rengger-Thorpe. She was also a $7,500 top prize winner in this year's Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg awards for her poems "Thelonius Monk", "Hollow", and "Green Hope".

Congratulations to Ellen Sullins. She won first prize for poetry in the New Millennium Writings Awards 24 (Summer 2007) for her poem "The Visible Spectrum", which can be read on their website and will appear in the print journal later this year. New Millennium Writings offers twice-yearly prizes of $1,000 apiece for poetry, fiction, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. The next deadline will be June 17.

Congratulations to Lesléa Newman. She was named the new Poet Laureate of Northampton, Mass. by the Northampton Arts Council. Ms. Newman is the author of more than 50 books for children and adults, including the poetry collection Still Life with Buddy and the picture book Heather Has Two Mommies. Visit her website at The Poet Laureate position is a two-year term during which the poet will be responsible for educating the public on the importance of poetry through various events and activities of interest to the chosen poet.

Congratulations to Linda Leedy Schneider. Her poem "Albania Day Fourteen" won second prize for poetry in The Pedestal Magazine's Readers' Award contest.

Congratulations to Rita Traub. She won first prizes in two contests offered by Shadow Poetry. Her poem "The Green Ship of Summer" won their winter 2007 Seasonal Poetry Competition, and her poem "Above the Daffodils" won their 4th Quarter 2007 Rhyme Time Competition. Both of these contests are now discontinued, but visit Shadow Poetry's website for other individual-poems and chapbook contests, and to read past winners.

Becky Dennison Sakellariou was featured on the Poet Showcase page of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts website. Her poem "Crossing" was selected by NH Poet Laureate Patricia Fargnoli.

Ricky Rapoport Friesem will be Poetica magazine's October 2008 "Poet of the Month".


If you enjoy using The Best Free Poetry Contests, consider upgrading to Poetry Contest Insider. The Best Free Poetry Contests profiles the 150 or so poetry contests that are free to enter. With your Poetry Contest Insider subscription, you'll get access to all of our 750+ poetry contest profiles, plus over 100 of the best prose contests. Search and sort contests by deadline, prize, fee, recommendation level and more. Access to Poetry Contest Insider is just $7.95 per quarter, with a free 10-day trial at the start. Cancel at any time.

Most contests charge entry fees. You can easily spend hundreds of dollars and many hours entering these contests each year. Don't waste your time or money. Out of hundreds of contests, there might only be two or three dozen that are especially appropriate for your work. We help you find them fast. Interviews and links to award-winning work help you refine your craft. Learn more about Poetry Contest Insider.
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"Your website is invaluable: definitely the best around. I have benefited greatly from the database of contests. Thank you and keep up the fantastic work!... Last year I received first prize in both the Dorothy Prizes and the Room of One's Own poetry competition—both of which I learned of through your database."
Vicki Duke, Alberta, Canada

See more testimonials here, plus coverage of Winning Writers in Writer's Digest and The Writer, or start your trial now.


Deadlines: March 16-April 30

Here is a summary of upcoming free poetry contests. Click the contest names to be taken directly to their profiles (you may be asked to login on your first click of the day). You may also view the profiles by logging in to The Best Free Poetry Contests here and clicking the Find Free Contests link to search for contests by name.

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Winning Writers gathers contest information from a wide variety of sources including publishers' press releases, online link directories, Poets & Writers Magazine, and e-newsletters such as TOTAL FundsforWriters, The Practicing Writer, and CRWROPPS. We encourage readers to explore these useful resources, and let us know about worthwhile contests we may have missed.

3/21: Leonard Milberg '53 Secondary School Poetry Prize ++
Recommended free contest sponsored by the Princeton University creative writing program offers prizes up to $500 for unpublished poems by 11th-graders (high school juniors). Submit 1-3 poems, any length. Contest is judged by the Princeton University creative writing faculty, which includes such acclaimed authors as Jeffey Eugenides and Joyce Carol Oates.

3/25: Nicholas A. Virgilio Memorial Haiku Competition for High School Students +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers six prizes of $50 for the best haiku by students in grades 7-12 as of the previous September (no homeschooled students). Send 1-3 haiku, typed in triplicate on 3"x5" cards, with author's name and contact information on only one copy. Sponsored by the Haiku Society of America.

3/30: bp Nichol Chap-Book Award ++
Recommended free contest offers C$1,000 for the best English-language poetry chapbook published in Canada in the preceding year. Author or publisher should submit 3 copies of book plus author's curriculum vitae.

3/31: Foley Poetry Contest ++
Recommended free contest from the Jesuit magazine 'America' offers $1,000 and publication for a poem of 30 lines or less. (Past winning poems have touched on morally significant issues, but have not been "religious" poetry in the conventional sense.) No simultaneous submissions.

3/31: Jacklyn Potter Young Poets Competition +++
Highly recommended free contest for high school students in the Washington, DC region offers two winners an honorarium plus reading at Rock Creek Park with an established poet. Send 5-6 poems, published or unpublished. The Word Works, which sponsors this prize, also runs a prestigious manuscript prize for adults.

3/31: Jackson/Phelan/Tanenbaum Literary Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers 3 awards of $2,000 for unpublished manuscripts (up to 40 pages) of poetry, fiction, nonfiction or drama. For Jackson award, must be residents of Nevada or northern California (north of the Monterey-San Luis Obispo county line) for 3 consecutive years prior to deadline; for Phelan award, must have been born in California; for Tanenbaum award, must be residents of northern California as defined above. Entrants must also be aged 20-35 as of the deadline date.

3/31: Jerseyworks Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $200 for unpublished poems of any length. Jerseyworks is an online journal of literature, art and photography. Read past winners online before entering. Enter by email only.

3/31: Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest from the Haiku Society of America offers $500 for the best book of haiku, or primarily haiku, published in the previous calendar year. Books should be at least 24 pages. Also see website for the Annual Merit Book Awards, open to poets of all experience levels. Both prize and fee for the latter contest were eliminated in 2005; winners now receive only publicity in Haiku Society materials. Early entries encouraged. Email Tom Painting for details.

3/31: Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest for African-American poets offers $500 and publication for a poetry manuscript, 60-90 pages. Authors who have already had books published by Lotus Press are not eligible.

3/31: Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships +++
Formerly April 16
Highly recommended free contest from prestigious Poetry magazine offers two fellowships of $15,000 for US authors aged 21-31 as of the deadline. Send 10 pages of poetry (published work may be included), plus application form and brief explanation of how the fellowship would aid your work.

3/31: Sarah Mook Memorial Poetry Prize for Students +
Neutral contest offers prizes up to $100 in four age categories for unpublished poems by students in grades K-12. Submit 1-3 poems, any length. Optional $5 entry fee will be donated to St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, SD, which serves the Lakota (Sioux) population. This contest is sponsored by David Mook in memory of his daughter, a young writer who died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm when she was in third grade.

4/1: Balticon SF Poetry Contest +
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $100 for poems with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes. Send 1-3 poems, maximum 50 lines each. Sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Winners invited to read at Balticon, their annual convention, in May.

4/1: Betsy Colquitt Award for Poetry/Frank O'Connor Award for Fiction +
Neutral free contests offer $500 apiece for the best poetry and fiction published in Descant: Fort Worth's Journal of Poetry & Fiction. General submission guidelines apply. Editors prefer poems 60 lines or less, stories 5,000 words or less.

4/1: Washington State Book Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers prizes of $1,000 each for published books of poetry, fiction, history/biography, general nonfiction for adults, picture book, and young adult book. Authors must have been born in Washington State or have lived in the state for at least three years. An author who lives in Washington part of the year and considers Washington to be her or his home is eligible. Publisher or author should submit 6 copies of book (4 copies for children's books) plus entry form from website.

4/15: Arabic Translation Award +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest for book-length translations of Arabic literature into English offers $5,000 each for translator and original author. (An author who translates his or her own work will only receive one $5,000 award.) Poetry collections, novels, short story collections, and dramatic works are all eligible. Submit manuscript as hard copy and on CD. Winner published by Syracuse University Press.

4/15: S. Portia Steele Award for Excellence in Poetry and Prose +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers prizes of $100 each for unpublished poems and short prose pieces by women writers aged 50+. Poems should be one and a half pages maximum, double-spaced, and stories or essays should be 500 words maximum. Enter online only.

4/30: Red Mountain Review Poetry Chapbook Contest ++
Recommended free contest for poetry chapbook manuscripts offers $500; ten copies of Red Mountain Review, in which the manuscript will appear; ten copies of a limited-edition stand-alone chapbook; and an all-expenses-paid trip to Birmingham, AL for a joint reading with this year's judge. Manuscripts should be 24 pages maximum. Two entries maximum per person.

Login to The Best Free Poetry Contests now to view these and all our profiles of free contests. You can browse contests by deadline date, name, recommendation level and more.

Key to Ratings
Highly Recommended: +++
Recommended: ++
Neutral: +

All deadlines are postmark deadlines unless otherwise specified.



Fiesta Brava
by Larry Lyall
On sale now at

Fiesta Brava by Larry Lyall Fiesta Brava is a playful romp through the delights of ars poetica. The poet reports from New York, Havana, London, Paris, Mexico, Texas, Rome, Mississippi, Florida, and other points in his personal geography. Poetic commentaries on history, art, music, politics, and academe flavor this collection with a bit of spice, a touch of grit and enough variety to whet most any appetite. The "Improvisations Blue" section will soon be available in audio.

Please enjoy this poem from Fiesta Brava...
by Larry Lyall

the way I figure—once this t-shirt shrinks
I'm out six pesos & for sure el che's
dimensions have declin'd to such estate
that one might well confuse his bearded mien
with some head-shrunken jesus—subtle links
that clearly are fidel's still clever way
to keep his friend ernesto up to date
& jesus part & parcel of the scene

since both are cultos where's declension's harm?
if talkin' polyester che's intact
but cotton has a way to soon disarm
most anything not anchor'd in hard fact


to wit: unless I lose a pound or two
my iconography is bound to skew

Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference
The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference
Next conference: May 2-5
The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference provides the faculty, connections, and method necessary to set poets with a completed manuscript or manuscript-in-process on a path towards publication. Includes workshops, consultations with press editors, evening poetry readings, editorial panel Q&A, group critique of selected poems, and an after-conference strategy session.

Faculty for 2008 include editors and publishers Martha Rhodes (Four Way Books), Jeffrey Levine (Tupelo Press), Jeffrey Shotts (Graywolf Press), Peter Conners (BOA), Susan Kan (Perugia Press) and others; workshop leaders include Director of the Concord Poetry Center, Joan Houlihan, Suffolk University Creative Writing Program Director Frederick Marchant, and Director of the Smith Poetry Center, Ellen Dore Watson.

The cost of the May conference is $995 and includes tuition, pre-conference materials, lodging and meals. The May conference takes place takes place in Colrain, a country town in Western Massachusetts, at the unique and magical Round House. Attendance is limited. For an application and complete guidelines, please visit You may also call 978-897-0054, email or write to Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference, Concord Poetry Center, 40 Stow Street, Concord, MA 01742-2418.
Attendees say:

"The Colrain Manuscript Conference managed to pack into a weekend what a lot of grad school teachers never had time to do in their classes or individually: offer finishing touches to a manuscript eager to be picked up by a publisher."
Steve Fellner, Brockport, NY

"...It was a goldmine for me especially, removed as I am from the academic world and from a community of serious poets."
LouAnn Muhm, Park Rapids, MN, Teacher, Creative Writing

"...extremely helpful to hear responses to the other manuscripts. I learned as much or more from the critiques of others' manuscripts as I did from the critique of mine."
Mary Crow, Fort Collins, CO, Poet Laureate of Colorado

Jamul HavenSouthern California: Poet Retreat in Luxury 1890 Victorian Mansion
William Roetzheim, award-winning poet and owner of Level 4 Press, has opened an 1890 Victorian mansion as a poet- and writer-friendly bed and breakfast. Jamul Haven ( is located in the Laguna Mountains 20 minutes outside of downtown San Diego. This super luxury B&B offers features including full kitchen facilities, an 800-square-foot rock swimming pool, two spas, water slide, waterfalls, pool pavilion, pub, disco, gym, game room, and much more. Bring your poetry to happy hour for detailed discussions and comments; ask innkeeper William Roetzheim for hints on getting published; or just sit around the fire discussing poets old and new.
Your Innkeepers

William Roetzheim is the author of seventeen published books, three plays, three columns, and fifteen audio CDs. He founded and sold two software companies, flew carrier-based jets in the US Navy, and was a national gymnastic champion. He has been married to Marianne and living in the San Diego area for more than 28 years.

Marianne Roetzheim is a gourmet chef and registered Occupational Therapist who founded and operated her own successful therapy company, providing speech, physical, and occupational therapy services to several area hospitals. She currently volunteers in a San Diego group home for developmentally delayed adults.
Click to find out more and make your reservation. Mention Winning Writers in the comment field when booking and receive a free audio CD, "Poems of Romance".

Great Kills PressGreat Kills Review Now Accepting Submissions for Summer 2008 Issue
Great Kills Review, a Journal of Poetry and Prose, is back and seeks your submissions for its Summer 2008 Issue. See the guidelines and past issues now at Please enjoy "Cuts of the Tongue" from our Winter 2005 issue:
Cuts of the Tongue
by John Murphy

I will no longer eat razor blades at a quarter a pop.
Coney Island to Venice Beach; Pier 39 to Bleecker Street.
My tongue will bleed for no one.

Especially not you, World’s Smallest Woman.
Remember after that sip of 151,
You said your mitten could fit a kitten.

And I said I was smitten. And you asked
Why I was spittin’ and I said,
“Part of the trade.”

It was cold in Sheepshead Bay, when we slept
In the bathroom at the car service depot.
That rat was fatter than you.

It was hot at Muscle Beach, when you lifted
In the sun for that fifteen-dollar sum.
All day I rubbed your rotator cuff.

Remember when we broke up at the Wharf
And the comedian saw you bawl?
You threw up. (Poor sea lion!)

And then off Mulberry Street at San Gennaro,
When you had that sign that read:
“She puts the little in Little Italy.”

You wouldn’t talk to me. They laughed.
I stopped tasting blood long ago.
I woke up this morning,

And I looked for you.
Inside the pillowcase.
Behind the shampoo.

I looked inside the ink of my tattoos.
The axes on my cheeks. No you.
My forehead sword? Nada.
You’ve taught me that what’s small
Can be too big. A bug can kill.
A blade, too. So thin, oh so tasty.

Writecorner Press
Writecorner Press - Call for Poetry & Fiction Contests Submissions

Writecorner Press Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline Extended to March 31

First Place $500; Editors' Choices, $100 each.
Seeks the best unpublished poems under 40 lines. Any style, any theme. Send 2 copies of each poem with author's name, address, phone, short bio, and email address on only one copy. Make other copy anonymous. Fee: $5 first poem, $3 each additional poem, payable to Writecorner Press. Read past winners.

E.M. Koeppel Short Fiction Contest
Postmark Deadline: April 30

First Place $1,100; Editors' Choices, $100 each.
Seeks unpublished stories, 3,000 words maximum. Any style, any theme. $15 fee for one story, $10 each additional story, payable to Writecorner Press. Send one title page with author's name, address, phone, email address, and short bio. Send second title page with title only. Read past winners.

Writecorner Press judges all submissions anonymously. Winning poems and stories will be published on our literary site, After publication, writers retain all rights. No email entries, please. Fees are used to pay awards and site expenses.

Read the contest guidelines, then mail your submissions to Writecorner Press Contests, P.O. Box 140310, Gainesville, FL 32614.

Here is the beginning of "When the Brakes Went", the 2007 winning story by Stephen L. Schaurer. Writecorner Press nominated this story for the Pushcart Prize:
When the Brakes Went
by Stephen L. Schaurer

When the brakes went, wheezed dry like a hoary last breath, Alden Freed was driving home the way most folks do, maneuvering more by instinct and years of dull experience than through any conscious act of operating an explosion-powered machine.

Alden had just crested the highest hill in the county, just sparked that gap between when his foot fired the rust-crusted Ford up the steep grade, and when he let go, his work boot hovering over the brake, ready to command the heavy truck's descent. In that feeble instant Alden floated in a consummate calm, the final surge of the uphill coast, suspension, weightlessness, his soul propelled into a lurch, one with God. Alden Freed was drunk.

When the brakes went, when the pedal scraped the floor, a county fair grin of nostalgic expectation surprised itself onto his formica face, a memory of leaning over the bar atop the roller coaster's highest peak, perched to plummet into a rumbling jangling excitement where he'd yell and scream and hold on for dear life. Except that roller coasters run on tracks, and when the brakes went, you just thundered up another hill and rolled back again, like rocking in a rattling cradle.

When the brakes went, Alden pumped bangety bang, as if adrenalin could resuscitate control, but the pedal was limp, like his buddy Ben's left arm after his shoulder adopted that bullet on a steamy Sunday stroll near Qui Nhon.

As the creaking truck began to shake and pick up speed, Alden jerked the parking brake, heard the pop of the cable. He yanked the shift into reverse, to the snapping of worn and weary gear teeth, at first a hopeful grinding and bucking, slowing the truck, yes, yes, thataway, he shouted, but then the tranny just banged apart, firing bolts into the tarvia, conceding the bout, releasing its load...
Click to read the full story.

Poetry Society of GeorgiaLast Call!
The Cosmos Mariner Open Poetry Award
Postmark Deadline: April 1
$500 is offered annually for the best poem in this national contest. Sponsored by the Poetry Society of Georgia, this year's contest will be judged by Vivian Shipley. Submit up to 5 poems (10 pages maximum). Send all submissions to: The Poetry Society of Georgia, 4 Edgewood Road, Savannah, GA 31404-2417. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) and a $10 entry fee made out to Poetry Society of Georgia.

Please enjoy "Figs in Autumn" by PSGA member Wilmer Mills:
Figs in Autumn
by Wilmer Mills

Their lids preserve the truth,
Dark urn-like jars on pantry shelves,
July, August, keeping themselves
Intact and succulent for tooth
And tongue. They sleep in syrup's sweet
Suspense, but when leaves blow to the door
And the woodstove fills our house with heat,
Last summer's figs will fall once more.

Toward The LightLast Call!
Toward The Light Sixth Annual Poetry Contest
Entries must be received by April 1
First Prize: Can$175 plus publication in the Summer 2008 issue and 2 copies
Two Honourable Mentions: Can$50 plus publication in the Summer 2008 issue and 2 copies

Entry Fee: Can$12 for a set of 1-3 poems or Can$28 if you'd also like to receive a year's subscription to Toward The Light. Add Can$5 for each additional poem over 3. For the convenience of our international contestants and others, you have the option of paying your fee online with PayPal or a credit card.

Theme: Toward The Light. Send us poetry that sees in the dark. Personal poetry that integrates the power of light and dark in life, recognizing that neither is a permanent resting place, rather, together they stimulate movement and growth; never a final location. Wherever you are, ignite the fuse of light within you. Notice how darkness can make you wise. In celebration, struggle, joy, depression, transition, and achievement there is light and dark. Write that. We are not looking for rants or lists of profanity; we are looking for a sincere, multifaceted exploration of what it means to choose to grow toward the light. See an excerpt from the 2007 winning poem, "For Christ's sake, would you hurry and take the picture".

Contest sponsored by Toward The Light: Journal of Reflective Word & Image. See the complete guidelines at The winners will be announced in June.

Closing Next Month
Brighid's Fire BooksBrighid's Fire Books Fiction Manuscript Contest
Postmark Deadline: April 30
ATTENTION ASPIRING NOVELISTS: Brighid's Fire Books, together with, is now accepting entries for our sixth annual fiction manuscript contest. We specialize in launching promising writing careers and we're looking for talented but unpublished novelists that we can present to the reading public. First prize is $1,000 and a publishing contract; second prize is $250; third prize is $125. Entry fee: $25. Winners will be announced on January 1, 2009. For complete contest rules and eligibility requirements, visit our web site at

Brighid's Fire Books, the fiction imprint of Wahmpreneur Books, specializes in publishing debut fiction. It takes its name from the Celtic fire goddess Brighid (pronounced breed), who was believed to hold sway over the smithy (work), over healing and the hearth fires (home), and over the bards—filling them with fiery inspiration. Under the circumstances, She seemed the perfect patron and symbol for a home-based business publishing first fiction.

Creekwalker Poetry & Photography Closing Next Month
2008 Creekwalker Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: April 30
"After nine years publishing the poetry of both veteran and novice poets, we established the Creekwalker Poetry Prize in 2007. The poetry of Diana Woodcock, our inaugural winner, captured in tone and thematic quality the kind of work for which we created the Creekwalker Prize. For our 2008 Prize, we anticipate a wider field of poets and look forward to what the contest will bring by way of captivating work with the power to inspire, uplift and challenge our customary ways of processing the elegant complexities of everyday life." —Tom Mark Gilbert, Founder

Submit five poems of 25 lines or less via typed hardcopy (no electronic submissions). All themes welcome. Both published and unpublished poems are eligible. Winner receives a $300 prize. Entry fee: $15, payable to Creekwalker. Place your name and contact information (address, phone, email) at the top of each page. Mail your entry and fee to:
Creekwalker Poetry Prize
5620 Paseo Del Norte #127-240
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Questions? Please visit or email

Please enjoy "Streaked-Winged Red Skimmmer" by Diana Woodcock, from her 2007 winning entry:
Streaked-Winged Red Skimmmer
by Diana Woodcock

The dragonfly lingers
on the brown tip of a summer
green reed like a flame
on a candle at mass.

Poison has spoiled its meal
of midges and broken its eggs.
The last of its kind
to inhabit this shoreline,

it hangs on,
burns in the mid-day sun,
purifying the day.
No longer skimming

its lake, it poses on its reedy
throne—a lone ember
glowing in the fumes
of Malathion.

Originally published in Least-loved Beasts of the Really Wild West, Native West Press (anthology, Spring 1997)

Skysaje Enterprises
Closing Next Month

Announcing the Fourth Annual Skysaje Enterprises Poetry Contest
Entries must be received by April 30
This year we've increased the top prize to $250 and we're offering two $25 Honorable Mentions. Please format your submissions using 12-point type. We prefer the Times New Roman, Courier and Arial typefaces. Entry fee: $15. Submit up to 5 poems per entry. All styles accepted! Both published and unpublished work welcome, and your poems may be of any length. Enter as often as you like.

Make your entry fee payable to L. Berger and mail to:
Skysaje Enterprises
50 Amesbury Road
Rochester, NY 14623-5314

Templar Poetry Pamphlet & Collection Competition: 2008 Closing Next Month
Templar Poetry Pamphlet & Collection Competition: 2008
Postmark/Email Submission Deadline: April 30
This is an Open Poetry competition offering contemporary poets the opportunity to have their work published in both short pamphlet and collection formats. A selection of the best individual poems will also be published alongside the winning pamphlets. The Awards event will open the 2008 Derwent Poetry Festival in Derbyshire (held in late October) and will offer readings to the pamphlet and anthology poets.

Poets writing in English are invited to submit short collections of poetry ranging from 18 to 24 pages of A4 (letter size paper) containing up to 40 typewritten lines per page. The poems submitted may have been published previously, but not as a pamphlet or as part of a full collection.

Three overall winners will be chosen by the Judge, Jane Weir, and these submissions will be published as individual perfect bound Pamphlets. The three winning poets will have an option to record a selection of poems from their work as part of an audio CD which will be published after the Derwent Poetry Festival 2008.

The three winners will also be invited to submit an additional more extensive manuscript for later publication as a full collection. This additional submission must be made within six weeks of the results being formally announced at the Derwent Poetry Festival. Subject to the judgement of the Templar Poetry Editorial team, these writers will be offered the opportunity to publish their submissions as a full collection. Up to three collections may be published from these submissions.

Forty to fifty of the best individual poems selected from all submissions will be published in the competition anthology simultaneously with the winning pamphlets.

Three overall competition winners will each receive a £500 cash prize, royalties on sales of their pamphlet and fifty complimentary copies of their pamphlet. Poets whose work is published in the competition anthology will receive ten complimentary copies.

In addition ALL writers submitting work receive a complimentary copy of the anthology (value £8) in late October. The three winners and all anthology poets are invited to read at the Derwent Poetry Festival 2008 and will also have complimentary access to all Festival events. Competition results will be posted on the Templar Poetry website in late August or early September along with details of the Derwent Poetry Festival Programme.

About the judge: Jane Weir has published two collections of poetry—The Way I Dressed During the Revolution (2005) and Before Playing Romeo (2007). Her first collection was shortlisted for the Glen Dimplex New Writers Award 2006 and her poems have been published in Faber and Picador Anthologies, The Forward Book of Poetry and magazines. She is currently completing a collection on the 20th Century handblock print textile designers Barron and Larcher. Read from her poems.

Reading Fee: £18 per manuscript may be paid by PayPal (you don't have to have an existing PayPal account, just a credit card) or enclosed with your mailed submission. Contestants outside the United Kingdom should use PayPal or send their fee in British currency (not as a check or money order). Those who pay via PayPal may email their submission as an attached Microsoft Word file to Please include a completed entry form with your electronic submission—copy and paste it into the beginning of your Microsoft Word file.

Send postal entries with a completed entry form via airmail to Templar Poetry Pamphlet & Collection Competition 2008, P.O. Box 7082, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 9AF, United Kingdom. If you reside in the United Kingdom, we prefer you send your entries by post, rather than electronically.

For complete guidelines, please go to or request them by email from

Dancing Poetry Festival Artists Embassy International Poetry Contest - 43 Cash Awards
To further understanding and goodwill through the universal language of the arts

Postmark Deadline: May 15
43 Poetry Contest winners will be honored at the 15th Annual Dancing Poetry Festival on September 27, 2008. The authors will be invited to read at our prestigious podium in the elegant California Palace of the Legion of Honor Art Museum in San Francisco. Over $1,000 will be awarded, and all winners receive free entry into our festival plus a printed award certificate. The top three poems chosen as Grand Prizes will be choreographed, costumed and videotaped live in an on-stage performance at the Festival.

Recent topics of winning poems have touched on the travels of Matisse, a Picasso painting, falling leaves, love, Iraq, China, history, dance, current events, reverie, socially significant situations and even some humor sprinkled here and there. Please don't feel constrained to write a poem about dancing.

Dancing Poetry Contest The entry fee is $5 per poem or $10 for 3 poems. Each poem may be up to 40 lines long. Send two copies of each poem. One copy should be anonymous (just title and poem), the other should have your name, address, phone, email address and where you heard about this contest (e.g. Winning Writers Newsletter).

When the judges evaluate entries, they look for innovative perspectives on ordinary or unusual subjects as well as excellence of craft. Your entry should be suitable for a general audience since our following is comprised of people of all ages and ethnicities. English translations must be included with non-English poems.

Our judges consist of poets, dancers, musicians and visual artists of various media, all members of Artists Embassy International. Judging is done with the anonymous copies of the poems. Artists Embassy International is a non-profit, volunteer, arts and education organization whose goal is to further intercultural understanding through the arts.

Dancing Poetry ContestThree poets, the Grand Prize winners, will be rewarded with seeing their poems danced by Natica Angilly’s Poetic Dance Theater Company, a well-known dance troupe that has performed around the world and throughout America. This company is dedicated exclusively to creating new avenues by combining poetry, dance and music together for presentation and the expansion of poetry with dance in the life of our culture.

To enter the contest, please visit our website at or submit to our Dancing Poetry Chair, Judy Cheung, 704 Brigham Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Questions? Please email Ms. Cheung at

Lost Horse PressThe Idaho Prize for Poetry 2008
Postmark Deadline: May 15
$1,000 cash prize, plus publication by Lost Horse Press. No restriction on content, style or subject. Entry fee: $25 check or money order only, please, payable to Lost Horse Press. Send manuscripts of 48 or more pages of poetry, no more than one poem per page, no smaller than 12-point type in an easily readable font. Poems may have appeared in journals and chapbooks, but not in full-length, single-author collections.

Name, address, phone number, email address, title of work, and title of poetry collection must appear on the cover letter only. Use white, lightweight paper. Print on one side only. Please type—no handwriting should appear anywhere on the manuscript. Include SASE (number #10 business envelope) with sufficient postage for notification of finalists and winner. If manuscripts arrive postage due, they will be returned. Send submissions to:
The Idaho Prize
Lost Horse Press
105 Lost Horse Lane
Sandpoint, ID 83864
Winners announced on August 15. See the complete guidelines and past winners at the Lost Horse Press website.

Ruminate MagazineNew Contest
Ruminate Magazine's Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: May 15
The new Christian literary magazine, Ruminate, has been praised by Winning Writers' Jendi Reiter as a "magazine wide open to new perspectives and the free play of the imagination." We invite you to join us in this "free play" by entering our annual poetry contest, The Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize. The entry fee is $15. We will award $300 to the winner and $150 to the runner-up. Enter online or by mail and submit up to three poems per entry. The winner will be featured in the 2008 Fall Issue of Ruminate, and each contestant will receive a copy of this issue. Also, all entries will be considered in our general poetry reading for the Fall 2008 Issue. Your entry must not have been previously published. Please visit for more information.

Ruminate magazine is brought to you from Fort Collins, Colorado. We were created by a few fellow writers and believers who wanted to develop a space for the thoughtful expressions of those who are nudged forward, backward, and sideways by a faith in God. We realized we were not the only ones desiring an outlet of this sort, and began fashioning Ruminate in between prayers of doubt and hope, the birth of a child, going back to grad school and of course, our day jobs. Ruminate is and always will be an act of faith. We hope our magazine will operate as a resource—providing stimulation, encouragement and hope.

Robert Frost Foundation12th Annual Robert Frost Foundation Annual Poetry Award
Postmark/Email Submission Deadline: September 15
The Robert Frost Foundation welcomes poems in the spirit of Robert Frost for its 12th Annual Award. The winner will receive $1,000 and an invitation to present the winning poem at the Frost Festival located at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on Saturday, October 25.

Please submit two copies of each poem, one copy with contact information and one copy free of all identifying information. Mailing address: Robert Frost Foundation, Lawrence Library - 3rd Floor, 51 Lawrence Street, Lawrence, MA 01841. Email submissions are also accepted at Reading fees are $10 per poem (send fees via regular mail, please). Read about last year's honorees and the contest guidelines at Please enjoy the 2002 winning poem, "Sheepdog Trials at Bleinau Ffestiniog" (PDF) by Deborah Warren.
Sheepdog Trials at Bleinau Ffestiniog
by Deborah Warren

At the bottom of the field, like woolly boats,
three sheep appear. They're unaware, of course,
that this is a race, and the first one's gently drifting
off to the left, and another bobbles and floats
the other way, when something—a gale? a force—
tears at them—veers—its direction shifting, shifting—

a black and white Hermes, fur and motion spurred
by a single message, a single mission: To herd.
A centrifugal ewe like a prodigal yacht
sails out in a stately and leisured trot
but huffily reconsiders, deterred
by the scouring dog; and the second and third

who are heading off—confronted, stop:
he's there; and the trio slews around,
jibing in unison, parallel. Then,
in a climax of ecstasy—he drops
suddenly, puddle-flat, onto the ground
and sends the flotilla of sheep to the pen.

And the lumbering trainer, rubber-shod,
closes the gate with his crook and slogs
across to the dog who, you could say, ran
because he was told to. You could say the man
created the dog. But no—the dog,
who was made by the wind, is a little god.



These free prose contests with deadlines between March 16 and April 30 are included as a bonus in The Best Free Poetry Contests.

Click the contest names below to go straight to their profiles, or login to The Best Free Poetry Contests here. After you login, please click the Find Free Contests link, then search by Prose Contest Type to find prose contests.

3/20: Anthem Essay Contest for High School Students +++
Highly recommended free contest for 9th and 10th graders offers top prize of $2,000, other large prizes, for essays on Ayn Rand's novella Anthem. See website for essay topics and background on Rand's rationalist, libertarian worldview. Length limit is 600-1,200 words. Enter by mail or online.

3/21: Glass Woman Prize +
Entries must be received by this date; late submissions held for the next contest
Neutral free contest offers $550 and online publication for the best short fiction or creative nonfiction by women. Both published and unpublished work welcome. Entries should be 50-5,000 words. Contest sponsor Beate Sigriddaughter says, "Subject is open, but must be of significance to women. My criterion is passion, excellence, and authenticity in the woman’s writing voice." Enter by mail or email (no attachments).

3/31: Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award +++
Formerly April 30
Highly recommended free contest for US college and graduate students offers $1,000 and publication in Crab Orchard Review for a short story, maximum 20 double-spaced pages. The award competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate students who are US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled full- or part-time in a US college or university.

3/31: L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest +++
Highly recommended free contest for emerging writers of short science fiction, fantasy and horror offers quarterly prizes of $1,000 plus an annual $5,000 grand prize for one of the four winners. Send only one story per quarter, maximum 17,000 words. See website for eligibility rules. Entrants may not have professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.

3/31: Modern Love College Essay Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest for US college students offers $1,000 and publication in the New York Times Style Section for personal essays, 1,500-2,000 words, that illustrate the current state of love and relationships. Read past "Modern Love" columns to get a sense of their style and topics. Enter by email only.

3/31: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Award +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers $10,000 for a novel first published in Spanish after 2006 by a female author. Winner also receives publication in English by Curbstone Press, and travel expenses to the award ceremony at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico. Send 6 copies of the published Spanish-language book, a curriculum vitae, and copies of any reviews that the book received. Contact David Unger for details.

4/1: Paterson Fiction Prize ++
Recommended free contest from the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College offers $1,000 for the best book of fiction published during the previous calendar year. Publisher should submit 3 copies plus entry form.

4/15: PARSEC Short Story Contest +
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $200 for unpublished short stories, 3,500 words maximum, in the science fiction, fantasy or horror genres. See website for annual theme. Entrants must be non-professional writers as defined by SFWA rules.

4/18: WomenEtcetera! Writing Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers grand prize of $500, top prizes of $200 in each genre, for short-short stories and essays (500 words maximum) by women over 40. Free site membership required to enter. Sign up to access official entry form, then submit your entry by email.

4/20: StoryMash Writing Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free bimonthly contest offers prizes up to $300 for the best continuation of an existing chapter posted to StoryMash, a collaborative fiction website. Prizes awarded by reader vote. Free registration required to enter. Enter online only. Chapter length should be no more than 10,000 bytes (about 2,000 words).

4/25: Fountainhead Essay Contest for High School Students +++
Highly recommended free contest for high school students (11th and 12th grade) offers $10,000 top prize, other large prizes, for essays on Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead. Essays should be based on one of the three questions on the website, and be 800-1,600 words long. Enter by mail or online. Contest is looking for entries that are sympathetic to Rand's rationalist, libertarian philosophy. See website for other student contests.

4/30: Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence +++
Highly recommended free contest for published books of fiction by African-Americans offers $10,000 and all-expenses-paid trip to Baton Rouge, LA to read from winning book at ceremony in January. Send entry form and 8 copies of a book published in the previous calendar year.

Login to The Best Free Poetry Contests now to view these and all our profiles of free contests.

Key to Ratings
Highly Recommended: +++
Recommended: ++
Neutral: +

All deadlines are postmark deadlines unless otherwise specified.



Rolling Deadline
Semiannual e-zine seeks poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and artwork for their sixth issue. Length is flexible. Simultaneous submissions and reprints accepted. Before submitting, read past issues of Ginosko, which can be downloaded from their website as PDF files. Ginosko means "To perceive, understand, realize, come to know; knowledge that has an inception, a progress, an attainment. The recognition of truth by experience."

A Cup of Comfort Anthologies
Postmark Deadlines: March 15 (military families), April 15 (new mothers), June 15 (adoptive families)
The bestselling A Cup of Comfort anthology series seeks true-life stories that are authentic, positive, insightful, and uplifting or inspiring. Submissions should be 1,000-2,000 words and previously unpublished. Authors receive $100 for accepted essays, and one author in each anthology receives a $500 grand prize. See website for full guidelines for each theme.

Pebble Lake Review "Illness & Health" Issue
Postmark Deadline: December 15
Pebble Lake Review seeks submissions of poetry, short fiction and personal essays for its first-ever theme issue on illness and health. Send 1-5 poems or one prose piece, maximum 3,000 words, by mail or email. Since they are also accepting open-theme submissions, put "theme" in the email subject line or on the outer envelope to indicate that your entry is for the special issue. Founded in 2002 by Amanda Auchter, Pebble Lake Review has published such authors as Kim Addonizio, Paul Guest, Bob Hicok, Ilya Kaminsky, Simone Muench, and Peter Jay Shippy.



Babel Fruit
Online literary journal began as a forum to introduce persecuted and censored writers to new international audiences. Still with a special focus on exiled and expatriate communities, Babel Fruit seeks work from all writers who are entering new cultures, languages, freedoms and limitations. "How is your writing influenced by the 'other': how does it change you and your writing? And what brings out the 'other' within you?"

Kate Greenstreet's Poetry Interviews Blog
Poet Kate Greenstreet blogs at Every Other Day, where she's compiled an archive of over 100 interviews with contemporary poets about the road to first-book publication and how it changed their life (or not). Highlights include advice from Steve Fellner, author of Blind Date with Cavafy, on how the right title can help your manuscript get past the contest screeners.

KUDOS Competitions Bulletin
Bimonthly newsletter lists prizes for poetry, prose and drama, with a focus on UK markets. Published by Carole Baldock, editor of the British literary journal ORBIS.

Six-Word Memoirs
Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." This anecdote inspired SMITH Magazine to solicit six-word memoirs. Hundreds of entries from both ordinary readers and celebrities are now posted on the magazine's website.

Writer Beware's Thumbs Down Agency List
Invaluable literary watchdog site Writer Beware lists the signs of a literary agency scam and the top 20 offenders.

Writing It Real
The Writing It Real site is a portal for writing tools and writing instruction developed by master teacher, poet and author Sheila Bender. Her e-newsletter and online courses offer writing exercises, discussion and instruction to sharpen your use of the craft in memoir, personal essays and poetry. WIR also offers a personalized critique service and an annual conference in Port Townsend, WA.

See our complete directory of resources at This is also the gateway to our recommended books, magazines, service providers, advice for writers (with manuscript tips) and poetry critiques.



The Cow
By Ariana Reines. The Cow is like putting Western Literature through a sausage-making machine. The Cow is about being a girl and also a person. Is it possible? "Alimenting the world perpetuates it. Duh. Plus 'the world' is itself a food." The integrated self equals sanity and civilization (whose machinery creates the slaughterhouse), yet the body is constantly disintegrating, eating and being eaten, being penetrated and giving birth. With manic humor and desperate honesty, Reines finds hope by facing the extremes of embodiment without judgment or disgust. Winner of the 2006 Alberta Prize from FENCE Books.

Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006
By Carl Phillips. Intricate lyrics from the poet's eight collections marry austere classicism to sensual passion. Eros, for Phillips, is always shadowed by loss, yet for that very reason also points to a radiant, barely describable landscape beyond death, as the speaker of these poems renounces all illusions about the cost of his devotion to another man.



Last Call!
Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31
Now in its 16th year. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and five Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. Submit any type of short story, essay or other work of prose, up to 5,000 words. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. $12 entry fee. Submit online or by mail. Winning Writers is assisting with entry handling for this contest. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Last Call!
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Online Submission Deadline: April 1
Winning Writers invites you to enter the seventh annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, called "infamous" by Writer's Digest. Fifteen cash prizes totaling $3,336.40 will be awarded, including a top prize of $1,359. There is no fee to enter. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

War Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31
We seek 1-3 original, unpublished poems on the theme of war for our seventh annual contest, up to 500 lines in total. We will again award $5,000, including a top prize of $2,000. Submit online or by mail. The entry fee is $15. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Postmark Deadline: June 30
Now in its fifth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Fourteen cash prizes totaling $5,250 will be awarded, including a top prize of $2,000. The entry fee is $6 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: September 30
Now in its sixth year, this contest seeks poems in any style, theme or genre. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Fourteen cash prizes totaling $5,250 will be awarded, including a top prize of $2,000. The entry fee is $6 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

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Advertise to 20,000 Poets and Writers
Promote your contests, websites, events and publications in this newsletter. Reach over 20,000 poets and writers for $65. Ads may contain up to 150 words, a headline and a graphic image. Find out more and make your reservation here:

Carolina Sineni of hotmetalpress on the impact of advertising in the Winning Writers Newsletter:
"We advertised elsewhere but I know it was a startling jump from a few acceptable submissions in weeks to a few everyday. We went from perhaps less than a hundred hits in a month to over 3500 each month."

See more testimonials.



The new Thinkfinity Literacy Network (TLN) is just a click away!
Supported by the Verizon Foundation and offering content from ProLiteracy Worldwide, the American Library Association, and the National Center for Family Literacy, the “new” TLN offers a fresh new design, a powerful search engine and online resources for literacy instructors, tutors, program managers, librarians, and adult learners.

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This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present "Flood Sacrifice" by Janice Lamberg.

If you would like a chance to be critiqued, please email your poem to me at Send the poem in the body of your email message (no attachments) and put "poetry critique" in the subject line. One submission per poet per month. Thanks!

Flood Sacrifice
by Janice Lamberg

He opened a window,
the cupola's shutter,
sole whimsy to this massive
gopher-wood coffin of a boat.
No mast, no steering possible
to where the world
swirled to an end.
Not time for the dove launch,
the grooves on the ladder's top
rung marked day thirty of
the promised Forty.
A Sound, not rain, spliced
the drifting—
a faint rhythm, a drumbeat ap-
proaching—his own
heartbeat? De-
He stretched further,
listing into the celestial river,
beard channeling danger for the remnant below.
Mantle saturated,
rivulets coursed
          shoulder to sandal.
The cadence intensified,
steaming reminder of
his only world—
Clamminess of a last chance.
Would that his mantle
billow and hover
above the syncopated waves,
above the constant whump of
outside objects, all
in stages of decay—
rudder and lower planks,
sounding boards of wasted echoes!

Between flashes of lightning
the reckoning:
an ax-shaped image descending.
A beak, a giant parrot's beak?
No, an unearthly outline of a
mouth from which the
drumroll now roared—
overpowering everything.
What to take in,
impossible to tune out,
the pitch polarized his heartbeat—
lethal synchronicity.
What life after this massacre—
were the Nephilim to colonize
the earth after all?
Would the Adamic race
now serve a new kind of creator
whose thirst for
death impaled that
for life?
What sacrifice could ever appease
such a god, a vortex not
even the elements could defy?


Some one would have to be offered—
not the beasts.
Replenishing the earth was their birthright;
the fulcrum of flora and fauna
beyond the children's ken.
Undiluted human blood could
distill this cesspool of death,
offer the first fertilizer.
Were the Mother, the Garden, the vineyards
never to return?
What sin had turned the God
he had willingly, fearfully worshipped to this?
*** He didn't know. ***

God had picked him,
relatively righteous.
His own propagation completed,
the couples collected,
he'd become the patriarch of orderly patience,
only to be tortured in
this eternal wet night by
Those last desperate souls...
pleading had replaced the jeers:

Seasick, he
opened his palms.
Death roiled about him—
how to cajole an unknowable god?
How to invite infinity, eternity
inside to witness the beauty of pregnancy,
to join baby rodent games,
bird song?
The drumming subsided,
he knew what he would do—
unfathomable conviction.
Back down the ladder,
grope in the darkness,
grip the unnamed
stone used only for
cutting the cords of mammals
and for grafting the
His feet had sunk into
velvet soil for
the last time.
Before raising the stone to his neck, he cried out,
You will teach your children how to play!

Copyright 2008 by Janice Lamberg

Critique by Jendi Reiter

In this month's critique poem, "Flood Sacrifice", Janice Lamberg dramatizes the story of Noah, with a provocative new ending that connects this episode to later Biblical stories of sacrifice, death and rebirth. In her retelling, Noah feels that he has to make the case for the preciousness of earth's creatures, in the face of God's destructive wrath. Lamberg enriches her story with tactile details that demonstrate why this world is to be cherished, such as the "velvet soil" in the closing lines.

Like Moses pleading with God after the Israelites turn to idol worship, the protagonist of "Flood Sacrifice" is willing to back up his plea for God's mercy by offering his very life in exchange. For Christians, this theme recurs most dramatically in the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. The poem's title echoes the familiar phrase "blood sacrifice", often used to refer to the atonement.

From the very beginning of the poem, the reader is convinced that this is a real person in a real place. It is so believable that the ark would have a small touch of "whimsy" to relieve the fear and boredom of a long confinement on a journey into the unknown, and that the inhabitants would mark the days like prisoners scratching grooves on a wall....

critique continues here

This poem, our critique and contest suggestions for poems in this style appear in full at:

See all of our poetry critiques.


Visit Reiter's Block for poetry, cutting-edge Christianity, book notes and cultural insights. Subscribe free to get Jendi's latest posts as they happen. Go to the home page, see the Subscription box on the left.


The Best Free Poetry Contests for April 16-May 31