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"Untitled...for the words are lacking"

Featured Poem:
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May 2008

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Welcome to our May 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.

Lost one of our newsletters? Message garbled in transmission? Not to worry. All our recent newsletters are posted online at

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Coming June 1: Award-Winning Poems
Each quarter we publish a special edition of this newsletter featuring the winning poems from contests we admire. The next edition is June 1. Please watch for it in your mailbox!



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 "Henry's Final Ripostes" by Hollis Cate, a poem from the Frost Foundation's 2004 online anthology:
Henry's Final Ripostes
by Hollis Cate

Thoreau was breathing his last,
His aunt standing nearby.
She wondered if her nephew
Was fully prepared to die.

"Have you made peace with God?"
She asked with upturned eye.
Henry answered never wavering,
With just a hint of a sigh,

"But we have never quarreled."
Who could have said the same?
But she persisted even so,
Still fanning that former flame.

"Are you ready for the next world?"
She asked, thinking the moment prime.
Thoreau answered with his usual aplomb,
"Let's take one world at a time."


Last Call!
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We seek 1-3 original, unpublished poems on the theme of war for our seventh annual contest, up to 500 lines in total.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.

Closing Next Month
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 won first prize in the 2008 Chapter One Promotions International Short Story Competition for "Julian's Yearbook", an excerpt from her novel-in-progress. Chapter One Promotions offers editing and agenting services as well as several literary contests per year. Ms. Reiter will receive 2,500 pounds and anthology publication. Read the opening paragraphs on her blog. Jendi will be reading from this manuscript at the Writers In Progress Spring Open House, 221 Pine Street #359, Florence MA 01062, on Saturday, May 17, from 4-6 PM.

Congratulations to Gorbachev Jowah-Ondiek. He won the Alexander Popoff Youth Award Poetry Contest from Poets for Human Rights for his poem "Untitled...for the words are lacking", which he shares with us below. This contest for writers aged 17 and under offers $100 for published or unpublished poems relating to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The most recent deadline was November 15.

Congratulations to Heather J. Kirk. Her poem "Bailadores Fieles/Faithful Dancers" won an Honorable Mention in the open poetry category of the 2008 Dylan Days Writing Contest and will be published in their annual anthology, Talkin' Blues. This contest, which she discovered in this newsletter, is sponsored by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's hometown, and offers top prizes of $100 for poems and short stories in both open and student categories, plus a prize of $100 for one-act plays. The most recent deadline was February 28.

Congratulations to Cheryl A. Martin. She won a cash award from the Huron Valley Council for the Arts in Milford, MI for her haiku "Joseph" and accompanying photographic artwork. Her poetry collection Woman Reclining is available from Outskirts Press as a paperback or e-book.

Congratulations to Cheryl Loetscher. Her poem "Field School" won the 2008 Douglas Freels Poetry Contest from Florida Community College at Jacksonville. She kindly shares this poem with us below. The FCCJ Writers' Festival Poetry Contests offer two prizes of $150: the Douglas Freels Poetry Contest, for poems on such traditional subjects as love, loss, sex, desire, yearning, apathy, spirituality, and life in general; and the Robert Grimes "Good Earth" Poetry Contest, for poems about nature and ecology. The most recent deadline was December 3. Ms. Loetscher will also be the featured poet in the Summer 2008 issue of Tiger's Eye Journal, which will include five of her poems and an interview.

Congratulations to Karen Winterburn. Her poem "Call Out of Exile" won second prize in the 2008 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest, and her poem "The Spiritual Director" won their award for best rhyming poem. The most recent deadline for this contest, offering prizes up to $1,000, was February 28. Read the winners on their website.

Congratulations to Ellen LaFleche. She won the $100 Editor's Choice Prize in the 2008 Writecorner Press Annual Poetry Award for "The Blind Flower Girl at Her Sister's Wedding". Read the winners on their website. The most recent deadline for this $500 prize was March 31, extended from February 28. Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter was one of nine Honorable Mention winners in this year's contest.

Congratulations to Susan Keith. Her poem "The David, Our David" was one of five runners-up in the 2008 Fish International Poetry Prize and will be published in the 2008 Fish Anthology, Harlem River Blues.

Nikhil Parekh's poetry collections 1 God and The Power of Black were published as e-books by Chipmunka Publishing, a British publisher of mental health and wellness titles.

Nicole Nicholson's poem "Melancholy" was published in the April 2008 issue of the online literary journal Wordslaw. Visit her website at

Martin Steele's poem "DOS OYG (Child Victims in Belsen)" was published in Poetry Super Highway's annual Yom Hashoah (Holocaust remembrance day) issue.

Sara Owens' poem "The Read Newspaper" was published in the online journal Right Hand Pointing.


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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Deadlines: May 16-June 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.

5/31: Bordighera Poetry Prize ++
Recommended free contest for manuscripts by Italian-American poets offers $1,000 each to the author and a commissioned translator who will translate the book into Italian. The poet must be a US citizen, but the translator may be an Italian native speaker from any country. The poet may translate his/her own work if bilingually qualified. Initial submission should be a 10-page sample from a manuscript of 48 pages maximum. See website for complete details.

5/31: miniWORDS 2008 +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly February 16
Neutral free contest for very short poetry and prose offers prizes of 250 pounds in each of three genres: poetry, flash fiction, and haiku. Entries must be submitted through online form. Winners and runners-up published on website. Contest sponsor Charnwood Arts is an independent community arts and media organization based in the Borough of Charnwood in the East Midlands of Britain.

5/31: Rosine Offen Memorial Award +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers $200 for the best poem published in every issue of Free Lunch (usually publishes at least two issues per year). There is no separate application process. Follow general submission guidelines. Magazine does not read submissions June through August.

6/1: American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Prizes ++
Recommended contest offers $2,000 for English translations of modern poetry, fiction, drama or literary prose originally written after 1800 in Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian or Swedish. $1,000 Leif & Inger Sjoberg Prize will also be awarded to an individual whose translations have not previously been published. Submissions should be 25 pages of poetry or 50 pages of prose, and previously unpublished.

6/1: Amy Awards +
Neutral free contest seeks lyric poems by women age 30 and under who are residents of Long Island or NY metropolitan region. Winners receive an honorarium and a reading with a distinguished poet in NYC. The Amy Award honors the memory of the poet Amy Rothholtz, author of Iced Tigers, who died at age 25. Formerly sponsored by Guild Hall of East Hampton, NY, the award was taken over by Poets & Writers Magazine in 2004.

6/1: Claudia Ann Seaman Poetry Award ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest for unpublished poems by US high school students offers $500 and publication in the notable literary journal Hanging Loose. Send 1-2 poems, maximum 10 pages total. Mail or email entries accepted.

6/1: Harold Witt Awards +
Neutral free contest offers prizes of $100 and $50 for poems published in the past three issues of Blue Unicorn, a literary journal established in 1977. Follow their regular submission guidelines: 3-5 short poems, no simultaneous submissions. "Blue Unicorn wants well-crafted poetry of all kinds, in form or free verse, as well as translations. We shun the trite or inane, the soft-centered, the contrived poem. Shorter poems have more chance with us because of limited space."

6/1: Inglis House Poetry Contest +
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $50, smaller prizes, in each of two categories: poems about disability, or poems by disabled authors. Inglis House is a Philadelphia-based center for wheelchair-bound adults.

6/15: Towson University Prize for Literature ++
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 for published books of fiction, poetry, drama or imaginative nonfiction by Maryland residents (entries in all genres compete together). By nomination only. The work must have been published within the three years prior to the year of nomination or must be scheduled for publication within the year in which nominated.

6/25: Costa Book Awards +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 29
Formerly known as the Whitbread Book Awards, this highly recommended free contest offers a top prize of 25,000 pounds, plus prizes of 5,000 pounds in each genre, for books first published in the UK or Ireland by authors who have lived in the UK or Ireland for at least six months of each of the preceding three years. Awards given in the genres of poetry, novel, first novel, biography, and children's literature. Books must have been published between November 1 of the previous year and October 31 of the current year. Must be submitted by publisher.

6/27: Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition ++
Formerly June 30
Recommended free contest for Utah residents offers prizes up to $1,000 for unpublished full-length manuscripts of poetry, novels, general nonfiction and juvenile literature, plus smaller awards for individual poems, stories and essays. Manuscript prizes are for authors with no published books in the genre they are entering; other prizes are open to all.

6/30: Juan Rulfo Latin American and Caribbean Literary Award +++
Entries must be received by this date
$100,000 lifetime achievement award is given (by nomination only) to a native of Latin America or the Caribbean writing in Spanish, Portuguese or English or a native of Spain or Portugal writing in Spanish or Portuguese. This is one of several awards sponsored by the Guadalajara International Book Fair.

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.



Wellspring HouseRetreat for Writers in Beautiful Western Massachusetts
Inviting poets, fiction writers, memoirists, and all writers. Wellspring House is a beautiful and tranquil retreat whose ambience has been lauded by former residents as utterly conducive to creativity. Carol Dine calls it "my haven and my heaven". We are nestled in Ashfield, population 1,800, one of the "hilltowns" between the Berkshires and the Connecticut River. Amherst and Northampton and the five colleges—Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke and the UMass flagship campus—are within a 35-minute drive. Ashfield has three eateries, two churches, a library, a music store, a hardware store which sells excellent ice cream, a feminist press (Paris), and a resident theater company (Double Edge). Ashfield Lake is a five-minute walk.

Wellspring House has five rooms for residents (two suitable for couples), two baths on the second floor, and an upstairs sitting room. Downstairs is a communal kitchen and eating area for residents, a spacious living room with a fireplace and a half bath (see pictures). The house is surrounded by a large patio, flower and vegetable gardens, fruit trees and five acres of woods. We supply linens, coffee and tea—and bikes! Fee: $175/week. For more information, please email your hosts, Ann and Preston Browning, at, call 413-628-3276, or mail Wellspring House, P.O. Box 2006, Ashfield, MA 01330.
Guests say:

"I want to thank you for a wonderful three weeks at Wellspring House. It proved to be my most productive period in five or six years. You have done an amazing job of putting together a beautiful conducive environment. The gorgeous common area, the sunny bedrooms, and the surrounding Berkshires with all their various colors and moods—these are all elements I will cherish in memory."

"For the invaluable time, space and freedom you provide at Wellspring House, I thank you."

"Wellspring House: An island of tranquility in an ocean of tumult."

"I had a very productive visit. The house, the town, the hosts—all were so beautiful to experience, and were truly a wellspring of inspiration."

"What a deeply romantic setting in which to write, stroll and sleep. We loved the books downstairs, the art in the hallways, and the breeze in this room upstairs. We hope all are inspired to create and enjoy the beauty around them."

UtmostLast Call!
Rhyming Christian Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31
Total prizes: $1,000. Entry fee: $15 per poem. Enter up to 10 poems.
If you're a Christian who writes rhyming poetry on Christian topics, this contest is for you. We offer two categories, both requiring rhyming poetry. Classical Christian Poetry accepts entries that are 28 lines in length or less, and are written in the style of famous Christian poets such as Fanny Crosby and Charles Wesley. Rhyming Poetry accepts other rhyming poetry that is not quite so strictly structured. This contest is open to poets of Christian faith, and sponsored by Utmost Christian Writers Foundation, a non-profit association for the support and encouragement of Christian poets. Click for the complete guidelines.

Please enjoy "Hosanna" by Glenn B. Atkinson, 2007 winner in the Rhyming Poetry category:
by Glenn B. Atkinson

Gravel, go silent. Boulders, hold your praise.
You shards of condemnation cast by unjust
Judges, drop wordless: lie mute in the dust.
Utter no honors, fieldstones. Not one phrase.
You angel's perch, your broken seal conveys
Unspoken awe: agape, ponder your trust.
Likewise, you ridge who berthed the remnant must
Refrain. Let all Earth's crust restrain its displays.

For my wonder erupts: no mountain usurps my place.
Give way then, you crag who watched as glory passed,
To one who'll commune with that radiance face to face.
Don't gush with streams of psalms: your song won't last.
But I breathe ceaseless grace you'll never know.
Hear me shout the love I delight to owe.

Closing Next Month
Southern Poetry ReviewGuy Owen Prize Contest
Postmark Deadline: June 15
$1,000 and publication in Southern Poetry Review will be awarded to the poem selected by a distinguished poet. Send 3-5 previously unpublished poems (10 pages maximum). Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for reply only, and a check for $15 payable to Southern Poetry Review. We consider poems published online or posted there as previously published. Include all contact information on cover sheet only; do not include name or contact information on poems. Please indicate simultaneous submissions. All entries will be considered for publication. We cannot accept email submissions, nor can we accept them on disk. Manuscripts will not be returned. The entry fee includes a one-year subscription to the journal. Please mail your entry and fee to:

Southern Poetry Review
Guy Owen Prize
Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy
Armstrong Atlantic State University
11935 Abercorn Street
Savannah, GA 31419-1997
Previous Winners
2007: Marianna Busching, "Ode to the Innards", selected by Linda Pastan
2006: R. T. Smith, "Plantation of the Mad", selected by Dave Smith
2005: Enid Shomer, "'Gowned Waiting'", selected by Fred Chappell
2004: Alison Jarvis, "Listen", selected by David Kirby
2003: Andrew Grace, "For Tityrus", selected by Ellen Bryant Voigt
2002: Debra A. Daniel, "Hymn of Invitation", selected by Peter Meinke

Click for the complete contest guidelines, and to read the 2002-2006 winning entries.

Autumn HouseClosing Next Month
2008 Autumn House Poetry Prize and Autumn House Fiction Prize
Postmark Deadline: June 30
The winners will receive book publication, a $1,000 advance against royalties, and a $1,500 travel grant to participate in the 2009 Autumn House Master Authors Series in Pittsburgh. All finalists will be considered for publication. Final judge for the Poetry Prize is Naomi Shihab Nye. Final judge for the Fiction Prize is Sharon Dilworth (see interview).

All full-length collections of poetry 50-80 pages are eligible. Fiction submissions should be approximately 200-300 pages. All fiction sub-genres (short stories, short-shorts, novellas, or any combination of sub-genres) are eligible. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE) for contest results. Autumn House Press assumes no responsibility for lost or damaged manuscripts. All entries must be clearly marked "Poetry Prize" or "Fiction Prize" on the outside envelope. $25 entry fee (check or money order) must be enclosed. Send manuscript and fee to:
Autumn House Press
P.O. Box 60100
Pittsburgh, PA 15211

Click for the complete guidelines. Please note: Manuscripts will not be returned.

Closing Next Month
Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: June 30
Established in 1983 as the Grolier Prize, the Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize is open to all poets who have not yet published a book of poetry, including small press, chapbook or trade book. The winner receives $1,000 and two copies of the poetry prize Annual. Up to six poems by the winner and four by each of three runners-up are chosen for publication in the Annual.

Submit your manuscript, in duplicate, of up to six poems, no more than 12 double-spaced pages. Your name must not appear in this manuscript. On a separate cover sheet, provide your name and contact information, including email address and poem titles. Entry fee: $10, payable to The Ellen LaForge Memorial Poetry Foundation. Please mail your entry to:
The Ellen LaForge Memorial Poetry Foundation
1770 Massachusetts Avenue, PMB 345
Cambridge, MA 02140-2808
Submissions must be unpublished elsewhere. No simultaneous submissions. Winner and runners-up are notified by October 1. Copies of the Annual are available from the Foundation at the above address.

The Litchfield Review Closing Next Month
The Litchfield Review Writing Contest
Postmark Deadline: June 30
We seek poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction for our semi-annual magazine competition. Prose entries should be 3,000 words or less. Poetry entries may be of any length.

To be considered for both publication and a cash prize, please enclose $10 with each essay, short story, or set of 1-3 poems. Enclose $15 and you may submit an unlimited number of entries. Mail your manuscripts to:

     The Litchfield Review
     7 Bonna Street
     Beacon Falls, CT 06403

For more information and news about our ongoing writing contests, please check our website,, or email Theresa C. Vara at

The Litchfield Review proudly congratulates Amy Nawrocki as the First Prize winner of The Litchfield Review Spring 2008 Writing Contest. Her poem "Annotating the Text" appears in the latest issue.

Rome Art and Community Center Annual Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: August 1
The Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize is sponsored by Rome Art & Community Center of Rome, New York. FIRST PRIZE $300, SECOND $150, THIRD $100, plus honorable mentions. Entries accepted from all over the US and the world. Judge to be announced. Entries must be original poetry, unpublished at time of submission. Guidelines must be followed or entry will be void. Entries must be typed on 8.5" x 11" paper. Author's name, address, and telephone number must appear on the BACK of each entry. Entry fee of $10 per poem, US funds. Checks or money orders accepted. Entries may also be submitted via email with a credit card payment over the phone—call 315-336-1040 for more info.

Contest open to the general public, excluding RACC employees. Winners will be notified by telephone. Winning entries will be published and read during the annual awards ceremony at RACC. More info can be found at Make your entry fees payable to Rome Art & Community Center and mail your entries to: Rome Art & Community Center, c/o Dorfman Poetry Prize, 308 West Bloomfield Street, Rome, NY 13440.

Now Open
The Enigmatist The Enigmatist Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: September 1
Prizes of $200, $100 and $50 will be awarded. The top three winners will be published in the fall issue of The Enigmatist. The entry fee is $10 for 3 poems, plus $2 for each additional poem. All poems will be considered for publication.

Poems should be less than one page each with no identifying information on the poem. All entries should include a cover letter with poem titles, poet's name, address, phone number and email address. Simultaneous entries are accepted, as are entries that have been published online, otherwise only unpublished poems are eligible.

Make your entry fee payable to Mike Gullickson and mail your entry to Mike Gullickson, P.O. Box 1455, Burnet, TX 78611. Our fall issue will have poems by Gary Snyder, Li-Young Lee, Jean Valentine...and you?

Any questions? Please email Mike at I look forward to seeing your poems.

Mike Gullickson has published in Affirming Flame, X, Divercity, Kedemi, Barnwood Press and many other mags. He is a regular contributor to The MAP of Austin Poetry and has been poetry editor for The Enigmatist and Snap. He has a chapbook with his wife Joyce, called Bridges. He has also read on NPR.

CUTTHROAT, A Journal of the ArtsCUTTHROAT, A Journal of the Arts Announces 2007 Prizewinners and 2008 Contests
Contest entrants: Submit after June 15; postmark deadline is October 10
CUTTHROAT, A Journal of the Arts congratulates Melissa Kwasny for winning the 2007 Joy Harjo Poetry Award for her poem, "The Under World", and Michael Schiavone for winning the 2007 Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award for his story, "Golden Years". Each received $1,250 plus publication.

We are currently reading poetry and short stories for our online edition downloadable at Guest Fiction Editor for the online edition is award-winning novelist and short story writer, William Luvaas. We accept online submissions for the online edition. Send submissions to

To enter our 2008 Joy Harjo Poetry and Rick DeMarinis Short Story contests, send three unpublished poems (100-line limit each) or one unpublished story (5,000-word limit), a self-addressed stamped envelope (mandatory!), a cover sheet with name, address, email and telephone, and a $15 reading fee for each submission to CUTTHROAT Literary Award, Attn: [Poetry Contest or Short Story Contest], P.O. Box 2414, Durango, CO 81302. These entries should be postmarked between June 15 and October 10.

No author name may appear on your manuscript. Enter as often as you wish. Please see the complete guidelines on our website. Send all inquiries to or call 970-903-7914. This year's judges are Richard Jackson (Poetry) and Linda Hogan (Short Story). Past contributors to CUTTHROAT include Marvin Bell, Joy Harjo, Michael Waters, Rebecca Seiferle, Michael Blumenthal, Naomi Shihab Nye, Patricia Smith, Richard Jackson and Andrei Codrescu.



These free prose contests with deadlines between May 16 and June 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.

5/31: Black Orchid Novella Award ++
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 and publication in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for the best traditional mystery novella. Contest sponsor The Wolfe Pack is the official fan club for Nero Wolfe, a legendary fictional sleuth created by Rex Stout in a series of mystery novels published from 1934 to 1975. Entries should be 15,000-20,000 words. See website for thematic and stylistic restrictions. Essentially, they are looking for an old-fashioned story of deduction, with a witty style and an engaging relationship between the characters, and no explicit sex or violence.

5/31: Jerry Jazz Musician Fiction Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Thrice-yearly free neutral contest offers $100 and web publication for short fiction. The Jerry Jazz Musician reader has interests in music, social history, literature, politics, art, film and theatre, particularly that of the counter-culture of mid-20th century America. Entries should appeal to a reader with these characteristics. Submit stories of 1,000-5,000 words by email to as an MS Word or Adobe Acrobat attachment. Please be sure to include your name, address and phone number with your submission. Please include "Short Fiction Contest Submission" in the subject heading of the email.

5/31: The Nation Student Writing Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free essay contest for US high school and college students offers top prize of $1,000 and publication in The Nation, a prominent left-wing political and cultural magazine. Send one essay, maximum 800 words, on the theme "What have you learned from a personal experience that the next president should know before setting the agenda for the country?" Enter by email only.

5/31: TRACE Institute Essay Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly May 1
Recommended free contest offers prizes up to $10,000 for essays up to 2,500 words on an annual theme relating to business ethics. Enter by email only. The 2008 theme is "What Works?" In your essay, please respond to the following: "What personal behaviors, what laws or policies, what deterrents or incentives, what reporting devices or transparency mechanisms, what educational campaigns, what measures of any kind have been or could be effective in resisting or curtailing bribery?" Contest sponsor The TRACE Institute is the research and publication arm of TRACE International, Inc., a nonprofit membership association of multinational companies and their commercial intermediaries committed to fighting bribery and corruption.

6/1: Chicano/Latino Literary Prize ++
Recommended free contest for English- and Spanish-language writing in various genres offers top prize of $1,000 and transportation to award ceremony in Irvine, CA. Authors must be US citizens or permanent residents, but need not be of Chicano/Latino descent. The award is given in a different genre each year: short story collection in 2008, poetry collection in 2009, drama in 2010, novel in 2011.

6/1: Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers $5,000 for a novel or a collection of short stories on a Jewish theme, which was published in English in the US or Canada in the 18-month period before the deadline. The writer must not be the recipient of a major book award, such as the Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize or National Book Award, prior to the application deadline. Author or publisher should send 4 copies of the published book (no manuscripts or galleys).

6/2: Fraser Institute Student Essay Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 1
Recommended free contest for high school, college and graduate students awards prizes up to C$1,000 for short scholarly essays on an annual theme dealing with current events. 2008 topic is Canadian health care reform. Enter by mail or email. Entries may be written in English or French. The Fraser Institute is a Canadian free-market think tank. Entries must be received by 5pm Pacific time on the deadline date.

6/12: Landfall Essay Competition ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 16
Recommended free contest for New Zealand citizens offers NZ$2,500 for the best essay on any topic, maximum 6,000 words. Sponsored by the literary journal Landfall. The purpose of the competition is "to encourage New Zealand writers to think aloud about New Zealand culture, and to revive and sustain the tradition of vivid, contentious and creative essay writing in this country." One entry per person. Offered in even-numbered years only. Entries must be received by 5pm local time on the deadline date.

6/27: Nereus Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers C$15,000 for nonfiction books published in Canada during the calendar year by Canadian citizens or landed immigrants. Deadline varies depending on when your book was published: books published between January 1 and April 24 must be received by April 25; those published between April 25 and June 26 must be received by June 27; and those published between June 27 and September 30 must be received by August 8. Publishers should submit 5 copies of the book (or 3 bound galleys, to be followed by at least 2 copies of the book), press kit, entry form, and list of titles published by that publisher, to establish eligibility. See website for detailed requirements.

6/27: Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers C$15,000 for novels or short story collections published in Canada during the calendar year by Canadian citizens or landed immigrants. Deadline varies depending on when your book was published: books published between January 1 and April 24 must be received by April 25; those published between April 25 and June 26 must be received by June 27; and those published between June 27 and September 30 must be received by August 8. Publishers should submit 5 copies of the book (or 3 bound galleys, to be followed by at least 2 copies of the book), press kit, entry form, and list of titles published by that publisher, to establish eligibility. See website for detailed requirements.

6/30: Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Awards ++
Recommended free contest for short fiction offers top prize of NZ$10,000, plus prizes of NZ$1,500 each for writers aged 13-18 and entrants who have not previously had creative writing (including, but not limited to, a novel, short story, poetry or other work of fiction) published or broadcast for payment. Entrants must be New Zealanders by birth, naturalisation or by residence in New Zealand for three years continuously immediately prior to the Closing Date. See website for rules and entry form. Enter by mail or online. No simultaneous submissions.

6/30: Bechtel Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 29
Highly recommended free contest from Teachers & Writers offers $2,500 for the best unpublished essay or article relating to creative writing education, literary studies, and/or the profession of writing. Maximum 5,000 words. Entries must be received by 5pm Eastern time on the deadline date.

6/30: Drue Heinz Literature Prize +++
Highly recommended free contest for an unpublished book-length collection of short fiction (150-300 pages) includes $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Open to writers who have published a book-length collection of fiction or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals of national distribution.

6/30: Goi Peace Foundation International Essay Contest for Young People ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers top prize of 100,000 yen (about $840) for short essays by children and youth on themes of cross-cultural reconciliation. Prizes awarded in age categories under-14 and 15-25. See website for details on the annual theme and formatting rules. Entries may be written in English, Spanish, German or French. Send by mail or email.

6/30: 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.

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.



The Versus Anthology
Postmark Deadline: June 1
Versus is a collection of works based on the theme of pitting iconic characters or forces against one another (for example, "Jesus VS Thor" or "Adolph Hitler VS Grendel"). The anthology is edited by Josh Woods, an MFA student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (home of Crab Orchard Review), and will be published in 2009 by Press 53. Short fiction preferred (1,000-1,500 words), but longer stories, poetry, creative nonfiction, short screenplays, flash fiction, graphic novel pages, and even hybrid genres will also be considered. Previously published work accepted if you own the rights. Enter by mail or email. This anthology will include work by such authors as Pinckney Benedict, Susan Woodring, John McNally, and Curtis Smith.

Tattoo Highway
Entries must be received by June 15
Edgy online journal seeks poetry and short prose for Issue #17, "Uncharted Territory", which will be open-themed. Fiction is especially needed. Shorter, web-friendly pieces preferred. Read sample content online before entering. Writers may submit up to 5 poems, prose-poems or flash fictions (500 words max), or 2 longer prose pieces. While they prefer to see work that has not been previously published, they do consider work that has appeared in small-circulation print journals. Send entries by email as RTF attachments or pasted into your message, with TH17 in the subject line. See guidelines for how to submit graphics and multimedia entries.

Steel Toe Books
Postmark Deadline: June 30 (don't enter before June 1)
Steel Toe Books, an independent press based in Bowling Green, KY, seeks to publish 1-2 full-length poetry manuscripts submitted during its open reading period this June. $12 fee entitles you to the book of your choice from their catalogue.

Women & Poetry Anthology
Postmark Deadline: June 30
Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, editor of the New England poetry journal The Aurorean, and book editor/author Carol Smallwood seek essays, 1,900-2,100 words, by US women writers for an upcoming anthology: Women & Poetry: Tips on Writing, Publishing and Teaching from Women Poets. Editors say, "We are looking for material from successful women poets and teachers aimed at helping women poets: markets, time management, family issues, networking, conferences and teaching tips are just a few areas in which women poets and teachers are interested. Practical, concise, how-to articles with bullets/headings have proven the most helpful. Please avoid writing about 'me' and concentrate on what will most help the reader." Send email to to receive guidelines for this and two other anthologies that are seeking submissions: Women Writing on Family and Milestones for American Women: Our Defining Passages (same deadline for all). No previously published or simultaneously submitted material.

Fiction International, 'The Artist in Wartime'
Postmark Deadline: December 15 (don't enter before September 1)
Fiction International, a literary journal dedicated to "formal innovation and progressive politics", seeks submissions of fiction, essays, and "indeterminate prose" for an issue on "The Artist in Wartime". Read selections from the journal on their website. Recent contributors include Charles Harper Webb, Maura Stanton, Toby Olson, and Shao Wang.



C.H. Connors
Lawyer-turned-poet Carolyn Connors publishes her lyrical, philosophical poetry online as C.H. Connors. These finely crafted formal verses range from spiritual and nature poetry to sketches of historical figures both admirable and comical.
Resource website for chapbook publishers, authors and agents to promote their recent titles. Site also includes listings of chapbook contests and publication opportunities.

Online writing community for freelance journalists and general-interest essayists. Membership is free, with possible payment for articles accepted for publication on the site. Members also get access to contest listings and publishers' guidelines.

Through this online submissions clearinghouse, members can send entries electronically to any literary journal that has registered with the ManuscriptHub system, and keep track of the status of those entries on the website. Membership is free, but each submission requires an average $2 processing fee.

Well-organized writers' forum for stories and essays based on personal reflection and experience. Monthly contest offers $100 for most popular stories on the site.

The Poetry of War at NPR
This National Public Radio series from 2003 (archived on their website) includes the written text and audio recordings of classic war poems, from the Iliad to Wilfred Owen.

Smith College Alumnae Poets
The Poetry Center at Smith College celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008 with readings by alumnae from the past 60 years. Poems by the participants and other Smith graduates are featured on this web page, including Celia Gilbert, Jane Yolen, CB Follett, Gail Mazur, and Claire Nicholas White.

Top Ten Topics for Writers
Basic information on submission etiquette, getting published, writers' conferences and degree programs, avoiding scams, and promoting your work. From the editors of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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.



Up from the Root Cellar
By Anne Harding Woodworth. The root vegetable, as metaphor for the unearthing of secrets and the renewal of aging bodies, unifies this satisfying chapbook from Cervena Barva Press. In Woodworth's inventive poems, nuns peeling potatoes could be fantasizing about Marilyn Monroe's striptease; a woman puzzled by hints of her father's infidelity might try to call her childhood home by speaking into a rose shaped like an antique telephone.



Last Call!
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.

Closing Next Month
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.

Want to freelance for magazines but don't know how? Need a little motivation to get started? Learn how to develop ideas, research markets, write your query letter, and make your pitch to editors! In only eight lessons, veteran freelancer Linda Formichelli will show you the ropes. She's written for more than 120 publications, including USA Weekend, Family Circle, Men's Fitness, and Woman's Day. Let Linda show you how you can, too!

Office Depot Coupons
Save on paper, toner, binders and all your writing supplies at Office Depot. Free delivery in select areas when you order $50 or more.
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Office Depot Coupon - Save $30 Off Your Order of $150 or More!



UNTITLED...for the words are lacking
by Gorbachev Jowah-Ondiek

I want to write but the words don't sound right
I wish I was a poet
Not about love or mysterious planets
But about the millions dead in Darfur, and so I took a pen and paper,
But my mind wouldn't script
I wish I was Shakespeare

I want to paint, so please give me a brush
Not a portrait of an amour, but of a six year old carrying a gun
When I was six I still couldn't hold a pen
And so I grabbed a brush, paint and canvas, but my hands wouldn't move
I wish I was Da Vinci

I couldn't paint and I couldn't write, at least not anything that
could end a war
So I thought I would speak, but my lips wouldn't part
And so all I could do was seat there and watch the news
And they say a hundred civilians died in a suicide bombing in the middle east
I say our mortuaries are as good as butcheries, cause people are
dying like cows
Now I looked for a microphone, but all I found was a knife.

And so I cursed MR Shakespeare for spending his lifetime writing such
titles as Romeo and Juliet
And Da Vinci for his Amourous portraits
Why were the greatest speeches made to motivate man to war, and why
are our greatest heroes soldiers...
I found no answer.
I decide to live the past to rest, and all its greats
For do we really need Shakespeare to write a poem about Darfur
Or Da Vinci to paint a classic on Baghdad, so we can comprehend that
we are killing ourselves

Copyright 2008 by Gorbachev Jowah-Ondiek

This poem won the 2008 Alexander Popoff Youth Award Poetry Contest from Poets for Human Rights.


Field School
by Cheryl Loetscher

This desert is a horizontal carnivore
with an appetite all its own, bounded
North by collapse, separated from the sea

by a margin of salt. Funnel it into shallow
basins and store for the winter with dried
tinder in a room full of pots. Wait.

Wait longer. Let the bones, loud and persistent,
find you. Follow the one that sings
somebody else's crooked tune. The messenger

is not important. Keep a sharp eye out for blight
or you will find the distance between resting points
paved with bitter blessings. Imagine what it's like

to expand without cracking, to have been there when
stones first whispered, "The desert is hungry.
Run for your lives."

Copyright 2008 by Cheryl Loetscher

This poem won the 2008 Douglas Freels Poetry Contest from Florida Community College at Jacksonville.


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 250 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.



Parents Are Key to Literacy of Children

A recent report issued by the Department of Education determined that Reading First, a $1 billion federal program, did not help low income students in grades 1-3 better understand what they had read as it was expected to do when it was created as part of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law. Several lawmakers and federal investigators claimed the failure was due in part to reports of potential conflict of interest and management problems in the program.

David C. Harvey, president and CEO of ProLiteracy, disagrees with this conclusion, pointing to research that shows children of parents who are poor readers are far more likely to become poor readers than children whose parents have strong literacy skills. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, also conducted on behalf of the Department of Education, estimated that 30 million adults in the US can barely read and write and that many of those individuals fall into the low income category.

"This is a perfect example of what ProLiteracy has said about No Child Left Behind all along—that pouring all our efforts and financial resources into the K-12 public school system isn't enough to address this country's literacy issue," Harvey said. "There's an intergenerational aspect of literacy and if we don't help the parents, we won't be doing enough to help children."

Adult basic education and literacy programs and Even Start, which offers literacy programs for low income parents and their children, have been rated "effective" by the Office of Budget and Management using its Program Assessment Rating Tool. It is the highest rating a program can achieve and indicates that the program has set ambitious goals, achieves results, is well-managed, and improves efficiency.

"And yet funding for adult literacy has taken a $10 million hit in the past several years and the current administration keeps trying to end all funding to Even Start, while pouring millions into Reading First. That makes no sense to me," Harvey said. "Child literacy and adult literacy are intertwined and it's necessary that both be given adequate resources."

Harvey said ProLiteracy will continue to call for a restoration of the $10 million cut from state grants for adult basic education and literacy programs, and to demand that additional resources be allocated to adult literacy in the FY 2009 budget.

"We're not against funding literacy programs for children, it's just that ProLiteracy's more than 70 years in the adult literacy field and our more than 3,500 individual and organizational members know that these programs won't be as effective if the parents have been left behind," he said.

ProLiteracy WorldwideThis information is brought to you by ProLiteracy, the oldest and largest nongovernmental literacy organization in the world. It sponsors educational programs that help adults and their families acquire the literacy practices and skills they need to function more effectively in their daily lives.

Support ProLiteracy's vital mission. Click here to learn more. Click here to contribute.

Send this newsletter to a friend and we'll donate 15 cents to ProLiteracy for each friend you refer.



This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present "Plodding Through His Own Death" by Emmanuel Samson.

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!

Plodding Through His Own Death
by Emmanuel Samson

At eight-and-twenty,
When the immunity eaters—
The weird invisible troop—
Encroached his every marrow,
He was sentenced to sleep and wake alone.

So the immunity eaters
With their shapeless hunger,
Catalysed by Loneliness,
Won all the seats
In the spouts beneath his porous skin.

His shadow, his tears, his paper...and his pen
Became his only kin.

Like a house
That cries for renovation
Or fresh paint—
Unfit for habitation,
Repelling population.
He suffered unforgiving separation.
A desert-isle, bound by moats
Dug by opprobrious disdain,
Inaccessible to carers' boats
Like the iceless morgue.

His senses, all,
Daily dined on emptiness
In isolation's cask.
His tears could not atone.
Captive in varied briers of scorns,
His life bled, leaving behind a convoluted trail,
Like earthworm that crawls
Upon the salty slush
With loneliness as chaperone.

Loneliness rode all his nerves.
His cheeks got profaned with brackish streams.
His eyes locked in the ridges of sour ecstasies,
And mirrored a lost battle.
His heart cried this woe I cannot bear!

Like a wounded snake
That inflicts its fatal wounds
With its lethal fangs,
He pierced his wounded, lonely self with grief.

Life leaked out
In hours, minutes, seconds...
Like cherry trampled underfoot bleeding,
Writing his epilogue....

He dragged and dragged and dragged,
But when he got to thirty-and-one
Then plodded through his own death,
His head never turning sideways or back.
He left behind his breathless frame as proof
Like a punctured tyre that has given up its breath
To let them know that they are
As guilty as the HIV-AIDS they accused.

Since they deprived him
of what to hold or lean upon.
As they look at him
With clinical hands
Cushioned in pockets full of sneer.

Copyright 2008 by Emmanuel Samson

Critique by Jendi Reiter

This month's critique poem comes to us from Nigerian poet Emmanuel Samson, who writes with compassion and prophetic anger about how social stigma compounds the physical suffering of HIV/AIDS patients. "Plodding Through His Own Death" has political force behind it, yet does not come across as preachy or shrill, because Samson keeps the focus on the protagonist as a real person whose pain we feel.

Another temptation in poems about social issues is to fall into journalistic, literal patterns of speech, which Samson wisely sidesteps from the very beginning with the words "At eight-and-twenty". This elaborate, old-fashioned way of stating someone's age can be used to add gravitas and poignancy to a poem about youth: think of A.E. Housman's "When I was one-and-twenty" or François Villon's "Le Testament" ("En l'an de mon trentiesme aage"/"In the thirtieth year of my age"). Here, it signals that the author will take an epic, lyrical approach to his subject, not a flat and factual one.

The opening stanza is tightly paced and holds the reader's attention with original imagery: "When the immunity eaters—/The weird invisible troop—/Encroached his every marrow,/He was sentenced to sleep and wake alone." The combination of enforced solitude (with some connotations of loss of sexual intimacy) and "immunity eaters" suggests that this is a poem about HIV, which is confirmed in the penultimate stanza. Rather than mention the disease by name at the outset, and risk calling up whatever clichéd or hostile thoughts we may associate with it, Samson brings us directly into the experience of the sick person, breaking down our ability to dismiss him with a stereotype....

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.


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Our Summer 2008 selection of winning poems from contests we admire

The Best Free Poetry Contests for June 16-July 31