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The Best Free Poetry Contests, April-May

Notable Free Prose Contests, April-May

Calls for Submissions

New Literary Resources

Featured Poem:
"If the Water Wants Us"

Featured Poem:
"The Dropouts' Clan"

Featured Poem:
"Death by Ferris Wheel"

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April 2009

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Welcome to our April 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.

Winning Writers Named One of the Writer's Digest "101 Best Sites" for 2009
We are pleased to be named one of this year's "101 Best Sites" by Writer's Digest. This is our fifth year in a row on this list. Thanks to everyone who supported our nomination!

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Autumn House Press2009 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 Alicia Ostriker. Final judge for the Fiction Prize is Sharon Dilworth (bio, 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, so please keep a copy.

Please enjoy this selection from Anne Marie Macari's She Heads into the Wilderness, published by Autumn House Press:
    Certain Sparrow
    by Anne Marie Macari

    There's a certain sparrow fought for
    by two males. All day long they mate,
    taking turns—all day long
    sperm flying, spilling
    as the few inches of herself skirt
    the trees and the small stripes
    of her wings blur, leaving streaks
    of this sadness or that.

    We met in a strange world, in a frenzy.
    A spiral of ups and downs.
    Didn't I feel the lit orb, inside and out?
    Later, I returned to the calcium
    of loneliness, the fine shell spotted and cracked
    and the delicate thing ticking inside.

    Copyright 2008 by Anne Marie Macari, reprinted by permission of Autumn House Press


Closing Next Month
War Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31
We seek 1-3 original, unpublished poems on the theme of war for our eighth annual contest, up to 500 lines in total. We will 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 sixth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and six Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. The entry fee is $7 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 seventh year, this contest seeks poems in any style, theme or genre. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and six Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. The entry fee is $7 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.


Winning Writers Editor Jendi Reiter was one of five runners-up for the 2009 Stephen Dunn Prize in Poetry from The Broome Review. Her poem "Wedded" was published in their March/April issue. This $1,000 award, launched in 2008, accepted submissions July 1-November 29. See the winners' list here. "Wedded" was also featured as a "Thursday Short Poem" on gender-studies professor Hugo Schwyzer's blog.

Congratulations to John B. Lee. The Brantford, Ontario Poet Laureate was the winner of both the Cranberry Tree Press Poetry Award and the Rubicon Midwinter Chapbook Award, and took third prize in the 2008 Petra Kenney Poetry Competition. He was also shortlisted for the 2009 Winston Collins/Descant Prize for the Best Canadian Poem (which he won in 2007) for his poem "If the Water Wants Us", which he kindly shares with us below. His most recent book, Island on the Wind-Breathed Edge of the Sea, was released in 2009 by Hidden Brook Press, and his Poet Laureate Collection will be launched by the Brantford Public Library on April 17th. His chapbook Let Light Try All the Doors is forthcoming from Rubicon Press.

Congratulations to R. Manoj Mohan. His poem "The Dropouts' Clan" won first prize of C$100 in the Mattia Family 12th International Poetry Competition. He kindly shares it with us below. Manoj writes, "This is the first ever poetry contest that I am winning—I am on cloud nine!!!" The Mattia family offers writing contests periodically during the year; check website for updates.

Congratulations to Dan McGinley. He won first prize of $100 in the "America's Funniest Humor!" Writing Contest from, as well as finalist and semifinalist placements for two other entries. His first-place entry, "Twenty Efficient Driving Tips and Other Beer Fueled Ideas", is self-explanatory (and quite possibly fueled by beer). His second placement, "Fish I Have Known", is about the eternal pursuit of a legendary fish named "Old Ned". His third placement, "Ten Years After", is about an engineering firm that let him go after ten years. McGinley's three humor pieces were showcased on the website. Other recent writing awards and recognitions earned by McGinley include six winning pieces at, going back to October of 2007, when he placed third for a humorous roasting of his hometown of Ashford, Connecticut. is one of the Internet's highest-ranking humor contest sites, with opportunities for writers specializing in humor and those with real-life humorous anecdotes to share.

Congratulations to Maree Teychenne. Her play "Staff Only" was a finalist in the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival's One-Act Play Competition. This $1,000 award accepts submissions July 15-November 1.

Congratulations to Darrell Lindsey. He won a second prize in the international category in the 2008 Mainichi Daily Haiku Contest. Winners can be read on the website of the Mainichi Daily News, a Japanese newspaper. Another of his poems recently appeared in Issue #17 of OG's Speculative Fiction.

Congratulations to Ellen LaFleche. Her poem "Train Wreck" won an honorable mention in the 2009 Kudzu Poetry Prize. The most recent deadline for this $100 prize, sponsored by the literary journal of Hazard Community & Technical College in Kentucky, was February 1.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson recently placed poems in three literary journals: Pear Noir; Front Range Review, the journal of Montana State University (formerly known as MO: Writings from the River); and Mary, the journal of St. Mary's College in Los Angeles. In addition, She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood, a poetry chapbook that Carolyn co-authored with Magdalena Ball, is now available at Carolyn is the author of The Frugal Book Promoter and other resources for marketing your writing. Visit her website to learn more. She kindly shares "Death by Ferris Wheel", from Pear Noir, below.


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 300 of the best prose contests. Contest rules, addresses and deadlines change constantly. We update Poetry Contest Insider nearly every day to stay on top of them. 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 entries help you refine your craft. Learn more about Poetry Contest Insider.
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    "...about a year ago I shifted my writing focus (novels, nonfiction) to poetry. I use your site exclusively to select contests. I've won, placed, and/or published 13 poems. The site is great. I can't imagine how much time it would take to search contests out and qualify them one at a time."
    Lee Whipple, Florida

    "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: April 16-May 31

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.

4/30: Odes to the Olympians Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly March 31
Neutral twice-yearly free contest offers $50 apiece in adult and youth categories for unpublished poems up to 30 lines about Greek and Roman mythology. Enter by email only. Themes change with each contest; the April 2009 contest is for poems about Poseidon (Neptune). This contest is sponsored by Victoria Grossack and Alice Underwood, authors of The Tapestry of Bronze, a series of historical novels set in the ancient world.

4/30: The Shine Journal Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly April 15
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $100 plus publication in The Shine Journal, a webzine of flash literature and art. Submit 1-3 unpublished poems, maximum 100 lines each, via their online form.

4/30: Utmost Christian Writers Free April Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $100 for a poem up to 40 lines, on any subject. One entry per person. Enter by email only. Utmost Christian Writers is a Canadian website that offers several contests with large prizes for poems by Christian authors. This free contest, in honor of National Poetry Month, is open to writers of all faiths.

5/1: CreekFest Poetry Contest +
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $100 for adults (aged 15+) and $75 for youth, for unpublished poems. Poems relating to waterways (in Michigan or elsewhere) will be favored. All finalists must be present at CreekFest in Ortonville, MI in June to read their poems at the festival, which celebrates and promotes preservation of Michigan waterways.

5/1: Crucible Poetry and Fiction Competition +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers top prizes of $150 in each genre, plus publication in Crucible, the literary journal of Barton College. All submissions to the journal are considered for the prize. Send 1-5 poems or one story of no more than 8,000 words. One entry per person per genre. No simultaneous submissions.

5/1: David Reid Poetry Translation Prize +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers 750 euros for the best Dutch-to-English translation of a poem posted on the website of Subtext Translations, a Dutch company that provides subtitling and commercial translation services. Twice a year, the title of the chosen poem will be posted on the contest website at midday on March 1 and September 1. Winners published on website. Enter by email only.

5/1: Oneswan Productions Writing Competition +
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $300 (across all genres) for unpublished poetry, fiction, and Christian inspirational essays, plus prizes of $100 and $75 in each category. Fiction may be romance, mystery, sci-fi, horror or fantasy. Maximum 2 entries per category. Length limits are 65 lines for poetry, 2,500 words for fiction, 1,500 words for essay.

5/15: James Laughlin Award +++
Highly recommended free contest for a poet's second book, under contract to a publisher. The Academy of American Poets will award the winner $5,000 and buy copies of the winning book for distribution to its members. Publisher should submit four copies of manuscript or galleys with author's name removed.

5/15: Presence Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $100, three runner-up prizes of $75, for unpublished poems on a spiritual theme. One poem per person, maximum 30 lines. Enter by email only. No simultaneous submissions.

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: Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation +++
Highly recommended free contest from Britain's prestigious Poetry Society offers 1,500 pounds for the best published poetry collection translated from a European language into English. Books must have been published in the two years prior to the deadline. For example, books published between June 1, 2007 and May 31, 2009 are eligible for the May 2009 contest. Send 3 copies of book (galleys acceptable) and cover letter. Offered in odd-numbered years only.

5/31: Rosine Offen Memorial Award +
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.

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.



FUNDSFORWRITERS - Editor C. Hope Clark
From a long-time reader...
    "Dear Hope, Do you know how many other writers I know who have had a 'Hope Awakening'? Didn't fully understand the gold in these newsletters until they finally had that epiphany of what a mine they're sitting on? You are SUCH a force in the writing world. I swear, you're the Oprah of the writing world." ~Courtney Mroch
Come visit and see why Hope's readers love FFW.

Live CanonLive Canon: Upcoming Performances in London
Artistic Director: Helen Eastman
Live Canon launched in the autumn of 2008 to present live poetry through energizing performances. Their inaugural season included the shows "Metaphysicals" and "Romantics" at the Greenwich Theatre, and brought them great critical acclaim and devout audiences. Live Canon is engaged in another innovative season with their upcoming shows "The Bloomsbury Set" and "The Pre-Raphaelites".

Live Canon also features commissioned new musical settings of canonical poems, which have premiered in each performance. This season kicks off with newly commissioned music by Jerome de Bromhead.

The Live Canon ensemble includes Anthony Shuster, Alice Barclay, Simon Muller, Charlie de Bromhead and Holly Atkins. Shows are directed by Helen Eastman and associate Robin Norton Hale. Book your tickets now for our upcoming performances:
For more information please visit
View video on Live Canon's YouTube page at

PerigeePerigee's 6th Anniversary Issue Now Available and Open to Submissions
Perigee's 24th issue is hot off the press and features a completely redesigned website and all new writing. Perigee is also pleased to present a special John Updike commemorative non-fiction section with essays by top-notch writers and an interview by Tonny Vorm available in English for the very first time. You'll want to hurry over to enjoy award-winning writers, novelists, and poets including Ellen Akins, Gordon Weaver, Duff Brenna, Walter Cummins and Thomas E. Kennedy.

Perigee is also seeking your submissions! Submit directly through our website for consideration by a publication which prides itself on presenting burgeoning writers alongside well-published, noted authors. Because we are writers too, we understand why simultaneous submissions make sense and we're happy to receive them. We also offer monetary compensation for solicited manuscripts; query us and let's see what could be.

Explore our completely redesigned website—available for the first time, today, April 15—which features a streamlined submission process and offers free subscriptions with a single click. This is a writers' publication, and we look forward to reading your work so we can remain just that: a good place to get yourself published whether you've won a Pushcart or are just beginning to submit your work.

Only two weeks remain in our hotly contested 2009 Fiction Contest with guest judge, novelist James Brown (GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine). $600 is up for grabs, plus publication and a Pushcart nomination.

For all this and more, visit

Last Call!
Skysaje Enterprises Poetry Contest Announcing the Fifth Annual Skysaje Enterprises Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: April 30
This year we're offering a $250 first prize and three $25 honorable mentions. The judges are:
  • Award-winning poet Ellaraine Lockie (winner of our 2008 contest)
  • M.J. Iuppa, legendary Rochester, NY-based poet and professor at St. John Fisher College
  • Rick Petrie, co-host of the long running Pure Kona Poetry series
Guidelines for entry into the 2009 contest:
  1. All entries must be typed in the 14-point font size
  2. Submit up to five (5) poems per entry
  3. Title of poem and author contact info must appear on each page submitted
  4. A $15.00 non-refundable entry fee must accompany all submissions
Make your check or money order payable to Larry Berger and mail to:
    Skysaje Enterprises
    50 Amesbury Road
    Rochester, NY 14623
Please enjoy "Narrowing the Line", which received an honorable mention in our 2008 contest:
    Narrowing the Line
    by Kate Eisenberg

    1930 and hunger ruled.
    It was wrong I know,
    but it was there and our children were starving.
    We were walking
    The back roads of rural Mississippi
    carrying everything we owned,
    looking to work the fields.
    Thin but strong
    All of us.
    My husband took off his hat,
    went to the back door and asked about work.
    Mean as a caged tiger,
    A woman came at him broom swinging.
    We all hightailed it back to the road.
    As we gathered our wits a large cock strutted our way.
    I looked up to God and asked his forgiveness.
    With that I grabbed it and I wrung its neck.

    Safe on another stretch of highway we built a fire.
    Best darn chicken I ever did eat.
    Every one of us scraped the bones.
    Poverty has a way of narrowing the line between predator and prey.

    Copyright 2008 Kate Eisenberg. Reprinted by permission.

Closing Next Month
Dancing Poetry Festival Artists Embassy International Poetry Contest - Three Grand Prize Winning Poems to be Danced and Filmed
Postmark Deadline: May 15
  • 3 Grand Prizes will receive $100 each plus their poems will be danced and filmed. Each Grand Prize winner will be invited onstage for photo ops with the dancers and a bow in the limelight.
  • 6 First Prizes will receive $50 each
  • 12 Second Prizes will receive $25 each
  • 25 Third Prizes will receive $10 each
All prize winners will receive a prize certificate suitable for framing and a ticket to the Dancing Poetry Festival 2009, and be invited to read their prizewinning poem at the Festival. The top three poems chosen as Grand Prizes will be choreographed, costumed and recorded live in an on-stage performance at the Festival to be held on Saturday, September 26, 2009, Noon-4pm, at San Francisco's Florence Gould Theater in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor Art Museum. See pictures from our 2008 Festival.

Last year's Grand Prize winners included Lucille Lang Day, Janice P. Egry and Allison Joseph. 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). There is no limit on the number of entries.

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.

Dancing Poetry Contest 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.

Three 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 AEI Contest Chair W, Judy Cheung, 704 Brigham Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Questions? Please email Ms. Cheung at

Snake Nation Press Closing Next Month
Snake Nation Press: Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: May 30 (extended from May 1)
Snake Nation Press sponsors the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry:
  • $1,000 prize and publication
  • $25 entry fee must accompany the manuscript
  • 50-75 page manuscript; previously published poems eligible
Please mail your entry and fee to:
    Snake Nation Press
    Attn: Poetry Contest
    2920 North Oak Street
    Valdosta, GA 31602
Snake Nation Press: Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
Postmark Deadline: July 30
Snake Nation also sponsors the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award. Submit a novella of up to 50,000 words or a manuscript of short stories up to 200 pages long. Fiction and nonfiction accepted. Any well-written manuscript on any topic will be considered. Previously published works may be entered. An entry fee of $25 must accompany the submission. Winner receives $1,000 award and publication. Final judge: Janice Daugharty, a HarperCollins author and Writer-in-Residence at Valdosta State University.

Please mail your entry and fee to:
    Snake Nation Press
    Attn: Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
    2920 North Oak Street
    Valdosta, GA 31602
Snake Nation Press is proud to announce the winner and finalists of the 2008 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award for fiction, nonfiction, and novellas. The prize is named after Barbara Passmore's maternal grandmother, who valued reading and education.
    Wendy Marcus of Seattle, WA, for Pollygot

    Cecilia Pinto of Chicago, IL, for Imagine the Dog
    Perry Glasser of Haverhill, MA, for Ballsy
    Jean Braithwaite of Edinburg, TX, for Fat
    Starkey Flythe of North Augusta, SC, for Driving With Hand Controls
    Norton Girault of Norfolk, VA, for Dragon in the Box
    Terry Marshall of Las Vegas, NV, for American Model
    Hal Ackerman of Los Angeles, CA, for Long Women, Short Stories
    Michael Schiavone of Gloucester, MA, for Skin
    Eleanor Swanson of Lakewood, CO, for Fireflies
    Wayne Harrison of Eugene, OR, for Wrench
Snake Nation Press provides an informative, non-threatening venue for writers to submit their work in the midst of an often chaotically diverse publishing world. Over the sixteen-year history of the Press, the staff and volunteers have found great satisfaction in forging personalized editorial relationships with both emerging and established writers. The Snake is committed to keeping an honest and open dialogue with authors and to furthering the literary arts on a local and global scale. Many hours of volunteer labor and the electronic resources of the Web have allowed a small press to help present many new literary voices to the world-wide community.

The editors of Snake Nation Press look for manuscripts that concretely render the writer's actual and imaginative experiences. We publish writing that both newly interprets life in its everyday reality and that opens the reader's eyes to internal landscapes that have not yet been envisioned. We believe that good writing fortifies a belief in the value of human life and effort, but above all the work must connect intuition and experience to cast a spell of surprised recognition that shocks the reader with what was thought to be familiar.

R.A.I.L. Awards Closing Next Month
2009 R.A.I.L. Awards - Call for Submissions
Postmark Deadline: May 31
The R.A.I.L. Awards are an annual literary competition dedicated to Recognizing Advancement & Innovation in Literature. Each year we honor the best new voices in Poetry, Fiction, and Playwriting with cash prizes totaling $750:

R.A.I.L. Excellence in Poetry Award ($200 prize)
         Best Poem (single) ($25 prize)
         Best Poetry Collection ($25 prize)

R.A.I.L. Excellence in Fiction Award ($200 prize)
         Best Novel Award ($25 prize)
         Best Short Fiction Award ($25 prize)

R.A.I.L. Excellence in Playwriting Award ($200 prize)
         Best One-Act Play ($25 prize)
         Best Full Length Play ($25 prize)

The 2009 R.A.I.L. Lifetime Achievement Award is going to: William Kennedy

The 2009 R.A.I.L. In Honorarium Award is going to: Clarence Cooper Jr. (1934-1978)

The Awards are open to all English-language poets, fiction writers, and playwrights. We accept works of all lengths, styles and genres.

We started the Awards back in 2005 as a rather informal affair—a group of friends in San Francisco who liked to get together and discuss their favorite new writers and poets. Although we've grown in scope and ambition, we are still a close-knit group of literature lovers who strive to run a fair and transparent competition for all writers—new, emerging, established or otherwise.

Our credo is simple: you will ALWAYS keep all rights to your work, we will ALWAYS give every entry complete, thorough readings, and we will NEVER try to sell you anything.

Submit your work online today with our paperless entry system. We look forward to reading your work!

Ventura County Writers ClubClosing Next Month
Ventura County Writers Club Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31
The California Ventura County Writers Club announces its 2009 competition. First place winners receive $100, second place $75 and third place $50. Entry fee is $5 per poem. Youth category for those under age 18: 1st place $50, second place $35 and third place $25—entry fee is $3 per poem. Contest is open to anyone from any state or country.

Original unpublished poems of any poetry style are eligible. Winners will be published in the club's hardbound bi-annual anthology. Please go to for more information and official entry form.

The Ventura County Writers Club was founded in 1933 by four writers in the Ojai, California area. Since then the club has grown to more than 150 members and holds regular monthly general membership meetings. In these meetings you will hear persons prominent in all areas and genres of the literary field speak on sources for ideas, enhancing creativity, and getting your work published.

Society of Southwestern Authors Society of Southwestern Authors Writing Contest
Postmark Deadline: June 1
  • Poetry (40 lines max)
  • Short Story (2,500 words max)
  • Short Story for Children 6-12 (1,500 words max)
  • Personal Essay/Memoir (2,500 words max)
Cash awards each category: First Prize $300; Second Prize $150; Third Prize $75; Honorable Mention $25. Winning entries published in The Story Teller. $10 fee per entry. No limit on the number of entries. See the complete rules and obtain entry forms at, or mail a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to Writing Contest Entry Forms, P.O. Box 35484, Tucson, AZ, 85740.

The Litchfield Review 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

Exceptional entries of poetry, memoir and short fiction will be considered for publication as books by The Litchfield Review Press. For more information and news about our ongoing writing contests, please check our redesigned website,, or email Theresa C. Vara at

Please enjoy this excerpt from a poem by Ryan P. Harper, published in the current issue of The Litchfield Review:
    Opening Our Eyes During Prayer, Tuesday Night Bible Study
    by Ryan P. Harper

    We are caught in our early rising
    from this circle
    two thieves colliding on a rooftop of silent heads
    still wide-eyed
    we who love light rather than darkness
    lifted up.
    What seek we over this span
    of skulls brought low
    in golgotha silence?

    To look upon
    faces praying as on French cathedrals
    lip tremors and hands wanting blood
    thigh-brushes swift as the death angel
    or to catch
    the ash-flakes of Sodom on our powdering tongues
    the face of Yahweh through his desert fingers?

    How would that good apostle find us
    he whose midnight sermons
    dropped dulled disciples like basin water
    out upper room windows?
    Would he who found life in a fallen sleeper
    find it in two drugged awake
    by the pious cadence of divine conversation?

    How quickly surprise yields
    delight bulbs your cheeks
    you see me smile faithfully
    you want to laugh
    I want to
    pour your laughter into this yawning space
    so that we may run surely
    ever over flat earth
    and never again check our steps
    almost tearful I sing in myself
    the glory of hidden sunlit heresies
    perched atop these sunken temples
    that they would ever sink
    under our weight
    that we would bury amen

Omnidawn 2009 Omnidawn Poetry Contest Judged by Ann Lauterbach
Postmark Deadline: June 30
The 2009 Omnidawn Poetry Contest, judged by Ann Lauterbach, is Omnidawn Publishing's second annual contest for a first or second full-length collection of poems by a poet writing in English. (If you have two or more books published or accepted for publication, you are not eligible, although chapbooks do not count for this purpose.)

The recommended length of manuscript entries is 40 to 70 pages. Simultaneous submissions and multiple submissions are acceptable. The prize includes $2,000, Fall 2010 Publication by Omnidawn, and 100 complimentary copies of the book. The entry fee of $25 entitles you to one free Omnidawn title of your choice, if you send a Priority Mail self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE).

The prize-winning book will be produced, distributed, and advertised to full Omnidawn standards. As with other Omnidawn books, we will encourage the winning poet to participate in the design of the book, including choice of typefaces, cover artwork and design, with all stages subject to the approval of the winning poet. All costs, including production, distribution and advertising, will be fully paid for by Omnidawn. Omnidawn abides by the CLMP Code of Ethics.

The winner of last year's contest, judged by Marjorie Welish, is Michelle Taransky for her manuscript, Barn Burned, Then, to be published this September.

For the complete guidelines to this year's contest, visit

For information on last year's contest and winner visit

For other information about Omnidawn, including a list of Omnidawn titles, subscription to our mailing list, and more, visit

Robert Frost Foundation 13th 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 13th Annual Award. The winner will receive $1,000 and an invitation to present the winning poem this fall at the Frost Festival located at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

This year's judge, Jarita Davis, is a poet and fiction writer who earned a B.A. in classics from Brown University and both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. She was the writer in residence at the Nantucket Historical Association and has received fellowships from the Mellon Mayes program, Cave Canem and Hedgebrook. In addition, she was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Travel Research Grant, a Neiheisel Phi Beta Kappa Award, and a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Her work has appeared in the Southwestern Review, Historic Nantucket, Cave Canem Anthologies, Crab Orchard Review and Plainsongs.

Please submit two copies of each poem, one copy with contact information (name, address, phone number, email address) and one copy free of all identifying information. Reading fees are $10 per poem (send fees via regular mail, please). Make your check payable to The Robert Frost Foundation. Mail your entry to: The Robert Frost Foundation, Attn: Poetry Award, Lawrence Public Library - 3rd Floor, 51 Lawrence Street, Lawrence, MA 01841. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or an email address if you'd like to receive the contest results. Email submissions are accepted at if you send your entry fee by regular mail.

You may submit up to three poems of no more than three pages each. Both published and unpublished works are accepted. See the complete contest guidelines at

Please enjoy "Overheard" by Len Krisak, the winning entry in the 2000 Robert Frost Award:
    by Len Krisak

    Below the landing, where they did their best
    To trammel words that might escape the room,
    On one they never dreamt they might arrest,
    Such sentences were passed as sealed his doom.
    Stock-still he stood, in what had been, till then,
    A guileless and an innocent descent.
    He heard their words, and wondered why (since when
    Was clear). Clearly they'd said just what they meant.
    But what they thought—well, was it such a shock?
    He thought of laughing each cold judgment off;
    Of coming down to where they were to block
    Escape. He contemplated one small cough
    To serve them for a cue. What did he do?
    Just what you would have done had it been you.

Open City Now Open
Open City's 2009 RRofihe Trophy Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: October 15
6th year! The RRofihe Trophy for an unpublished short story! Limit: 5,000 words. Winner receives: $500, trophy, and publication in Open City magazine. Judge: Rick Rofihe.

  • Stories should be typed, double-spaced, on 8 1/2" x 11" paper with the author's name and contact information on the first page and name and story title on the upper right corner of the remaining pages
  • Limit one submission per author
  • Author must not have been previously published in Open City
  • Mail submissions to RRofihe, 270 Lafayette Street, Suite 1412, New York, NY 10012
  • Enclose a self-addressed stamped business envelope (SASE) to receive names of winner and honorable mentions
  • All manuscripts are non-returnable and will be recycled
  • Reading fee is $10. Check or money order payable to RRofihe
  • See the complete guidelines at
Rick Rofihe is the author of Father Must, a collection of short stories published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Grand Street, Open City, Swink, Unsaid, and on His nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Spy, and The East Hampton Star, and on A recipient of the Whiting Writers' Award, he has taught writing at Columbia University and the Writer's Voice of the West Side Y. He currently teaches privately and at Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York. He is the editor of the new online literary journal,

Anderbo Now Open's 2009 Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: November 1
4th year! For up to six unpublished poems. Winner receives $500 cash plus publication on, "Best New Online Journal". Judged by William Logan. Contest Assistant: Charity Burns.

  • Poems should be typed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper with the poet's name and contact information on the upper right corner of each poem
  • Poet must not have been previously published on
  • Mail submissions to 270 Lafayette Street, Suite 1412, New York, NY 10012
  • Enclose a self-addressed stamped business envelope (SASE) to receive names of winner and honorable mentions
  • All entries are non-returnable and will be recycled
  • Reading fee is $10. Check or money order payable to RRofihe
  • See the complete guidelines at
William Logan was born in Boston in 1950. He attended Yale, where he studied American history and literature, though he had a long flirtation with game theory. He was a rock critic of no great distinction, though he squandered a good many weekends at the Fillmore East in New York. After taking his MFA at the University of Iowa, he spent a peripatetic six years following his sweetheart to Massachusetts, Virginia, and California. They then spent two years in England, where they held successive Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarships. He is the author of eight volumes of poetry, most recently Strange Flesh (2008). He has also published five books of poetry criticism, including Our Savage Art (2009). He has twice been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award in criticism, which was awarded to The Undiscovered Country (2005). Among his other honors are the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets, the 1988 Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, the Allen Tate Prize, the Corrington Medal for Literary Excellence, and the inaugural Randall Jarrell Award in Criticism. He has been called the "most hated man in American poetry" as well as the "best practical critic around". He has been teaching at the University of Florida since shortly before the ozone hole was discovered over Antarctica.



These free prose contests with deadlines between April 16 and May 31 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.

4/24, 6/26, 8/7: Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize ++
Entries must be received by these dates; former deadlines were April 25, June 27, and August 8
Recommended free contest offers C$25,000 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 23 must be received by April 24; those published between April 24 and June 25 must be received by June 26; and those published between June 26 and September 30 must be received by August 7. 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.

4/24, 6/26, 8/7: Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize ++
Entries must be received by these dates; former deadlines were April 25, June 27, and August 8
Recommended free contest offers C$25,000 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 23 must be received by April 24; those published between April 24 and June 25 must be received by June 26; and those published between June 26 and September 30 must be received by August 7. 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. Formerly known as the Nereus Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize, changed name in 2009.

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 10 copies of a book published in the previous calendar year. Certain self-published books may also be eligible. Contact sponsor for details.

5/1: Good Men Foundation Essay Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 and anthology publication for essays by men aged 35-60 about a defining moment in their life. Entries should be 1,000-3,000 words, written in the first person, and submitted through their online form. The Good Men Foundation is a registered New York State charitable corporation dedicated to helping organizations that provide educational, social, financial or legal support to men and boys at risk. More Than a Few Good Men will be an anthology of essays about what it means to be a man in America today. The authors will draw upon their experiences with either childhood, coming of age, work, relationships, fatherhood or death and explore the perspectives they have gained from those moments. (This may be a one-time contest for 2009.)

5/1: Norman Mailer High School Writing Awards +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended contest for creative writing by high school juniors offers $5,000 and a trip to NYC for the award ceremony. Contest is open to students who will be high school seniors as of the Fall semester following the May deadline. 2009 genre is creative nonfiction. Submit one or more essays, maximum 10 single-spaced pages total, through their online form.

5/1: Novello Literary Award +
Neutral free contest for North and South Carolina writers over age 18 offers $1,000 and publication for a manuscript of literary fiction or nonfiction, 200-400 double-spaced pages. One entry per person. Entries in both genres compete for one prize.

5/1: Sir John M. Templeton Fellowships Essay Contest +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest from libertarian think tank The Independent Institute offers top prizes of $10,000 for faculty, $2,500 for students, for essays on selected political and philosophical themes. Enter online only. Entrants must be college or graduate students or junior faculty, and aged 35 or under as of the deadline. The 2009 theme is: "Which virtues contribute the most toward achieving freedom, and how can the institutions of civil society encourage the exercise of those virtues?"

5/1: Waterman Fund Alpine Essay Contest ++
Recommended free contest offers $2,000 and publication in Appalachia Journal for essays of 2,500-4,000 words that explore the relationship between the human spirit and the environment. Both personal and scholarly works are welcome. Contest is open to US residents who have not published a book or a national magazine article on the topic. Enter by mail or online. No simultaneous submissions. The Waterman Fund supports education and stewardship to preserve the Alpine areas of the Northeastern US.

5/1: West Virginia New Writers Award ++
Recommended free contest from Shepherd University's Appalachian Literary Project offers top prize of $500 for the best unpublished short story of 500-2,500 words by a West Virginia resident or student. One entry per person. The contest's mission is to encourage and recognize novice writers in the state, and to foster an appreciation of Appalachian culture and values represented in the diverse writing of the region. Enter by mail or email.

5/11: Commonwealth Short Story Competition +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly May 1
Highly recommended free contest for citizens of the British Commonwealth (the UK and countries once ruled by the British Empire) offers 2,000 pounds and radio broadcast for a short story, maximum 600 words. Maximum 3 entries per person. Entries must be made by email.

5/15: Cup of Comfort Online Story Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 and publication in the women's magazine Redbook for an inspirational personal essay, 1,000-2,000 words. 2009 theme is "Silver Lining: Finding Comfort in Today's Economy". Enter online only. Open to legal residents of the US and Canada (except Quebec) aged 18+.

5/15: Ellen Levine Fund for Writers Award +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 3
Highly recommended free contest from Teachers & Writers Collaborative offers a stipend of at least $7,500 to an author working on a second or third book of fiction or creative, literary nonfiction, who does not have a publishing contract for the work. Send a manuscript sample of 50-75 double-spaced pages, an outline of the work, and a brief bio. Entries must be received by 5pm Eastern time on the deadline date.

5/15: Great Canadian Questions Essay Competition ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest for Canadian high school seniors and college students offers C$2,000 for the best essay of 1,500 words maximum on one of six topics concerning Canadian history and culture: Founding Concepts, Identity Revolution, After Unity, Canada & the World, Heroes & Symbols, or Does History Matter. Entrants must be aged 21 or younger. Online submission only.

5/15: Norman Mailer College Writing Awards +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended contest for creative writing by college students offers $10,000 and a summer residency at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown, MA. Contest is open to college students who will be sophomores, juniors or seniors as of the Fall semester following the May deadline. 2009 genre is creative nonfiction. Submit one or more essays, maximum 15 single-spaced pages total, through their online form.

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.

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.



Poetry Super Highway Holocaust Issue
Entries must be received by April 17
Literary website Poetry Super Highway seeks submissions of poetry written in response to the Holocaust for their annual Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) issue. Yom Hashoah this year falls on April 21. Please send your work, along with a bio of any length which includes what city you live in, to See website for formatting guidelines and past issues.

Octopus Books
Postmark Deadline: April 30
Octopus Books is an independent small press in Portland, OR, edited by Zachary Schomburg and Mathias Svalina. They publish two poetry books a year through their open reading period. Submit your full-length poetry manuscript by mail or email with a $10 fee. (No length limit specified; standard is 48-80 single-spaced pages.) Octopus Magazine, their online poetry journal, has published such authors as Noah Eli Gordon, Matthew Cooperman, Cole Swensen and Dan Beachy-Quick. Browse their issues to get a feel for the press's avant-garde aesthetic.

Postmark Deadline: May 1
Witness, an annual literary journal published by the Black Mountain Institute, seeks poetry and prose submissions for their 2010 issue, addressing the intersections between literature and film, video, or photography. Send 1-5 poems or one story or essay. Online entries preferred. Witness pays $10 per printed page.

Favorite Poem Project: Summer Poetry Institute for Teachers
Entries must be received by May 22
The Favorite Poem Project, founded in 1997 by then-US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, is dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry's role in Americans' lives. Applications are now being accepted from K-12 teachers to participate in a Summer Poetry Institute in Boston, July 13-17, 2009. Participants will read and discuss poems with renowned practitioners of the art, five award-winning American poets. Past faculty include Frank Bidart, Mark Doty, Louise Gluck and Heather McHugh. Teachers will work in groups to develop lesson plans to share with each other and bring back to their classrooms. Tuition is $275 and includes books, lesson plans and other written materials; room and board must be arranged separately. See website for details and application form.

Ito En Haiku Project
Entries must be received by July 6
Ito En, a leading purveyor of green tea products and beverages, seeks submissions of haiku on the themes of "Change", "Hope", or "Progress". Winning entries will be featured on bottles of Tea's Tea, their award-winning line of iced teas. Submissions should follow the 5-7-5 syllable count and should be previously unpublished. No simultaneous submissions. Enter by email. (Ito En iced tea is the favorite drink of Winning Writers editor Jendi Reiter.)



Assisi, the online literary journal of St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY, accepts submissions of poetry, stories, essays (academic or personal), photos and artwork. Send 1-3 poems or one prose piece, maximum 20 double-spaced pages. One submission per person per genre. Entries should be sent as MS Word or RTF attachments to Author's name and contact information should not appear anywhere in the attached manuscript. Instead, include your name, address, phone, email, entry titles and genres in the body of the email message. Email Dr. Wendy Galgan, editor, with questions.
UK-based resource site for writers offers literary news, competitions listings, brief book reviews, and free blog hosting for members.

The faint of heart and the chronically sincere should not submit to this online journal of short prose and artwork with an attitude, whose submission guidelines include advice such as "please try not to send something about an emotionally cathartic moment from your childhood unless it involves dead clowns".

An offshoot of the literary journal Barrelhouse, the Growler webzine reviews debut collections of poetry. Recent articles include reviews of books by Ely Shipley and Fady Joudah.

The Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences
A project of the University of Massachusetts-Boston, the Joiner Center promotes research, curriculum development, public events, and educational, cultural, and humanitarian exchanges which foster greater understanding and innovative means of addressing the consequences of war. Their annual writers' workshop is taught by Iraq and Vietnam veterans and others whose works address issues of social justice, cultural, political, and community concern.

On this website, you can catalog your books online and connect to other readers who share your interests.

Octopus Magazine
Online poetry journal with an experimental bent, edited by Zachary Schomburg and Mathias Svalina. Octopus has published such authors as Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Tina Celona, and Noah Eli Gordon. Poetry submissions are accepted by email in August only.

PEN American Center: 2009 Translation Feature
This prestigious writers' organization has a mission of activism for free expression and intercultural understanding. In this special feature, PEN showcases translations of contemporary poetry and prose from Arabic, Japanese, and various European languages, as well as a "translation slam" where readers are invited to comment on two versions of a poem by Chinese writer Xi Chuan.

Poetic Asides by Robert Lee Brewer
Poetry blog on the Writer's Digest website features interviews with contemporary authors, writing prompts, advice on the craft, and introductions to exotic poetic forms.

Ross Gay: "Cousin Drowses on the Flight to Kuwait"
Listen to a podcast of the author reading this war poem at the Poets & Writers Magazine website.

Six Video Poems at Poets & Writers
Multimedia presentations of poems by Anne Carson, Thylias Moss, and Aaron Fagan add new dimensions to the spoken word through interpretive dance, music, and graphics.

Writing It Real: Sheila Bender's Blog
Writing It Real is a writers' resource site that offers lessons in turning your personal experience into creative work. Visit editor Sheila Bender's blog for announcements of contests and calls for submissions, as well as news of interest to writers.

Writing Raw
Online writers' forum stands out for its clean, professional design and its archive of brief interviews with well-known writers such as Rhys Bowen, Nikki Giovanni, Ramsey Campbell, and David Liss.

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.



2009 Poet's Market
The 2009 edition of Poet's Market is on sale for $18.47 at Amazon. (The 2010 edition will be published in August 2009.) This is the best annual guide to 1,600 journals, magazines, book publishers, chapbook publishers, websites, grants, conferences, workshops and contests. Helps you find publishers who are looking for your kind of work. Also updated are Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and Writer's Market for works of prose. Writer's Market is "the most valuable of tools for the writer new to the marketplace," says Stephen King in On Writing.

Office Depot Coupon
Save on paper, toner, binders and all your writing supplies at Office Depot. Free delivery in select areas when you order $50 or more.



If the Water Wants Us
by John B. Lee

If the water wants us
walking with my father
near Clear Creek
they've buried railway cars
to keep the cliff
that rolls a gentle green
and climbs to beauty
like a child to blue
as if the grass were rapturing
and we were lifted in the dew

the older man remembers
when a little boy had disappeared
the day the afternoon
went flowing on without him

the women set out tables
for a summer feast
the men were occupied
by baskets from their cars
and he was lost
as some are lost
who go too deep

they found him floating
looking down
and he was drowned

how like a ragged butterfly
the hinges of our time come loose
as beauty lifts and sags
in flights of sorrow
and of sorrow's joys

the sentiment of sediment
might settle in us like a sweetness over-sweet in lemonade.

I stand beside the killing stream
and see my face.
I look upon the place
it empties like a painted bone's
transforming slow to blue
the bracken gone
that weathered at the higher clay
become the larger circumstance of lake
that seems to want to give the water back in waves.

And further off
the rough cliffs shed their heights
the larches slip and lean, the poplars
dizzy down the wind
and you might touch
the tallest swayings without wings.

Same day. Same man
remembers how he met
a ninety-year-old neighbour
who'd seen him last
when he was but a child
and she a girl

they laugh together now
in dimming mirth
like faded fondness from a photograph.

And as I stand
I see that liquid lad
the bottle greening of his back
transparent in the light
the dark geography of stars
arriving at the massive gravity
that waits us out.

Copyright 2009 by John B. Lee

This poem was shortlisted for the 2009 Winston Collins/Descant Prize for the Best Canadian Poem, offered by the literary journal Descant.


The Dropouts' Clan
by R. Manoj Mohan

We have our own
Little place in the sun—
Our sanctum—
To share that obsolete trait
Known as sensitivity.
We have seminar halls
For discourses on nonviolence
And the power of compassion.
We conduct meditations
To seek cosmic connections
And the flight of the spirit.
We share among ourselves
Encounters with the animated inanimate
And the inanimate-turned animate.
While the world outside
Builds its own objective hell,
We strive for a future paradise—
A unified subjective one.
The Dropouts' Clan
Meets on these pages
To ruminate the remnants of humanity.

Copyright 2009 by R. Manoj Mohan

This poem won first prize of C$100 in the Mattia Family 12th International Poetry Competition.


Death by Ferris Wheel
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

From her seat in the gondola a woman
who might be me watches roller

bladers with supple bones, toddlers with careless
balloons far, far down on the pier. She opens

the doors—mini saloon doors of purple—or
she crawls over acrylic barriers. Either way

she hesitates a moment. The lurch
of the wheel as it stops at the top finishes

the job. No scream. Even the plane floating
a campaign trail of plastic behind it, silent. Soundless

waves, too, that far up. She floats as if posing
for her close-up, delicate fingers, poised toes,

her red sunhat a Frisbee against
sky of pulled taffy clouds on blue.

Sea like scallops of Alençon lace below,
sand stretched away toward the Palisades,

the smell of sugary churros her last sensation.

Copyright 2009 by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

This poem first appeared in the journal Pear Noir.


Advertise to 25,000 Poets and Writers
Promote your contests, websites, events and publications in this newsletter. Reach over 25,000 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:

"We can tell by our data readings that Winning Writers is an economical and efficient way to advertise both the Anderbo Poetry Prize and The RRofihe Trophy/Open City Short Story Contest."
Rick Rofihe, Publisher & Editor-In-Chief, anderbo

"I'm very pleased with the variety of responses we've received, and I very much appreciate the care you took in adding links and generally improving the copy I sent you."
Mark Schorr, Executive Director, The Robert Frost Foundation

See more testimonials.



"I have achieved more than I thought I would"

A media release from

Lucy Wanjiku, 25, dropped out of school in Kenya because she could not pay the fees. She worked as a saleswoman, but she could not support herself and her three children.

"My dream was to start my own business and help meet my family's needs. But I did not have skills for business and my education was low. Because of literacy classes, I now have skills. After being trained on how to start a small business and get profit, I have gained a lot of knowledge about the business world and would like to put that knowledge into practice. I am now the manager of my own vegetable and fruit stand, and enjoying it very much. I have achieved more than I thought I would," Lucy said.

International Women's Day, March 8, celebrates women like Lucy in Kenya and throughout the developing world—women who often cannot get the education, financial credit, health care, and other resources they need to be self-sufficient. UNESCO reports that of the one in five adults worldwide who cannot read and write, two-thirds are women.

Lucy attended classes at the Kenya Adult Learners' Association (KALA), a ProLiteracy partner and part of ProLiteracy's Women in Literacy (WIL) initiative. WIL launched in 1991 and has reached 1.6 million women in the United States and the developing world. WIL helps women set goals for themselves and ties those goals to the literacy instruction they need to be successful. Research shows that when women take these steps, the positive changes they make in their own lives extend into their families and communities.

Find out more about ProLiteracy's Women in Literacy initiative.

ProLiteracy WorldwideProLiteracy supports adults and young people in the U.S. and internationally who are learning to read, write, and do basic math by training instructors, publishing instructional materials, and advocating for resources and public policies that support them.

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

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



This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present "Roster Forever" by Ryan K. Sauers.

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!

Roster Forever
by Ryan K. Sauers

Spring-sets punctuated with toxic bliss
urban upheavals echoing
chants of social miscarriages
leaving bitter/sweet rhythms to plume

like afros from swaying heads
of '60's hippies uncharted
oomps uncharacterized in free meters
thunder out poignant lyricism

soaked in copper tunes
of hydraulic blues to pump
bruised hearts of a people
an audience witness to archetypes

of inner rebellions awash
with anger primed fists rise high
in a singular movement to rattle
against worn out songs of Congress

only to stamp out idle anger
with purpose and causation
garbed in canvas cargos
and a nearly wild top

a trombonist blows life
onto the backs of bold
crisp notes freshly baked
from the morning high

in tune with a common voice
drum beats swell
charging the multitude
flooding a mesmerized crowd

bitten by inequity and frustration
for one last time
vocalized in every guitar riff
ripping chords of rising up

speaking as one
fighting forward
not within

on the play-list for today
a tide of change
one voice one struggle
a wall of sound

[Author's Note: "A spring-set is the list of songs a band will perform at a particular event. Play-list is similar, but a bit more strict—the music played in this list will be performed in a planned arrangement and not often deviated from. Yet, there is always tolerance for flexibility in either list."]

Copyright 2009 by Ryan K. Sauers

Critique by Jendi Reiter

This month's critique poem, "Roster Forever" by Ryan K. Sauers, employs the freewheeling rhythms of jazz and blues to convey the energy of people seeking social change. These improvisational musical styles befit a moment when values are in flux and established political procedures are overwhelmed by a popular uprising.

The poem's title sounds like a rallying cry, as well as an invitation to imagine an ideal society. "Forever" is such a utopian word. With its suggestion of heaven on earth, it sanctifies a temporal political movement by connecting it to timeless values—justice, of course, as well as the beauty and creativity represented by music. "Forever" also holds out the dangerously simple and seductive promise that the problem of injustice could be permanently solved. If only...

Sauers' vibrant and action-packed imagery honors both the light and dark sides of the revolutionary impulse, the thrilling creative ferment as well as its potential to boil over into chaos....

Click to continue reading this critique

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 May 16-June 30