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Featured Poem:
"Breaking the Spell"

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July 2009

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Welcome to our July 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.

Status of the 2009 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Due to the large number of excellent entries received, the judges have requested a delay in the results announcement date. It will now be December 15, 2009 instead of October 15. We appreciate your patience and your fine work.

Lost one of our newsletters? Formatting doesn't look right? Not to worry. All our recent newsletters are posted online at



Thousands of writers use for:
  • Helpful Feedback. Get detailed feedback for every poem, short story and book chapter that you write.

  • Contests. Over 50 new contests every month. Always free to paid members. Participate for cash prizes.

  • Rankings. See how you compare to other writers. Online statistics will show you how you are doing.

  • Motivation. Participate in an active online writing community. Improve your writing and get motivated.

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    Upcoming Contest Deadlines

    Strong Character
    A strong character can make a story. Write a story based on the character pictured in this announcement. This writing contest rewards a $100 prize to the winner.
    Deadline: In Two Days! - July 17th

    Tanka Poetry
    For this contest you are challenged to write a Tanka poem. Tanka is a form of poetry with a specific syllable count. See the announcement for an example. $100 Prize!
    Deadline: July 20th

    Tell A Story In A Poem
    In this contest you are challenged to write a poem that tells a story and also rhymes. We've included examples of this type of poetry storytelling in the announcement. $100 Prize to the winner.
    Deadline: July 31st

    The Words Are The Same
    Write a poem that uses the words listed in the contest announcement. $100 prize for the winner of this poetry contest.
    Deadline: August 9th

    These are only a few of our contests. View our full listing here.

"Finding this site three years ago was a blessing to me. I am becoming the writer I wanted to be because of what I've learned at FanStory. I have had stories published (the publishers came to me), won the state contest last year in the short story category, and have been asked to speak at writers groups. Three years ago I couldn't write a grocery list."
— Marti Hurst — More Testimonials...


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.

Now Open
Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31, 2010
Now in its 18th year. Prizes of $3,000, $1,000, $400 and $250 will be awarded, plus six Most Highly Commended Awards of $150 each. Submit any type of short story, essay or other work of prose, up to 5,000 words. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. $15 entry fee. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. Winning Writers is assisting with entry handling for this contest. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners. (The results of the 17th contest will be announced on September 15, 2009.)


Congratulations to T.L. Sherwood. She won two awards in John Wood Community College's 2009 Creative Writing Contest: third prize in fiction for "Coffee Would Be Good" and third prize in nonfiction for "The True Audacity of Hope". This contest was open to entries January 2-April 3. Sherwood also won first prize in the 2008 Writers' Journal Science Fiction/Fantasy Contest. The next deadline for this $250 award, which replaced their travel-writing contest, will be November 30. Writers' Journal offers several themed contests annually.

Congratulations to Margaret Gish Miller. Her poem "Home Schooling: Sacramento, 1962" won an honorable mention in the 2009 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards from Passaic County Community College and will be published in the Paterson Literary Review, Issue #39. The deadline for this $1,000 prize was April 1. Miller writes, "Thanks for Winning Writers. I have submitted my work to many different publications you've listed. I'm grateful for its wide-ranging resources, and look forward to receiving it each month."

Congratulations to Rita J. Traub. Her poem "Creations" won an honorable mention from Lucidity Poetry Journal and was published in their summer 2009 issue. She kindly shares it with us below. Lucidity, a journal of understandable poetry about people, relationships, life issues and events, offers small prizes for the best poems in each issue, as well as two annual poetry contests: the Clarity in Poetry Awards ($250 prize, deadline October 15) and the Lucidity Poetry Journal Awards ($100 prize, deadline October 31).

Congratulations to Tim Mayo. His first full-length poetry book, The Kingdom of Possibilities, was published this April by Mayapple Press. It was also a finalist for the May Swenson Award. He kindly shares a poem from this collection below. Mayapple Press is a small press established in 1978 by poet and editor Judith Kerman. Editors say, "We specialize in contemporary literature, especially poetry and works that straddle conventional categories: Great Lakes, women, Caribbean, translations, science fiction poetry, recent immigrant experience, Judaica."

Congratulations to Ed Frankel. He won the Winter 2009 New Millennium Writings Award in Poetry for "An Altar for Uncle Joe", a poem about the life and death of a jazz musician. The summer contest is currently open, with prizes of $1,000 apiece for poetry, fiction, flash fiction, and essays, through July 31. Read Frankel's first-prize entry in our 2006 War Poetry Contest here.

Congratulations to Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. This past June, The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD made a special dedication of his ceramics sculptures at their Summer Open House. The collection, entitled "The Travelling and the Rotation", was handmade to commemorate Poet Lore's 120th anniversary as the oldest continuously published poetry journal in the US. Using anecdotal selections from Ludwig Wittgenstein and Gerard Manley Hopkins, the collection aims to "unify or bring into focus" authors ranging from Thomas Merton to Edgar Allan Poe, and Gerard Manley Hopkins to Albert Camus. For the artist, a native of Singapore, these structures are "borne of the ethos of humility or auteurism that comes with the willingness to embrace the unknown."

Congratulations to Marcia Popp. Her poem "what my father did and did not bring home in 1943" won second prize in the 2009 Fall/Winter Memoir (and) Prizes for Prose or Poetry. The literary journal Memoir (and) offers a twice-yearly contest with a top prize of $500 for "traditional and experimental prose, poetry, graphic memoir, narrative photography, lies, and more." Submission periods are November 1-February 15 and May 1-August 15. In other news, Popp was also a finalist in the 2009 Salem College International Literary Awards, and had a poem published in Avocet, A Journal of Nature Poems.

Congratulations to M. Lee Alexander. Her poem "The Foreclosure" won an honorable mention in the Connecticut Poetry Society's 2009 Connecticut Poetry Award contest. This $400 prize accepts submissions April 1-May 31.

Congratulations to Lesléa Newman. Her poem "What the Angel Really Said" won the 2009 Burning Bush Poetry Prize and was published in their online journal, In Our Own Words. This independent press offers an annual $200 prize, deadline June 1, for poems reflecting progressive economic or environmentalist values. Newman's poem is taken from her latest collection, Nobody's Mother (Orchard House Books, 2008).

Congratulations to Ellen LaFleche. Her poem "When She Was a Girl...," was one of two Editor's Choice in Poetry winners in The Binnacle's Sixth Annual Ultra-Short Competition. This contest from the literary journal of the University of Maine at Machias offers prizes up to $150 for poems of 16 lines maximum and flash fiction of 150 words maximum. In other news, LaFleche's poem "Breaking the Spell" was accepted for publication on the Burning Bush Publications website. She kindly shares it with us below. She also won her third Honorable Mention in poetry in the Winter 2009 New Millennium Writings Awards.

Nicole Nicholson's poem "They Tell Me That You Had Cherokee Blood" was published in the online poetry magazine Strong Verse.

Heath Gunn's poem "The Fate of Man" was featured on Yolanda Jackson's "True Dat Thursday" poetry website on June 18.

Nathaniel McCoy's poem "Grunts" was published on the website Why Are We in Iraq? as their June 25 poem of the week. It is his first poetry publication. Visit his page here.


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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    Vicki Duke, Alberta, Canada

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Deadlines: July 16-August 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.

7/25: GLCA New Writers Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers a reading tour of 12 midwestern colleges, with a $500 honorarium per visit, for the author of a book of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction that is the author's first published book in that genre. One winner in each category. Publisher should submit 4 copies of book along with publicity material. Book must have been published in the US or Canada between spring 2008 and spring 2009. Selection process favors recipients of major first-book awards.

7/31: Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award +++
Highly recommended free contest for unpublished poems by authors aged 11-17 offers free books, anthology publication, and tuition to a writing course (for UK entrants only). Online entries accepted.

7/31: Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers 3,000 pounds and a reading at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in Suffolk for the best first full-length collection of poetry published in Great Britain or Ireland since August 1 of the preceding year. Either publisher or author may submit 3 bound or proof copies of the book with a note indicating the date of publication. Include cover letter with contact information.

7/31: Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature ++
Don't enter before July 1
Recommended free contest offers publication by Sarabande Books, a high-quality literary press, for a manuscript of poetry, fiction, or essays (all genres compete together) about Kentucky or by Kentucky authors. Winner must agree to travel to readings within the state. You are eligible if you were born in Kentucky or have lived there for at least five years, or your book is set in or about Kentucky. Poetry manuscripts should be 48-100 single-spaced pages, prose manuscripts 150-250 double-spaced pages. No genre fiction.

7/31: Samuel Goldberg & Sons Foundation Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly September 7
Recommended free contest offers $2,500 and a weeklong residency at Ledig House International Writers Colony in upstate New York for a published first or second novel or collection of short stories by a US author that explores the American-Jewish experience. Publishers should submit 6 copies of a book published in the previous calendar year, plus application materials from website. Must be received by 4 PM Eastern time on the deadline date.

8/1: Donn Goodwin and Joseph Gahagen Poetry Prizes +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest from Milwaukee Irish Fest offers two prizes of $100 for unpublished poems reflecting Irish or Irish-American poetic traditions. The Donn Goodwin Prize is open to all authors, while the Joseph Gahagan Prize is open to current Wisconsin residents. One poem per person per category.

8/15: Boardman Tasker Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly August 18
Recommended free contest offers 3,000 pounds for the best published book on the theme of mountains or mountaineering, first published or distributed in the UK between November 1 of the previous year and October 31 of this year. Entries must be submitted by publisher, and may be poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or drama. Early entries are encouraged.

8/15: Linda Flowers Literary Award +
Neutral free contest offers $500 for the best story, essay, or poems with a connection to North Carolina themes or events (out-of-state authors eligible). Submissions should engage readers' understanding of the "humanistic apprehension", bringing to light "real men and women having to make their way" in the face of "changes and loss, triumphs and disappointments". Entries are expected to draw on particular North Carolina connections and/or memories, and should be 2,000-2,500 words.

8/15: Memoir (and) Prizes for Prose or Poetry ++
Recommended free contest offers twice-yearly prizes for the best memoirs submitted to their magazine during each reading period (November 1-February 15, May 1-August 15). Online submissions preferred. Send 1-5 poems or one prose piece, maximum 10,000 words. See website for art formatting requirements. "Memoir (and) publishes memoirs in many forms. We strive with each issue to include a selection of prose, poetry, graphic memoirs, narrative photography, lies, and more."

8/28: John Llewellyn Rhys Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly August 29
Recommended free contest offers top prize of 5,000 pounds for the best English-language book (poetry, fiction, or nonfiction) published in the UK by a UK publisher during the current calendar year. Galley proofs accepted for books scheduled to be published between August 28 and December 31. Author must be a British or Commonwealth citizen aged 35 or under as of the date of publication. Must be submitted by publisher. No entry fee, but shortlisted publishers will be asked to contribute 500 pounds per title, plus 15 copies of the book.

8/29: United Planet Writing & Photography/Video Contest +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly September 12
Neutral free contest seeks written work (poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction) along with photos and videos that demonstrate the promotion of cross-cultural understanding, friendship, and supporting one another in one's own community or abroad. Top prize is a free volunteer Quest (airfare not included) for up to two weeks to any of United Planet's short-term locations around the world in order to advance the winner's own personal intercultural interaction and promote social and economic prosperity worldwide. Written entries not to exceed 1,000 words; see website for photo and video formatting rules. Enter by email only.

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.


SPONSORS' MESSAGES - They say money always flows TO the writer.
    So where's the flow? FundsforWriters is the grant expert in the writing world. Come see why thousands read their weekly dose of FundsforWriters to improve their income stream. Writer's Digest labeled it one of 101 Best Websites for Writers for the last nine years. If there's a grant out there to enable a writer, editor C. Hope Clark knows where it is. Subscribe to the four newsletters and jump-start your writing career.

Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference

The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference
Next conferences: August 14-17; September 18-21; October 23-26

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

The cost of the conference is $995 and includes tuition, pre-conference materials, lodging and meals. The conferences will be held at the Round House in Colrain, Massachusetts. Truly magical both inside and out, the Round House is a four-story building of 14 sides with over a dozen decks, sparkled by stained glass windows and a domed center with a cupola on top. Attendance is limited. For an application and complete guidelines, please visit You may also call 978-897-0054, email or write to Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference, Concord Poetry Center, 40 Stow Street, Concord, MA 01742-2418.

Success Stories from Our Attendees
  • Jamie Ross, whose book Bringing in the Name has won the 2008 Four Way Books Intro Prize, attended Colrain with the manuscript in November 2006.

    "To say you (Joan) and Fred and the Colrain conference were formative in this whole deal would be an understatement! I met Martha there, too—though you never could have told me at the time that I'd even be sending the collection to Four Way."

  • Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, a June 2007 attendee, has won the Beatrice Hawley Prize from Alice James Books and her book Slamming Open the Door was published in April.

    "There is no question in my mind that had I not attended the Colrain Manuscript Conference and received the kind of encouragement and judicious advice that I did there, I would not have won the Beatrice Hawley Award—would not have revised my manuscript the way I did, or even had the confidence to send it out."

  • Kristin Bock, a first conference attendee (March 2006), will have her manuscript from the conference, Cloisters, published by Tupelo Press in 2008.

    "I'm so grateful to the Colrain conference! What struck me most about the Colrain experience was the kindness and generosity of the attendees, the workshop leaders, and the editors. Everyone worked hard, taking the time to provide thoughtful and detailed feedback on each other's work. The editors gave individual attention to each and every poet, answering all of our burning questions about our manuscripts and the often cryptic world of publishing. A heartfelt thanks to all!!"

  • Lauren Rusk, also a first conference attendee, signed a book contract with Plain View Press for publication of her manuscript from the conference, Pictures in the Firestorm.

    "The most useful parts of the conference for me were doing the thought-provoking and instructive pre-conference assignments, hearing the editors speak on the panel about their motivations and daily realities, and receiving your insightful feedback on the parts of my manuscript we discussed in the workshop. Our time together remains vividly in my mind."

  • Diana Adams, another first conference attendee, had her manuscript, Cave Vitae, accepted for publication by Plain View Press.

    "At the conference I learned to think of a book of poems as a larger poem, and using Fred Marchant's and Jeffrey Levine's experienced advice was able to completely reconstruct my book, giving it a new life, synchonized and more coherent."

  • Allegra Wong, second conference attendee (August 2006), has had her manuscript, A Pure Bead, solicited for publication by conference editor Joan Houlihan (Del Sol Press). A Pure Bead was published in 2007.

    "My consultation with Dennis Maloney, White Pine Press, was helpful in several specific ways. Poets Joan Houlihan, Teresa Cader, and Fred Marchant are dedicated and dynamic workshop leaders. The workshops showed us what an editor is seeking. I know so much more about the publishing world."

  • Anne Shaw, first conference attendee (March 2006), has had her manuscript, Undertow, selected as winner of the 2007 Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize and published by Persea Books.

    "I wanted to share my big news with both of you: I won the Persea Books contest! My ms Undertow is finally going to be published... I can't believe it. I am still in shock. I also want to thank both of you for the Colrain conference. I think it helped a lot in terms of making contacts, and getting me to think about the order of the book. When I went home I re-ordered and re-titled the ms, and I think that helped. The meeting with Martha Rhodes was very, very helpful too. At any rate, thank you both."

  • Suellen Wedmore, third conference attendee (November 2006), has won the Grayson Books Chapbook Contest.

    "I just wanted to thank you again for the support and advice you offered at the Colrain Poetry Manuscript workshop. One thing I learned/deduced while I was there was that my manuscript was perhaps really two chapbooks—so I began sending out chapbooks instead of a full manuscript. And just last night I learned that I won the Grayson Press Chapbook prize with a book built around my war poems. Chalk one up for Colrain! And thanks again!"

  • Charles Boyer, another first conference attendee, had his manuscript The Mockingbird Puzzle accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press.

    "I've had some good news. I had a chapbook accepted at Finishing Line Press, a Kentucky literary press. It should be coming out sometime in June. Thanks to all of you for your advice and encouragement with the poems!"

  • Click for more Colrain Publication News

Houston Writers Guild presents David Liss Last Call!
Houston Writers Guild Announces its Fall 2009 Contests
Postmark Deadline: July 30
The Houston Writers Guild, formerly the Fort Bend Writers Guild, announces its Fall 2009 Writers Contests. We will award $500 for the best novel in any genre, plus additional prizes in the categories of short story, personal essay, poetry, and a lifetime achievement award for published authors. The novel contest is open to all unpublished and not under contract novelists & screenwriters anywhere in the world. See the complete guidelines for all contests and the entry blank. Non-members may enter any contest, but members enjoy a discount on the entry fee for the novel contest.

Don't miss our 2009 Fall Writers Workshop with renowned mystery author David Liss. Join us on Saturday, September 12 at the Holiday Inn Southwest in Houston. Register before July 30 to enjoy the discounted rate of $45 for members and $55 for non-members. See details and register today.

Please enjoy "If Wishes Were Horses" by Bill Stevenson, a long-time member of the Houston Writers Guild:

If Wishes Were Horses
by Bill Stevenson

my son has left the house
I miss his intelligence
even his smart-ass twerpishness
and I think he'll be okay

my parents are pushing ninety
they don't move so fast anymore
but I admire the life they have lived
and I know they're at peace

my bro still searches for his
happy place but in the process
has cared for and raised
a family to be proud of

my girlfriend lives twenty miles away
but she stays in my corner
and despite long odds against
the we-of-us continues to work

my dog is twelve years old
with cataracts and heart murmur
but his tail still wags when I call him
I am the person he thinks I am

I have good history with good friends,
the idiots, haters, my own mistakes
have fallen away like molting skin
I realize occasionally beggars do ride

Dream Quest One Last Call!
Dream Quest One Poetry and Writing Contest
Postmark Deadline: July 31
This writing contest is open to anyone who loves to express their innermost thoughts and feelings in poetry or to write a short story that's worth telling everyone! We're accepting poems, 30 lines or fewer on any subject, and short stories, 5 pages maximum on any theme (single- or double-line spacing). Multiple entries welcome.

Short Story First Prize: $500, 2nd: $250, 3rd: $100
Poetry First Prize: $250, 2nd: $125, 3rd: $50

Entry fees
$10 per story
$5 per poem

How to Enter
Send your work with a cover page that lists the title(s) of your poem(s)/story(ies), name, address, phone number, and email address, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for entry confirmation. Make your entry fee payable to "DREAMQUESTONE.COM" and mail to Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest, P.O. Box 3141, Chicago, IL 60654. Electronic entries accepted via PayPal. Visit for details and to enter.

A message from Andre West of Dream Quest One...
    Have you ever dreamt of something that was so real and vivid to your imagination? And when you woke up, you found that it was just a dream and it was not true? Have you ever dreamt in living colours where you could taste, smell, hear and touch everything in it and you just knew in your heart that it is real? Have you ever had thoughts and feelings that were so strong that you just had to write them down before they went away forever?

    The dream is alive!

    Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of your writing a great story or poem, is you. You may already have written a masterpiece but are afraid to show it because you wonder what everyone thinks about you. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's just not about you anymore. I mean, once your thoughts and feelings have been realized, it becomes part of something greater than yourself. That is one reason why you may feel good, as your spirit freely moves to convey the message you choose to express, through writing a story or a poem.

    Show us how you dream...

Creekwalker Poetry & Photography Closing Next Month
2009 Creekwalker Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: August 31
"After nine years publishing the poetry of both veteran and novice poets, we established the Creekwalker Poetry Prize in 2007. The poetry of Regina Murray Brault, our 2008 winner, captured in tone and thematic quality the kind of work for which we created the Creekwalker Prize. For our 2009 Prize, we anticipate a wider field of poets and look forward to what the contest will bring by way of captivating work with the power to inspire, uplift and challenge our customary ways of processing the elegant complexities of everyday life."
— Tom Mark Gilbert, Founder/Editor

Submit five poems of 25 lines or less via typed hardcopy (no electronic submissions). All themes welcome. Both published and unpublished poems are eligible. Winner receives a $350 prize. Entry fee: $15, payable to Creekwalker. Please mail your entry and fee to:
    Creekwalker Poetry Prize
    5620 Paseo Del Norte #127-240
    Carlsbad, CA 92008
Questions? Please see our complete guidelines at or email

Please enjoy "At Either End Of The Web" by Regina Murray Brault, our 2008 Creekwalker Poetry Prize winner:
    At Either End Of The Web
    by Regina Murray Brault

    She spins by moonlight,
    weaving wet strands
    from mailbox to brass knob,
    binding my door shut with her silk.

    Each morning I claw at the web,
    unraveling her mending from the night
    before. She watches from behind
    a clapboard, waits for darkness.

    What is this web to her
    that she will not surrender
    but patiently repair my damage?
    Am I connected to its strands

    like the crumpled moth trapped
    in the sticky tangle in my hand,
    or like a nightmare snared
    in a dream-catcher? What is this thing

    I rip apart—some kind of primitive
    survival map whose language has been lost to me?
    Just as her instinct is to
    claim this space, mine is to tear down obstacles.

    Neither of us will back down. One has to go,
    be banished from this struggle over territory.
    Perhaps this is the way all wars begin—
    small battles fought in strands of gossamer.

Utmost Closing Next Month
Novice Christian Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: August 31
Contest will award US$2,000 to previously unpublished poets of Christian faith. First Prize is $500; special prizes for rhyming poetry. Entry fee: $20 per poem. Click for the rules and required entry form. This contest is sponsored by Utmost Christian Writers Foundation, a registered non-profit association for Christian poets.

Please enjoy "Many Mansions" by Karen Winterburn, Grand Prize winner in the 2008 Novice Christian Poetry Contest:
    Many Mansions
    (John 14:2–3)

    by Karen Winterburn

    Don't listen to me, Lord,
    when I slump, hungry, outside your door
    and beg for You like a lovesick girl.
    Don't take me at my word and draw me,
    gasping for thinner joy,
    over this new threshold.

    It's my will You want,
    a drink from that fresh running stream: my freedom.
    I don't begrudge, but owe You that,
    and want so much to grasp and hand it over
    in quantum leap, like angel, once for all.
    But quick and slippery as it is, I leave You thirsting.

    Where are You, Jesus Christ, gone on ahead into the dark again?
    I was at home, aglow back there. Wasn't that the place prepared by You?
    Why quit me while I sleep so in your hand
    to steal away behind this other door?
    You drive that soundless word of yours like some sleek nail into wood.
    It strikes my heart: "Follow Me!" and I am good for nothing else.

    But fit for You?
    I am not cured and ready, even ready for the cure.
    I pick at my scars, favor my limp, sleep and awaken
    (now that You have put me down) unsure and unsound.
    Turn me away; You have mistaken me.
    No, wait! "Burn me today or burn me later"?

    Take me many mansions deep and deeper, Lord,
    where eye is blind and darkened
    by the fire of your unseen glories.
    You are many mansions deep, O God,
    the first of which are purgatories.
    Hear me, hush me Lord—a beggar at your door.

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, the library in which Frost first explored the traditions of English and Irish poetry.

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 "Penumbra" by Robbie Gamble, published in volume 2 of The Robert Frost Foundation Online Anthology (2005):
    by Robbie Gamble

    The moon slid into place as advertised
    Across the sun, one summer afternoon.
    I stepped outside to feel what charged the air,
    Drawn to the change, the modulating light
    That caused the birds to settle for the night.
    I gazed up, the corona hanging there
    Was streaming shadows, beams of light and gloom
    That barred the earth, and held me hypnotized.

    He once encouraged us to walk in light,
    For those who walk in darkness mostly stumble.
    But I feel pinned at this penumbral edge
    Where light and dark both awe and draw a wedge
    Between heart's home and craved constructs that crumble.
    Slide on, eclipse—expose my appetites!

Carpe Articulum Literary Review

Open City 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. Contest Assistant: Carolyn Wilsey.

  • 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 and 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, currently teaches privately in New York, and is the editor of the new online literary journal,

Anderbo'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.

National League of American Pen WomenThe Twenty-Third Annual Portland Pen Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: November 7

AWARDS: First Place $150; Second Place $50; Third Place $25

ENTRY FEE: $5 per poem (check or money order—no cash; $4 per poem if entries received by August 31)

CONTEST RULES: Any form; any style; 40-line limit strictly enforced. No email or fax entries. One poem per page; two-page poems must be stapled together.

Two copies of each typed or computer-printed poem should be single-spaced with no photos or decorations. Copy one must have your name, complete address, telephone number and/or email address in the upper right-hand corner. Copy two—no identification.

Poems must be in English, the original work of the author, unpublished in any form, and not a winner beyond Finalist or Honorable Mention in any other contest.

The Contest is open to adult men and women, except members of the Portland Branch, National League of American Pen Women.

No poems will be returned. All rights revert to the author. First, Second, and Third Place Winning Poems will be published in The Portland Pen, the newsletter of the NLAPW, Portland Branch. Honorable Mentions will be awarded by certificate as merited.

Please tell us where you discovered our contest (e.g. Winning Writers Newsletter). For a Winners List, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with your entry. Send your entry to:
    Portland Branch, NLAPW
    Joan A. McLaren Henson
    12356 SW King George Drive
    King City, OR 97224

    Questions? Please email
The National League of American Pen Women was founded in 1897—23 years before women's suffrage—in order to bring together women journalists, authors, and illustrators. It is a professional organization with members in Letters, Art, and Music.

Please enjoy "North Lake" by Leland James, the winning entry in the 2008 Portland Pen Poetry Contest.
    North Lake
    by Leland James

    The arctic night
    Crawls down upon the ice.
    Last light a strip of gray,
    Amber where it touches the horizon:
    A tired eye about to close.
    Tired of barrenness and cold.
    Snowshoe tracks faint from the dawn
    I now retrace on groaning ice.
    An Ancient Beast nightwind howls,
    Rising up in gales of swirling snow.
    Away too long, too long alone.
    The frozen lake, my soul.

    No light shines before me.
    Dark cabin windows mock my coming from the cold,
    The sunrise fire long turned to shivering ashes.
    My refuge reclaimed,
    Like my tracks upon the snow.
    No trail of smoke to greet me.
    The cabin door as frail as lace.
    Rime frost, the morning fog,
    Winter's breath crept in between the logs,
    Drifts, a ghostly shroud, upon the cabin floor.
    A skim of ice where water spilled lies near the stove.
    A careless act, like this late coming from the cold.
    The winter unforgiving.
    With habits frozen deep,
    I light the lamp, I bolt the door.

    The amber eye has closed,
    Ending the world outside.
    Windows black as midnight ice.
    The Beast now screams against the cabin walls,
    Claws digging at the rag-stuffed cracks.
    The rags hard frozen, brittle.
    The Beast, enraged, grasping for its prey.
    The lamp light faints, a jagged glow,
    Stuttering as if the rattled windows were its voice.
    Saying I must hurry,
    Hurry with the stove.
    The iron heart of northern places.

    I choose the precious wood, placing it with care.
    A sacred nest of twigs I lay beneath.
    With trembling hand, the match igniting.
    I watch the fire awhile, still kneeling on the floor.
    The split wood blackens slowly.
    Wisps of flame darting like phantoms.
    I close the iron door, listening for the draft:
    The fire's first steady breath, the chimney warmed.
    Listening for the promise that the fire will go.
    Praying deliverance from barrenness and cold,
    Away too long, too long alone,
    Pray to deny the Beast my soul.
    Drifting into dreams of morning coals
    Glowing like cherries in the snow.



These free prose contests with deadlines between July 16 and August 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.

7/31: Landfall Essay Competition ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 12
Recommended free contest for New Zealand citizens offers NZ$3,000 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. Entries must be received by 5 PM local time on the deadline date.

7/31: Platt Family Scholarship Prize Essay Contest ++
Recommended free contest for full-time US college students offers prizes up to $1,000 for essays, 1,500-5,000 words, on an annual theme relating to Abraham Lincoln. Enter by mail or email. The Lincoln Forum's mission is "to enhance the understanding and preserve the memory of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War".

8/1: Esquire Fiction Contest +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers $2,500 and publication in the prestigious men's magazine Esquire for a short story up to 4,000 words. Entrants must choose one of three themes on the website. Enter via online form. Open to legal residents of the US and Canada, aged 16+.

8/7: Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date; 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.

8/7: Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date; 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.

8/10: miniWORDS 2009 +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly May 31
Neutral free contest offers prizes of 250 pounds for flash fiction, 50 words maximum. 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. Entrants must be aged 14+.

8/28: Young Lions Fiction Award +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly August 29
Highly recommended free contest sponsored by the NY Public Library offers $10,000 for the best published book of fiction (novel or short story collection) by a US author age 35 or under. Books must have been published or scheduled for publication during the current calendar year. Must be submitted by publisher. See website for nomination form.

8/31: Discovering New Mysteries Competition ++
Recommended free contest offers prizes up to $10,000 for mystery writing in several genres: original plays, screenplays, teleplays, and short stories for both adult and youth audiences. Contest is sponsored by the International Mystery Writers' Festival, held each summer in Owensboro, KY.

8/31: Family Circle Fiction Contest ++
Recommended free contest offers top prize of $750 for short fiction up to 2,500 words. Entrants must be US residents, aged 21+. Family Circle is a women's magazine with articles about parenting, health, cooking, crafts, relationships, and family travel.

8/31: Gemini Magazine Flash Fiction Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers $100 and publication in online literary journal Gemini Magazine for short fiction up to 1,000 words. Enter by mail or 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.



Promise of Light
Entries must be received by September 1
Promise of Light, an online forum for creative writing, philosophical reflections and artwork, seeks haiku in both traditional and modern styles. The top three entries will be published on the website and in the magazine Flowers and Vortexes. Send your entries pasted into an email to with "haiku submission" in the subject box.

Saving the Planet, Saving our Souls
Entries must be received by September 1
Essays up to 5,000 words are sought for an anthology on the theme of faith and ecology. "Saving the Planet, Saving our Souls" is an online community of Christians who are concerned about the environment. The planned anthology will explore the sometimes strained, often misunderstood relationship between ecology and spirituality. Essays should address some aspect of ecological awareness within a faith community and can consider themes of: sacramentalism, sustainability, dietary habits, prayer, meditation, activism, ecumentalism, new monasticism, literature and ecocriticism, human interaction with the natural world and others. See website for email entry instructions.



Avocet, A Journal of Nature Poems
Avocet is devoted to publishing Imagist Nature Poetry that depicts meaning through the use of precise visual images. Editors say, "We prefer nature poetry that has vivid, concrete imagery, insight and interconnectedness with nature. We avoid poems that have rhyme or metrical schemes, cliché, abstraction, and sexual overtones." Authors they admire include Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Wallace Stevens. Previously published poems accepted, but no simultaneous submissions.

BuildingBloc Arts Collective
BuildingBloc is a California-based collective of artists dedicated to using art to explore social inequalities. They sponsor the Artist Pen-Pal Mutual Aid Project, which pairs incarcerated writers and artists with outside mentors to publish a magazine of their work, "Paper Thin Walls". BuildingBloc's website says, "Through experimentation, collaboration, and performance, we inform, provoke, and inspire ourselves and our audiences. We aim to spark dialogue, to create and sustain relationships between artists and community organizations, to support existing struggles for social justice, and to erase the boundaries between art and activism."

Folded Word
Independent literary press with a special interest in adapting short written works into a variety of electronic media. One of their projects is Shape of a Box, the first YouTube poetry journal, which features videos by poets such as Ellaraine Lockie, Dan Nowak, and Pris Campbell.

Johnmichael Simon
Website of Israeli poet Johnmichael Simon, author of Sonatina and other collections, and co-editor (with Helen Bar-Lev) of the poetry journal Cyclamens & Swords.

Massachusetts Poetry Festival
This annual celebration of Massachusetts poets and small presses is held every October. The festival is based in Lowell, Mass., and also includes events around Boston, Worcester, Amherst, and the Berkshires. Videos from the festival are available on their YouTube channel: presenters include Rhina Espaillat, Robert Pinsky, Nick Flynn, and Martin Espada.

Monkeys Tapping
This amateur poetry forum seeks to encourage collaborative writing and playful self-expression in the haiku form. Sign up for free to begin posting haiku and responding to others' poems. Users can "branch" a haiku—in other words, create a new version of the haiku based on the first line (or first two lines) that a previous author wrote. This feature makes it possible to create a virtually infinite number of haiku based on a single starting line; just like monkeys tapping at a typewriter.

Prisons Foundation
The Prisons Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that promotes the arts and education in prison and alternatives to incarceration. Visit the gallery page of their website to view and purchase original work by incarcerated artists.

Self Editing Blog
Brief articles by professional editor John Robert Marlow offer advice on spotting and fixing common problems with your novel, screenplay or nonfiction book. Topics include character names and the proper use of flashbacks and coincidences.

Susan Tepper
Website of Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and fiction writer Susan Tepper, author of DEER and Other Stories (Wilderness House Press, 2009) and the poetry chapbook Blue Edge (Cervena Barva Press, 2006).

The Pedestal Magazine
Online journal of poetry, fiction, reviews, and artwork, edited by poet and songwriter John Amen. They also accept submissions of "slam" poetry performances (send as MP3 files). Contributors have included Jim Redmond, Nathan Leslie, Arlene Ang, JoSelle Vanderhooft, and Linda Leedy Schneider.

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.



Crazy Love
By Pamela Uschuk. This poetry collection is enlivened by twin passions for social justice and the beauties of the Colorado landscape. In these poems, nature always provides a restorative place of peace and abundance when the wartime news becomes overwhelming. Uschuk is the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Cutthroat.

First Rain
By Francine Witte. The poems in this chapbook are spare yet filled with longing, like the empty rooms in an Edward Hopper painting. Their narrators reach for the unsentimental wisdom to be found on the far side of divorce, aging, and other losses. This collection won the 2009 Pecan Grove Press National Chapbook Competition. High-quality book design enhances the appeal.

What We Have Learned to Love
By Charlie Bondhus. Raw, tender poems of gay male love and lust, and the blurry line between them. This chapbook won the 2008-09 Stonewall Competition from BrickHouse Books.

XX Eccentric: Stories About the Eccentricities of Women
Edited by S. Craig Renfroe, Jr. This short fiction anthology from Main Street Rag celebrates the creativity and perseverance of women who don't play by normal rules. The eclectic cast of characters includes an HIV-positive senior citizen, a spunky lesbian drama teacher fighting her school's bureaucracy, and a teenage girl with a crush on Abe Lincoln.



Alibris Coupons
New, used and out-of-print books, college textbooks and bargains. Order at least $49 of books shipping from Alibris and they'll ship for free.

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.



by Rita J. Traub

This is a song in praise of creations,
a tribute to all documents created on computers:
business, financial and legal documents,
letters to the editor, scholarly dissertations,
products of research and thought,
love letters, poetry, essays,
whimsical stories for children,
creations of dream and imagination,
of soul and emotion.

You documents typed on computers,
edited and revised continually
only to be ultimately deleted:
I am not Walt Whitman;
I have no sprig of lilac to give you.
A funeral train is not included
anywhere in the hardware or software.
I bring you to crackling life for an instant
with a murmur of my printer,
reject you as imperfect,
and with one proficient click obliterate you.

I am a witch wielding a deadly wand
sending you off to instant oblivion.
Transitory creations of a technology
I dabble in but barely comprehend,
don't think our kinship goes unrecognized:
I too am imperfect, vulnerable, discardable.
Your murderer feels remorse.
Acknowledge me, creations now destroyed.
Grant me forgiveness from the cool blank screen!

Copyright 2009 by Rita J. Traub

This poem won an honorable mention from Lucidity Poetry Journal and was published in their Summer 2009 issue.


by Tim Mayo

A few plots over, a mower buzzes in the heat
like a bee working the flowers for its queen.
What does one say at the grave of someone so
important you wouldn't be here except for her
and the choices she couldn't make? How in her life
she had to flee the Old Testament wrath of her father
and leave the garden hive of her innocence. How in your life
you must thank her for the accident of your birth—
what does one say at such a stranger's grave?

I try to whisper a few words. Dry, fine as pollen,
they still catch in my throat. They feel as foreign
as a language I've never spoken, as foreign as here
(where I've never been before) among the bees where
she rests as if waiting for some sweet yes I never
said, some offering that life might mean for me
what it never had for her. So I disgorge my sorry
words for all I may have held against her, for all I've
held against the world, then do my dance and leave.

Copyright 2009 by Tim Mayo

This poem is reprinted from his collection The Kingdom of Possibilities, which was published this April by Mayapple Press.


Breaking the Spell
by Ellen LaFleche

After delivering three babies—a royal heir, two spares—Cinderella needed a shoehorn to fit into her glass slippers. Every month, her feet puffed up like enchanted pastries. This was trouble. She needed to slenderize her ankles, trim the fat from her toes. Slim-Fast for breakfast. Salad for dinner. The rumors started: anorexia, bulimia, crash diet. The paparazzi went into a feeding frenzy. The prince whisked Cinderella off to a mental hospital. She rode for three days in that familiar orange limousine. The asylum had towers, grim-faced guards. Just like the royal palace. A nurse put Cinderella in a room, told her to weave potholders from loops of yarn. Easier to spin straw into gold. The group therapy sessions were even worse. The women hated Cinderella. After all, she was the reason they believed in happily-ever-after. When I was little, a woman cried, I was Cinderella for Halloween. Look at me now. Needle tracks on my arm. AIDS in my blood. Cinderella cringed. She took off the crown that sparkled on her head like a ring of birthday-cake candles. Cinderella began to speak. She had secrets of her own. Her beauty was a sorcerer's trick. Her royal gown—spun from a magician's wand. And her husband? A regular Prince Cheating. The women laughed, they nodded. Every time she told a truth, Cinderella's feet grew and grew. Soon they were big as Darling Clementine's. The enchanted slippers broke open like glass cocoons. Cinderella walked on bare soles to the refreshment table. She put on a donut on the fluted paper plate. Her teeth shifted in her mouth, uneven as a row of crooked little houses. No matter. Cinderella bit into that donut. The chocolate filling was sweet in her mouth, so sweet.

Copyright 2009 by Ellen LaFleche

This poem was accepted for publication on the Burning Bush Publications website.


Advertise to 25,000 Poets and Writers
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From the website of
    Why Literacy is Important

    In the United States, an estimated 30 million people over the age of 16 read no better than the average elementary school child. Worldwide, nearly 800 million adults are illiterate in their native languages; two-thirds of them are women. Yet the ability to read and write is the basis for all other education; literacy is necessary for an individual to understand information that is out of context, whether written or verbal. Literacy is essential if we are to eradicate poverty at home and abroad, improve infant mortality rates, address gender inequality, and create sustainable development. Without literacy skills—the abilities to read, to write, to do math, to solve problems, and to access and use technology—today's adults will struggle to take part in the world around them and fail to reach their full potential as parents, community members, and employees.

    ADULTS NEED STRONG LITERACY SKILLS raise children who have strong literacy skills

      In the U.S. — Learning to read begins long before a child enters school. It begins when parents read to their children, buy their children books, and encourage their children to read. The research is clear: parents who are poor readers don't read as often to their children as do parents who are strong readers; children who are not read to enter school less prepared for learning to read than other children.

      Internationally — Educated mothers in developing countries are more likely to send their children to school than non-educated mothers. be good employees

      In the U.S. — The employees most in demand in the U.S. have at least a two-year college degree. Workers must be able to read safety regulations and warnings so they and their co-workers can stay safe on the job. And working in a team means that employees must be able to communicate clearly with one another.

      Internationally — In developing countries, math literacy skills help people taking part in micro-enterprise programs to manage their businesses. keep themselves and their families healthy

      In the U.S. — Understanding a doctor's orders, calculating how much medicine to take, reading disease-prevention pamphlets—all are ways adults can keep themselves and their families healthy. But millions of adults lack these essential "health literacy" skills, which adds an estimated $230 billion a year to the cost of health care in the U.S.

      Internationally — Teaching adults in developing countries to read as they are shown how they can prevent disease has helped reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, trained community first-aid practitioners, and led to more sanitary drinking water supplies. be active in their communities

      In the U.S. — Political campaigns in the U.S. often stress the need for "informed voters". But how can an individual be well informed if he or she cannot access written campaign literature or read newspaper coverage of the issues and candidates? The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, showed that low literate adults are less likely to vote than strong readers, but become more active in their communities as their reading and writing skills improve. avoid crime

      In the U.S. — There is a clear correlation between adult illiteracy and crime. More than 45 percent of all inmates in local jails, 40 percent in state facilities, and 27 percent in federal corrections institutions did not graduate from high school. Inmates age 24 and younger are less educated.

ProLiteracy Worldwide ProLiteracy 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.

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This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present "Lantana Camara, Spreading Sunset" by Delia Corrigan.

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!

Lantana Camara, Spreading Sunset
by Delia Corrigan

I bought you, lantana plant,
because you are drought tolerant—
or is it drought resistant? I forget.
Your pointed label reads SATISFYING

The defiant flames of your gold and orange
clusters force me to stare
Looking ahead, I wager that your five pound
maturity can handle neglect

Spreading Sunset, you grow on me.

I knew I would leave, doubtful
the occupants after me would stop to stoke
your star-like blooms
or lean closer to attend each berry,
red, purple, charred rippled black
ripening toward poison,
changing colors with mood

Renters' sandals slap their beat
on painted gray planks and
drown out your quiet
restless offerings

Vacation a mere week—they almost water you,
the drought-tolerant plant right there on the steps
I knew all this but I bought you anyway
placing my momentary pleasure
above your very existence

Sunsets spread, spread, gold and orange
I return to your blooms, paper ashes
Your leaves clench against the heat.
I try to revive stalky ugliness but your hardened
roots reject my water offering.
No longer a sprawling potted plant, you have become
something a car would whiz by
or a mower would run over.
Lantana camara, spreading sunset.

Next morning I kneel and water again
you cautiously begin to unfasten.
Fruit and bloom are silent, but your leaves—
Were they always so cilia-soft to touch?
Veins like roadmaps stretch out, no longer cloistered
they accept drops of sun offering
As if to say, "I don't care what you think."

Copyright 2009 by Delia Corrigan

Critique by Jendi Reiter

I chose this month's poem, Delia Corrigan's "Lantana Camara, Spreading Sunset", because it illustrates poetry's gift for exploring the universal through the particular. A good poem can devote itself to a small object or event, and by looking at it more closely than we do in everyday life, reveal something of broader significance about human nature. Some examples are Theodore Roethke's "The Geranium" and Stephen Dobyns' "Indifference to Consequence". The poem shows the fractal qualities of its subject matter, replicating in miniature our higher-level patterns of interaction.

Occasionally, Corrigan's poem lapses into an overly colloquial or prosy voice, which is a common problem for contemporary writers of narrative free verse. These "off" notes are most noticeable in her opening and closing stanzas. While I think "Lantana Camara" needs a bit more work before it's ready for professional publication, I decided to feature it in the newsletter because the descriptions of the plant and the woman's evolving relationship to it are so vivid and well-observed, containing complex shifts of emotion in the space of a few lines.

Through the narrator's decision to purchase a plant for her temporary lodgings, we are invited to consider the anonymity and transience of our interactions with others in this highly mobile society, and how this situation can make us selfish. The narrator wants to believe the puffery on the plant's label ("HARDY, INDIGENOUS, INVASIVE") because it relieves her of responsibility for taking care of the plant she's picked out for her short-term enjoyment. She doesn't bother learning whether the lantana is "drought tolerant" or "drought resistant", or if there's a meaningful difference. Quotes from advertising can be an effective way to inject dramatic irony into a poem, since ad-speak tries to force words into a single unambiguously positive meaning, while poetry is about teasing out the ambiguities and unlikely associations between words....

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