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"Stradivari's Ghost Speaks to the Future" by Charlotte Muse

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June 2011

One of the "101 Best Websites for Writers"
Writer's Digest, 2005-2011

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

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



Robert Frost Foundation 15th 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 15th Annual Award. The winner will receive $1,000 and an invitation to present the winning poem on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at the Frost Festival located at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The theme of the 15th Annual Festival is "Robert Frost and the Art of the Sonnet".

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 Both published and unpublished works are accepted.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 and more on recent winners.

Please enjoy "Tapping Time" by M.T. Corrigan, a finalist in our 2010 competition.
Tapping Time
by M.T. Corrigan

She, who can't plumb the blank in him,
Or the shadows at the pond's far edge,
Tarries for breath at the fallen limb
To hear his saw or tap and sledge,

To guide her down the right woods road
With his old thermos, meat and cake.
When last she'd walked here, summer rode
Sered fields, with the hay left to rake—

But now, cold burns, and the gray snow's
Shrunken as pride, though spring—just think!—
Must someday come. And so she goes
Along the cut with the food and drink

That men mistake for comfort—pain
Deferred and cravings slaked. "So good!"
He'll affirm to the cold March rain—
As if tapped maples understood.

All entries that win cash prizes in these contests will be published on (over one million page views per year) and announced in the Winning Writers Newsletter, with over 35,000 subscribers.

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse Last Call!
Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Postmark Deadline: June 30
Now in its eighth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. Prizes of $3,000, $1,000, $400 and $250 will be awarded, plus six Most Highly Commended Awards of $150 each. The entry fee is $7 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. 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 ninth year, this contest seeks poems in any style, theme or genre. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. Prizes of $3,000, $1,000, $400 and $250 will be awarded, plus six Most Highly Commended Awards of $150 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.


Congratulations to Jenny Sanders. Her poem "Mama's Little Heartbreaker" won an honorable mention in the 2011 Vivienne Haigh-Wood Prize from the journal Melusine, or Woman in the 21st Century. This $500 prize, open to both men and women, seeks "carefully crafted, thought-provoking work that explores all angles of the contemporary female experience". The most recent deadline was March 1. Read this poem and our critique here.

Congratulations to Karen Spolin-Shivley. Her poem "His Love" won first prize in the Spring 2011 Lucidity Poetry Journal Clarity Awards. She kindly shares it with us below. This twice-yearly free contest offers prizes up to $100 for poems in any form dealing with people and interpersonal relationships. The next submission period will be July 1-September 30.

Congratulations to Charlotte Muse. Her poem "Nocturne" won the 2011 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize from Passages North, the literary journal of Northern Michigan University. This $1,000 prize is offered in odd-numbered years only; the most recent submission period was October 15, 2010-February 15, 2011. In addition, her poem "Stradivari's Ghost Speaks to the Future" won an International Publication Award in the Poetry 2010 International Poetry Competition from Atlanta Review. She kindly shares it with us below. The most recent deadline for this $1,000 prize was March 1. Charlotte says, "Thank you for the wonderful service you provide. I tell all my poet friends about Winning Writers."

Winning Writers Poetry Reviewer Tracy Koretsky's poems "It's About" and "after the storm..." were accepted for the May/June 2011 issue of THIS Literary Magazine. Her essay "The Intentional Ellipses: Haiku and its Relationship to Space" appeared in Notes from the Gean: A Journal of Japanese Short Forms. The essay is a reprint that previously won first place in the 2004 Springfield Writers Guild competition and an honorable mention in the 2005 CNW/FFWA Florida State Writing Competition.

Fred McGavran's short story collection The Butterfly Collector (Black Lawrence Press, 2009) has strong reviews in the May issues of World Literature Today and The Federal Lawyer. The Federal Lawyer is a monthly magazine for members of the Federal Bar Association, lawyers who practice federal law. Published by the University of Oklahoma, World Literature Today is a monthly review of writing by and reviews of writers from around the world. In other news, Fred's story "A Photograph from the Permanent Collection" is featured in the Art From Art anthology (Modernist Press, 2011). You can read the story on the Modernist Press website. is serializing his novella Dead Soldiers by Nikolai Gogol.

Janet Hartman's story "Cairn Mind Meld", about her special bond with her cairn terrier, was published in the anthology Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life, released in April.

Rohan Facey's poetry collection The Unusual Echo is now available from Strategic Book Publishing Company. This book spans themes such as love, hope, tragedy, social issues and the struggles that human beings encounter from day to day. It also brings to the fore the uncanny ability of the human spirit to triumph over adversity.

Katherine Walker, Steven Glazebrook, Joe Massingham, Lee Nelson, Shirley Smothers, and Christine Burke were among the Winning Writers subscribers whose work was selected for Ysabel de la Rosa's Getting Along with Grief blog, a site that features literary responses to bereavement and loss. Ysabel extends her thanks to all the writers who have sent "beautiful, meaningful and helpful pieces". Visit her blog for current submission themes, which include "tribute to fathers" for June and "tributes to loved ones in the military" for July.


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 1,250+ active poetry and prose contest profiles. Search and sort contests by deadline, prize, fee, recommendation level and more. We don't just list contests, we point you to the ones that will gain the most attention for your work, whether you are just starting out or are well-established. Exclusive interviews with contest judges and editors help you understand how your submissions are evaluated.

We update Poetry Contest Insider nearly every day. Be among the first to learn about new contests and late deadline changes. Access to Poetry Contest Insider is just $9.95 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. Learn more about Poetry Contest Insider.
"Just recently, after following one of your newsletter leads, I found that I was lucky enough to win The Tennessee Williams 25th Literary Prize for Poetry. The award included $1,000 and publication of four of my poems in Louisiana Cultural Vistas! In addition, after following another lead, I just received word that I am a finalist in the 2011 Pablo Neruda Poetry Contest sponsored by Nimrod magazine. (The winner is to be announced in mid-June.) I thank you and your staff for helping to make such good news possible for me and other poets by sorting through the plethora of sources and updating deadlines. (A truly dizzying task.)"
Patricia (Pat) Hawley, Washington

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


Deadlines: June 16-July 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.

6/24: Costa Book Awards +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 25
Highly recommended free contest offers a top prize of 30,000 pounds, plus prizes of 5,000 pounds in each genre, for books first published in the UK or Ireland by authors who have lived in the UK or Ireland for at least six months of each of the preceding three years. Awards given in the genres of poetry, novel, first novel, biography, and children's literature. Books must have been published between November 1 of the previous year and October 31 of the current year. Must be submitted by publisher.

6/30: Ekphrasis Editor's Award +
Neutral free contest offers $500 for the best poems published in Ekphrasis, a venerable literary journal specializing in poems about other works of art. Submit 3-5 poems as part of the regular submission process. All poems published in the journal during the calendar year are considered for the award. No simultaneous submissions, but previously published poems are eligible.

6/30: John Glassco Translation Prize +
Neutral free contest offers C$1,000 for an author's first book-length translation into French or English, published in Canada during the previous calendar year; work may be poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or children's book (all genres compete together). Contest is open to Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.

6/30: SPS Studios Poetry Card Contest +
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $300 and web publication for poems suitable for a greeting card. No length limit specified, but shorter poems (one page) are probably best. Enter by mail or online.

6/30: Utah Arts Council Original Writing Competition +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly June 24
Recommended free contest for Utah residents offers prizes up to $1,000 for book-length novels, autobiography/biography, story collections, and juvenile literature, plus smaller awards for individual poems, stories, and essays. Manuscript prizes are for authors with no published books in the genre they are entering; other prizes are open to all. Entries must be received by 5pm local time. Enter online only.

7/3: Ishar Singh Student Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly July 4
Neutral free contest for Canadian students in grades 1-12 offers top prize of C$100 in each of 5 age categories. Send 5 copies of a 1-page poem, one copy with contact information and the others anonymous. Sponsored by the Eden Mills Writers' Festival. Themes change annually. 2011 contest is open-themed.

7/22: FIL Literature Prize in Romance Languages +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly July 30
Highly recommended free contest offers $150,000 lifetime achievement award (by nomination only) for a writer whose work is in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Galician, Catalan, French, or Romanian. This is one of several awards sponsored by the Guadalajara International Book Fair. Formerly known as the Juan Rulfo Latin American and Caribbean Literary Award, changed name in 2009.

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. For the 2012 (2011 deadline) contest, the book must have been published in the US or Canada between spring 2010 and spring 2011. Selection process favors recipients of major first-book awards.

7/25: Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly July 31
Highly recommended free contest offers 1,000 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: 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 other prizes. Online entries accepted.

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 two 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 scholarly works, children's literature, or genre fiction. Accepts online entries.

7/31: Marie Alexander Poetry Series Book Contest ++
Don't enter before July 1
Recommended free contest offers $500 and publication for a book-length collection of prose poems by a US author, at least 48 single-spaced pages. Send one copy by regular mail and another copy by email as an MS Word or PDF file. The Marie Alexander Poetry Series is an imprint of White Pine Press, a well-regarded small press.

7/31: Mary Dillow Stewart Prize +
Neutral free contest from Kestrel, the literary journal of Fairmont State University in West Virginia, offers $250 for the best story, poem, or essay published in the journal each year by an emerging writer. No separate submission process; all published work is considered for the award (one prize across all genres). There are two submission periods during the year but only one annual prize. Send 3-5 poems or one prose piece, 5,000 words maximum.

7/31: Stone Canoe Annual Awards +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers prizes of $500 apiece for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and technical essays that contribute to the public's understanding of engineering and technology. Winners will be published in Stone Canoe, the Syracuse University literary journal. Entrants must have a first-person connection to upstate New York, but the subject matter of the submission does not need to involve the area. Typical personal connections can include growing up, attending college or an artist's residency, or being employed in the region. Award is for work already published in the journal. No separate application process; all submissions are automatically considered for the prize. Submit 3-5 poems, or one prose piece up to 10,000 words, through their online submission manager.

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 — Grants, contests, markets and publishing calls for submissions. Over 35,000 readers. Chosen by Writer's Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers commendation for 2001-2011. Eleven years of recognized excellence.

From a grateful reader:
I received an honorable mention for my screenplay from the Fort Bend Writer's Guild First 10 Screenplay competition. I was also offered a partial fellowship through the Vermont Studio Center. If it wasn't for your wonderful, informative newsletter—this wouldn't have been possible.

Carpe Articulum Literary Review

Welcome to Carpe Articulum Literary Review!
This issue is a one-of-a-kind collector's issue. It features close friends and family of the late film icon, Elizabeth Taylor, special interviews and great art, guest appearances by Dr. Wilton Dillon, Senior Scholar Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution, and David Halloran, Dartmouth College, a farewell to the talented Jack Sheridan—first discovered here at CALR—the announcements of the CALR Short Fiction/Novella awards, STUNNING photography and so much more!
Carpe Articulum Literary Review Short Fiction/Novella Competition 2011 Winners
WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO SUBSCRIBE! Only through your support can we continue to bring these world voices! Click for a sample: ONE FREE ELECTRONIC ISSUE of our print publication! THIS IS A ONE-TIME gift of last quarter's issue featuring an exclusive interview with LORD (CHARLES) SPENCER, NINTH EARL SPENCER, about the literary festival at his ancestral home, The Althorp Estate, his favourite reads, and his sister Princess Diana's charitable legacy. (For best performance, please keep your mouse pointer off the magazine pages while they download.)

WANT TO BE A PART? Send your ideas, editorials, and questions for the editor to and you can get published in this international review! The best commentaries, articles, and questions for the editor will be included. Please register at our website, then make your submission. NO SUBMISSIONS ARE COMPLETE WITHOUT REGISTRATION, THANK YOU!

We give away $10,000 every year to outstanding writers and artists and hope you will decide to become a member of our literary family. Enter our fiction, non-fiction, poetry, novella and photography contests at any time of year. If you miss a deadline, your entry will automatically roll over for the next cycle.

The magazine is 150-200 pages of full-colour delight, translated into five languages. We feature short fiction, poetry, informative articles, photography, non-fiction and incredible interviews with hot up-and-coming writers as well as iconic ones such as Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, George Lucas (Star Wars, Indiana Jones), Ray Harryhausen (father of motion picture special effects), Ray Bradbury (author of Fahrenheit 451), Jodi Picoult (author of Change of Heart, Handle With Care, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister's Keeper which was made into a major motion picture with Cameron Diaz) and Nicholas Sparks (author of Message in a Bottle, also made into a motion picture with Kevin Costner & Robin Wright Penn, as well as The Notebook, The Last Song, etc.) And that was just last October's issue!

We hope you will join us and become a vital part of our literary family—without you, none of this is possible nor necessary. Become a cherished reader today!

No time to write AND make submissions? Try Writer's Relief!

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Writer's Relief You don't have to tackle the submission process alone! We have a service for every budget. You can get 25+ submissions to the best-suited agents/editors within three days.

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Click for an overview of our services

Our detailed database of literary agents and editors includes many who are actively reading during the summer and fall months. Our clients include writers of all levels—from major literary award winners/nominees to new writers with strong voices. To learn more about our clientele, visit our website.

NO TIME TO WRITE? Services include: targeting the best-suited agents/editors, composing cover/query letters with client approval, proofreading and formatting submissions, preparing mailing labels, providing an electronic submission report, individually addressing printed cover/query letters, tracking all submissions including any editorial comments, providing a personal submission strategist for consulting, and more.

NOTE: Writers who wish to regularly submit are encouraged to apply to join our invitation-only Full Service program. Submission guidelines are available on our website. Consideration is free.
Or call toll-free 866-405-3003

Autumn House Poetry and Fiction Prizes 2011

PhatSalmon Poetry Contest

Dream Quest One Closing Next Month
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.

We are proud to present this excerpt from "The Seagull" by Dee Robinson of Yachats, Oregon, the second-prize short story in our Winter 2010-2011 contest:
She had spent too many years trying to make sense of all the things she did right in her career and life only to have them turned against her. She had time and time again tried to resolve within herself the unfairness of her destiny and to release the bitterness in her heart. She was particularly insulted that a few small town bullies who led the rest of the sheep in constructing her persecution had so easily destroyed her twenty-year career. Small town politics had done her in. If she had been foiled by greater minds, she could at least maintain her self-esteem. Her adversaries had successfully blackballed her career. Determined to survive for her children's sake, Diane had tried unsuccessfully for ten years to re-invent herself in the job market. She had even sunk low enough to attend beauty school. Ultimately, she was reduced to working minimum wage jobs in the same town where everyone knew her. She endured the humiliation of going from a high profile, successful city administrator to a store clerk. Now, she couldn't even find that...

Click for the full story

Bend by Natasha Sajé Tupelo Press July Open Submission Period
Throughout July, Tupelo Press will hold open submissions for book-length poetry collections (48-90 pages) and chapbook-length poetry collections (30-47 pages). Submissions are accepted from anyone writing in the English language (whether in the United States or abroad). Please read these complete guidelines before submitting your work:

Include two cover pages (all within the same document). One cover page with the manuscript title, your name and contact information, including address, phone number and email address. The other cover page with just the manuscript title.

There is a reading fee of $28 for each manuscript submitted, which can be sent via check payable to Tupelo Press or you can make a payment via PayPal. Again, see the complete guidelines for details.

We accept manuscripts in two ways: on paper and electronically. Click to submit electronically via our Submission Manager. Mail paper manuscripts to:

     July Open Submissions
     Tupelo Press
     P.O. Box 1767
     North Adams, MA 01247

You may also include a self-addressed postcard for acknowledgment of receipt of your manuscript and SASE for notification. Manuscripts will not be returned. You may include an acknowledgments page listing previously published poems. If you send a paper manuscript and pay via PayPal, please include a copy of the PayPal receipt with your manuscript.

We look forward to reading your work!

Here is a poem by Natasha Sajé from Bend (Tupelo Press, 2004):
by Natasha Sajé

She thought of her libido as a bird
in the house, blue-feathered,
with a spun sugar beak. What it lived on
was a mystery, although the house
smelled of bitter almonds, and when it rained
the walls were sticky with syrup.
In the attic it beat its wings against
the glass of the one tiny window.

No one could see it
unless they happened to be staring
in, with binoculars. As far as she could tell,

no one ever did, although some people
are like cats when it comes to birds. She herself
grew whiskers from thinking about it.

2011 Rattle Poetry PrizeRattle Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: August 1

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize offers $5,000 for a single poem, plus $100 each to fifteen finalists. Now in its sixth year, the competition has added a twist: In 2011 the final judge could be you. Fifteen finalists will be selected in a blind review by the editors and published in the winter issue of Rattle magazine; the winner will then be chosen by entrant and subscriber vote. This is a new way to make the competition even more writer-friendly. Consider also:
  • The first prize is one of the largest in the world for a single, unpublished poem.
  • Fifteen poets receive prize money and publication.
  • Additional poems are frequently offered publication, as well.
  • The finalists are announced just six weeks after the deadline, on September 15 each year, with no delays.
  • The finalists are judged in a blind review, and the editors personally read every poem submitted.
  • The entry fee is simply a one-year subscription to the magazine (two issues).
Entries are accepted by email or hard copy. For full guidelines, or to read the winning poems from previous years, visit

Please enjoy Chris Anderson's "Living the Chemical Life", honorable mention in the 2007 Rattle Poetry Prize:
Living the Chemical Life
by Chris Anderson

I have to admit that I don't care about the historical Jesus.
One way or the other.
I've always thought there were larger forces at work.
The sun and the wind. The sadness that comes in the afternoon.
Did you know that our bones are only 10 years old?
No matter how old we are, it's always the same.
Something to do with cells, I guess. With regeneration.
There are miracles like this all over the place,
in everybody's bloodstream, and that's alright with me.
Doris Day was once marooned on an island with another man.
Years went by and her husband, James Garner,
was about to marry another woman. Polly Bergen.
But then Doris came back and sang a lullaby to her kids,
then tucked them into bed. And they didn't even know who she was.
I think that life is just like this.
Sometimes we are the stone and the Spirit is the river.
Sometimes we are the mountain and the Spirit is the rain.

Pavement Saw: Transcontinental Poetry Award for First or Second BooksTranscontinental Poetry Award for First or Second Books
Postmark Deadline: August 15
A prize of $1,000, publication by Pavement Saw Press, and 50 author copies are given annually for a first or second poetry collection. Poets who have not published a book, who have published one collection, or who have published a second collection of fewer than 40 pages, or who have published a second full-length collection with a print run of no more than 500 copies are eligible. More than one prize may be awarded.

Mail a manuscript of 48 to 70 pages with a $20 entry fee for US and Canadian entries, $23 for mailed overseas entries, or $27 to submit electronically (all entries, worldwide), by August 15. All entrants receive Pavement Saw books, chapbooks and journals equal to, or more than, the entry fee. For the complete contest guidelines, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), visit our website, or email us.

Pavement Saw Press
Attn: Transcontinental Poetry Award
321 Empire Street
Montpelier, OH 43543

David Baratier, Editor

About Pavement Saw Press
Pavement Saw Press has been publishing steadily since the fall of 1993. Our books are published in runs of a thousand with some printed in library edition hardcovers, our chapbooks in runs of four hundred. We specialize in finding authors who have been widely published in literary journals but have not published a chapbook or full-length book. We are an eight-time Ohio Arts Council grant winner. Many well-known authors and editors have supported these titles including John Ashbery, James Tate, Franz Wright, Cornelius Eady, Jim Daniels, Edward Dorn, Leslie Scalapino, Harryette Mullen, Robert Kelly, and Billy Collins. Their praises appear on back covers, in reviews and in other support materials we use to market these books. Reviews and poem reprints have appeared in Poets & Writers, Poetry Daily, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Rain Taxi, Verse Daily, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Small Press Review, the AWP Chronicle, and many other fine publications.

Pavement Saw Press' authors have had subsequent full-length books appear from a bevy of publishers including New Directions, Ahsahta Press, Cleveland State University Press, Bear Star Press, Curbstone Press, New York Quarterly Press, Chax Press, BlazeVOX [books], Birds LLC, Shearsman Books, Red Hen Press, University of Georgia, Tupelo Press, Hanging Loose Press, Wings Press and many others. Authors from our press have won many other awards, notably the National Poetry Series and the Lambda Literary Award. In 2011, we will publish four full-length books and five chapbooks.

Snake Nation Press Snake Nation Press: Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry
Postmark Deadline: August 31
Now in its twenty-first year, Snake Nation Press announces the 2011 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 provides an informative, non-threatening venue for writers to submit their work in the midst of an often chaotically diverse publishing world. Over the 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.

Please enjoy "Or Just Miss" by Judith Hemschemeyer, part of her winning manuscript in our 2010 contest.
Or Just Miss
by Judith Hemschemeyer

Lovely how lives of the great overlap
or just miss. Between Dickinson's death
and Akhmatova's birth—a three-year gap.
Dickinson's ukase: "Tell all the truth
but tell it slant" was in capable hands.
Amherst was always Amherst,
but Akhmatova lived, and her work was banned, in protean St. Petersburg,
renamed Petrograd, then Leningrad,
as war and revolution swamped the land,
but not the soul of this "seaside girl". She had
"the great Russian word" at her command,
and had actually, to the astonishment
of Dickinson, seen camels in Tashkent.
Would they have talked of lovers? Which hurts most?
Starvation or betrayal and disgust?
Both, though, would have marveled at the little book
a convict in one of Stalin's gulags made
to hold Akhmatova poems he had by heart,
a fascicle bound with twine, the pages'
coarse paper somehow glued to birchbark.
"The twenty-first. Night. Monday." the first one starts.

Also at Snake Nation Press: Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
Postmark Deadline: August 31
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.

Please mail your entry and fee to:

     Snake Nation Press
     Attn: Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
     2920 North Oak Street
     Valdosta, GA 31602

Little Red Tree Publishing
The Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: October 15

Little Red Tree Publishing The International Poetry Prize, sponsored by Little Red Tree Publishing, includes a first prize of $1,000. The runner-up will receive $250 and five finalists will receive $50 each.

This prize is offered in response to demand for an opportunity to be associated with Little Red Tree by poets who have yet to develop a full collection. It is also an opportunity for Little Red Tree to extend its search and engage with quality poets from around the world who wish to be published.

The prizewinner, runner-up and other honorees will feature prominently, with full biographies, in a special collection called Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize 2011 - Anthology. The book will also include a wide selection of poetry from those submitted that did not make the final selection but were considered worthy of publication. We anticipate the book will contain as many as 80 poems, with a free copy to each poet published, and be published in early 2012 with a book launch in New London, CT.

All winners and published poets will be invited to read their poems. Download our complete guidelines (PDF), then send your poem(s) with a reading fee of $5 each to: Little Red Tree Publishing, LLC, Attn: The International Poetry Prize, 635 Ocean Avenue, New London, CT 06320. Congratulations to our 2010 winners Ed Frankel, Simon Peter Eggertsen, John Laue, William F. Lantry, Kaimana Wolff, Janet Ireland Trail, and Ellen LaFleche.

Little Red Tree Publishing
The Vernice Quebodeaux "Pathways" International Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: December 15

The Vernice Quebodeaux Prize, sponsored by Little Red Tree Publishing, includes a $1,000 cash award, publication of a full-length collection of poetry, and a generous royalty contract. All forms and styles are welcome.

The late Vernice Quebodeaux, born in Egan, LA (on the banks of the Bayou Plaquemine Brûlé), was a poet who spent a lifetime struggling with the demands of raising children, family feuds, bigotry, apathy, and indifference to her writing aspirations. On her death the beginnings of a book of poetry called Pathways was found by her daughter, Tamara Martin, and incorporated into a book, Sunday's in the South. We are honoring her life and cherished goals by creating this competition to recognize the specific unique voices of women poets.

All finalists will be considered for publication, with one selected as the prizewinner with a book published in 2012. Download our complete guidelines (PDF), then send your 80-100 page manuscript with a $20 reading fee to: Little Red Tree Publishing, LLC, Attn: The Vernice Quebodeaux International Prize, 635 Ocean Avenue, New London, CT 06320. Congratulations to our 2010 winner, Diana Woodcock.

Little Red Tree Publishing
Little Red Tree Publishing

Little Red Tree Publishing was established in 2006 and is based in New London, CT. Our mantra is simply to produce books that: Delight, entertain and educate.

We aim to publish about 12 books each year. This includes a full book of poetry from the Vernice Quebodeaux "Pathways" International Poetry Prize and an anthology from the Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize.

From humble beginnings, Little Red Tree has always seen its role, consistent with the finest traditions of small independent publishing, as preserving and expanding the dwindling opportunities for previously unpublished poets and established poets to publish a full collection of poetry. It is our aim that each book attains the highest standards both aesthetically and artistically. Our aesthetic stance is one of quality in all aspects of the content and the physical appearance of our books. We feel passionately that well-crafted and accessible poetry should be celebrated and presented as such with conviction and confidence. Therefore, all our books are coffee-table size, 7" by 10"—an emphatic statement of intent and a celebration of the poetry.

Our commitment to the individual poet and their work is undivided, and they are involved in every decision until their collection is complete, the book is finished and ready for printing.

We look forward to reading your wonderful poetry.

Open City's 2011 RRofihe Trophy Short Story ContestOpen City's 2011 RRofihe Trophy Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: October 15
8th year! The RRofihe Trophy for an unpublished short story! Limit: 5,000 words. Winner receives: $500, trophy, an announcement on the Open City website, followed by publication on the website. Judge: Rick Rofihe, assisted by 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 or on
  • Mail submissions to:
         270 Lafayette Street, Suite 705
         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 epiphanyzine, slushpilemag and fictionaut. His nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, SPY, and The East Hampton Star, and on mrbellersneighborhood. A recipient of the Whiting Writers' Award, he has taught MFA writing at Columbia University. He currently teaches privately in New York City, and is an advisor to The Vilcek Foundation for their 2011 prizes in the field of literature. Rick is the editor of the new online literary journal,

Please enjoy this excerpt from the 2010 trophy winner, "The Wrong Heaven", by Amy Bonnaffons:
...On TV once, I saw an elephant and a dog who were best friends despite their different sizes; the elephant rubbed the dog's belly with its foot. A woman in my church had a horseback-riding accident and saw the white light at the end of the tunnel, and after they brought her back she was able to accurately predict the results of every mid-term senate election. My brother James had a spiritual conversion in his twenties and is now a full-fledged member of the Apache Nation. Anything can happen.

This is why my students like me, why I consistently receive the highest ratings of any second-grade teacher at Two Trees Elementary: I believe the world is malleable, that our understanding of it is provisional, improvised, subject to a change of rules at any time, that sometimes the magician pulls out the tablecloth and the dishes all stay in place, and sometimes the magician pulls out the tablecloth and everything is gone, including the table. I don't tell the children how things are. I don't condescend.

But lately, it's all too much. I'm starting to believe that maybe, like other adults, I should start pretending to know more than I do. I don't know a single other adult who recently woke up in gin-stiffened clothes clutching a rubber martini-shaped dog toy. I would not wish this on anyone.


That day, one of my students turned eight. Her mother brought in cupcakes for everyone. There were so many allergies in the room that parents weren't allowed to bring in anything with peanuts, wheat, sugar, milk, pineapple, shellfish, strawberries, soy, or Red Dye #9. Among other things. What remained was basically spelt flour and water. The cupcakes were made with spelt flour and water and they tasted like spelt flour and water. The children and I played a game while eating them where we imagined a world without allergies. We discussed what we would eat for people's birthdays in this allergy-free world.

"Chicken nuggets," said one.

"Soy sauce," said another.

"Red eggs and ham," said the child allergic to red dye.

"What if there was this magic dinosaur," said Maddox, my favorite, "That ate everything in the world and vomited it back up, but its vomit was actually really delicious food with no allergies?"

Caroline N. raised her hand. "What would the dinosaur keep in its stomach?"

"Excuse me?" I said.

"If it vomits everything up, it doesn't get to keep anything in its own stomach."

"I guess it dies," said Maddox. He looked stricken. He clearly had not considered this question.

"Like my caterpillar," said Josephine. "My caterpillar died."

"My baby brother died," said David G., "before he was born."

I looked out at the sea of faces grown round with fear, spelt crumbs strewing them like dark freckles. "Nobody dies for real, ever," I pronounced. "There's just a different place where dead people go. Like how we can't see Ms. McClosky's class right now, but we know they're next door."

They looked relieved, even hopeful. Ms. McClosky's class was the non-remedials.

Writer's Digest Short Story Writing Competition Writer's Digest Short Short Writing Competition
Postmark Deadline: November 15

Ahhh, summer.
Long, sizzling days. Long, cold showers.
Short, erratic tempers and even shorter shorts!

Plop down in some AC and get thinking about your next short story to enter in the Writer's Digest Short Short Competition. Or start those tweaks to a personal favorite that you've been sitting on. Send us your best in 1,500 words or less and you could win $3,000 and a trip to the 2012 Writer's Digest Conference.

First Place: $3,000 and a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference
Second Place: $1,500
Third Place: $500
Fourth Through Tenth Place: $100
Eleventh Through Twenty-Fifth Place: $50 gift certificate for Writer's Digest Books



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

6/30: Drue Heinz Literature Prize +++
Highly recommended free contest for an unpublished book-length collection of short fiction (150-300 double-spaced pages) includes $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Open to writers who have published a book-length collection of fiction or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals of national distribution. Online publication does not count.

6/30: Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest from Hopewell Publications offers $500 and anthology publication for short fiction or essays (both genres compete together) up to 10,000 words. Enter online only. No simultaneous submissions. Deadlines are quarterly, but there is only one annual prize. You can enter one story per quarter. Enter by email only.

6/30: Goi Peace Foundation International Essay Contest for Young People ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers top prize of 100,000 yen (about $1,200) for short essays by children and youth on themes of cross-cultural reconciliation. Prizes awarded in age categories under-14 and 15-25. See website for details on the annual theme and formatting rules. Entries may be written in English, Spanish, German, French or Japanese. Accepts online or postal entries.

6/30: Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest from major literary publisher offers $12,000 for the best full-length manuscript of creative nonfiction by a US resident with at least one previously published book in any genre. Entries should be a minimum of 100 double-spaced pages. The 2011 prize is for a manuscript-in-progress.

6/30: Great Canadian Questions Essay Competition ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly May 7
Recommended free contest for Canadian high school seniors and college students ages 17-25 offers C$1,500 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. Enter online.

6/30: L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest +++
Highly recommended free contest for emerging writers of short science fiction, fantasy and horror offers quarterly prizes of $1,000 plus an annual $5,000 grand prize for one of the four winners. Send only one story per quarter, maximum 17,000 words. See website for eligibility rules. Entrants may not have professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.

6/30: National Intelligence Writing Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly November 1
Recommended free contest from the Naval Intelligence Professionals and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) offers a top prize of $3,000 for essays up to 2,000 words on the topic of major intelligence challenges. Formerly called the Naval Intelligence Essay Contest. No simultaneous submissions. Enter by email only.

6/30: The Nation Student Writing Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free essay contest for US high school and college students offers two top prizes of $1,000 and publication in The Nation, a prominent left-wing political and cultural magazine. Send one essay, maximum 800 words, on the theme "What do you think is the most serious issue facing your generation?" Enter by email only.

7/1: Asher Literary Award ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly July 16
Recommended free contest sponsored by the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne offers A$10,000 to female Australian authors for a book or dramatic work first published or performed within the last year in Australia that carries an anti-war message or theme. Offered in odd-numbered years only. Submit 3 copies of the application, including a current CV, 500-word artist statement and copy of the book or performance writing.

7/1: Richard J. Margolis Award ++
Recommended free contest offers a $5,000 stipend and a month-long residency at the Blue Mountain Center, a writers' and artists' colony in the Adirondacks in Blue Mountain Lake, New York, to a promising new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom and concern with social justice. Send at least two nonfiction pieces (published or unpublished), up to 30 pages total, with a short biographical note including a description of your current and anticipated work.

7/15: Bard Fiction Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers $30,000 for US authors aged 39 and under who have published a book of fiction. Winner also receives one-semester appointment as writer-in-residence at Bard College. Send 3 copies of book, proposal for new project, and CV.

7/15: HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest from British literary organization the Biographers' Club offers 5,000 pounds for a first biography, published between September 3 of the previous year and September 2 of the current deadline year. Publishers must submit three copies of the book to enter.

7/15: McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize ++
Recommended free contest sponsored by The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland offers $500 for a first novel published by a US author in the previous calendar year. Publishers or authors should submit 3 copies of book (no galleys).

7/25: Litro & IGGY International Young Persons Short Story Award ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers 2,500 pounds for short stories, 2,500 words maximum, by authors aged 11-19. Enter by email. Contest is cosponsored by the British literary journal Litro and the International Gateway for Gifted Youth (IGGY) at the University of Warwick.

7/29: Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly July 31
Recommended free contest offers 1,000 pounds for translators aged 16-34 with no more than one full-length published book of translation. ("Book" includes full-length dramatic works.) The prize will focus on a different language each year. In 2011, they are looking for translations from the Arabic of the story "Layl Qouti" by Mansoura Ez Eldin, an Egyptian writer.

7/29: Landfall Essay Competition ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly July 31
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 5pm 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 $1,500 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".

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.



Tupelo Press Poetry Project
Entries must be received by June 30; extended from May 31
Tupelo Press, a prestigious poetry publisher, periodically offers writing prompts based on classic or contemporary poems. The best submissions inspired by those prompts are featured on the website. For the spring 2011 poetry project, there is a submission fee of $15 and cash prizes up to $350, and the prompt is based on Dorset Prize finalist Anne Marie Rooney's poem "Last Evening: Index of First Lines". Chose one-to-three of those first lines as the first line of one-to-three of your own poems. What happens after that first line is entirely up to you. Enter through online submission manager.

Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont
Postmark Deadline: August 31
The editors of the literary journal Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont seek submissions of unpublished poems for an anthology that will be published in 2012 by The Blueline Press in Danby, VT and printed by the Shires Press at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. Editors say, "'Centered in Vermont' is not a residence requirement, nor do poems necessarily have to be set in Vermont. They should have some connection to the area, however, either descriptive or spiritual or both. All forms will be considered. We're interested in poetry of place, especially southwestern Vermont." Send 1-5 poems, maximum 70 lines each. No simultaneous submissions. See website for address and formatting.

Main Street Rag Short Fiction Anthologies
Entries must be received by September 15
Main Street Rag, a well-regarded small press in North Carolina, seeks submissions of short fiction for three upcoming themed anthologies: "Lists", "Tattoos", and "Secrets". For each anthology, you may submit one story, maximum 10,000 words, by email only. No simultaneous submissions. Previously published stories are eligible if they have not been published online or in the past 5 years (copyright date 2007) in another anthology, magazine or individual collection. See website for formatting guidelines and more information about each theme.



His Love
by Karen Spolin-Shivley

His love was so demanding,
so stingy and small...
and I was but a child trying hard
not to fall over all the rules I must
follow to stay in the "good girl" place,
and keep him in an approving mood
so I could be on the side of grace.

His time was so important,
for me never enough...
and I was young and needy
and wanted all the fluff,
but that wasn't the way of
it cause I was "daddy's girl",
and couldn't do those silly
things and remain his little pearl.

His views were all that mattered,
harsh and sometimes cruel...
and I was an impressionable girl playing
"yes man" to his fool. To stay on his
good side I always followed the rule
which fed my greedy neediness,
but left me eating gruel.

He's old now, and for him time
is running out...
and I am grown and on my own
and for me there is no doubt.
Mean and stingy loving leaves
holes within the heart,
and although I'm still "daddy's girl"
we long ago grew apart.

Now that life is near its end
and time is short
and rules are bent
and love's imprint is what
matters most...
I can finally give up the ghost
of special father, perfect man,
who lived his life within a plan.

The circle is back to where we began
with the child sitting beside the man...
giving him time to say good-bye,
listening to stories and letting him
cry about all his loss and pain
and wishes to do it over again.

I tell him "I understand"
and kiss his brow and hold his hand
and brush away the constant fear...
and tell him "Daddy's girl" is here.

Copyright 2011 by Karen Spolin-Shivley

This poem won first prize in the Spring 2011 Lucidity Poetry Journal Clarity Awards.


Stradivari's Ghost Speaks to the Future
by Charlotte Muse

Look for me
through the murky water of the years.
The sun comes in like a distant fire.
One of the fish in a school
is me.

Or imagine my shape as a cello, if you like,
with a shirt hung on it. Then arms, then legs.
Use any face you want—nobody ever painted mine.

Can you hear me?
I will call to Francesca or to one of the children.
Listen—I'll test an instrument. Listen.
I'm sitting at my bench on the roof in fine weather,
surrounded by shavings.
Below is the din of Cremona.
Do you see my tools laid out,
the violins wet with varnish drying on a rack?

I'm only asking you to imagine
what you yourself have heard and seen:
a man at work with his chisels and planes,
his patterns, his woods, his hands, his ears.

Each decision means work, refusals, time,
the wearying demands of perfection.
I made perfect things.

I made violins which hold the whole world.

But I beg you now, imagine a life for me:
the way Francesca could say Antonio
so that I heard nothing else,
the mornings when we stayed in bed
until the children climbed in laughing.
Days with the sun on the river and birds flying.
Please. Make me live for a moment
before I return to the tower of my name.
I was a man
until I turned to music.

Copyright 2011 by Charlotte Muse

This poem won an International Publication Award in the Poetry 2010 International Poetry Competition from Atlanta Review.


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Literacy Pioneers: Ruth J. Colvin
Ruth Colvin
For years, literacy as a global mission interested Ruth Johnson Colvin. When, in 1962, she learned there were over 11,000 people functioning at the lowest level of literacy in her own city of Syracuse, NY, she decided to do something about it. She started Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc.—one of the founding organizations of ProLiteracy.

Today, Mrs. Colvin continues to look for increasingly effective ways to teach both basic literacy and English as a second language. She stresses the importance of educationally sound learner-centered training of tutors and an ongoing support system. Her international work has included lectures and conferences, but she considers her most meaningful experiences to be those where she has trained and acted as a consultant in grass roots ventures.

With over 40 years of literacy experience in the U.S.A., nine published books, 29 awards/honors for her efforts, and hundreds of "people stories" from the 60 countries where she has worked or visited, Mrs. Colvin, a life member of ProLiteracy's Board of Directors, continues to be a source of inspiration and learning.

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



This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present "Breakfast's Lust" by Amber Davis. (Tracy Koretsky will return as the author of Critique Corner in July.)

If you would like a chance to be critiqued, please email your poem to 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!

Breakfast's Lust
by Amber Davis

A breakfast spread was
laid out on the table.
Coming down the stairs
in a purple robe flowing
light around my knees I
saw him happily reading
the paper. Out of the
corner of his eye he
spotted me urging me
into his arms.
I went to those arms facing
him while sitting down on
legs that cradled us as
we slept.
A brush of morning kisses
painted me the smell of
minted paste invaded waving
the air of the sweet
breakfast behind us.
What a wonderful way to
start the day. He hugged
me closer as I slid my hands
down the length of his
torso like curtains ending
a play, I slid my hands
down to the zipper of his
pants letting the palm of
my hand kiss the growing
firm members.
I slid my hands in a slow
action as it swelled and
pumped please don't stop.
Cold sweat beads glittered
against members flesh, but
the kisses never stopped just
hungered for each other a
little more.
His hands pulled on the
robe as he trying to resist
the finish.
From his kisses shivered
a moan slithered between our
tongues as he rubbed the
backs of my legs wanting
to place that swell of
pleasure inside my own
tightness so we may enjoy
the swell together. With
the other palm held the
rested slick backed hair
against my neck breathing
more moans and hisses to bed
smelling flesh that gleamed
in the face of pulled back
curtains of the kitchen.

A little nip on flesh,
an arch of cramped bone
clashing together to
relax, an eased swallow
of a climax producing a
formed whisper of
"I love you." Blessed
our morning while I put
member back in his pants
and held him as if the
world was going to end.

Copyright 2011 by Amber Davis

Critique by Jendi Reiter

Sex and lyric poetry fit together like...your favorite body parts. Erotic verses may be written to seduce, to boast of conquests, to memorialize a moment that was as fleeting as it was all-consuming, or even to satirize an opponent for his undignified slavery to lust. From Catullus, to the medieval troubadours and the bawdy Elizabethans, to contemporary poets like e.e. cummings and Sharon Olds, poets have found myriad ways to examine those acts that lay bare the emotions as well as the body.

But how much detail, or rather which details, should the poem expose? These choices can spell the difference between a satisfying erotic poem and one that instead provokes disgust or ridicule. Where sex writing strikes a false note, it's often because the language is overly clinical, vulgar, or pompous and flowery—or some buzz-killing melange of all three. It's no wonder that so much comedy revolves around sexual innuendo. The sexual moment requires you to cease stage-managing the self and just inhabit it, and sincerity always risks crossing over into foolishness. Without the possibility of a fall, the tightrope act wouldn't be exciting. The good erotic poem knows how to walk the line.

I selected this month's poem, "Breakfast's Lust" by Amber Davis of Troy, NY, because it's an example of an erotic lyric that has potential but could also be improved through editing. Davis takes us step by step through this episode of seduction, lingering on each sensation to intrigue and hopefully arouse the reader. She doesn't indulge in the florid metaphors for sexual organs that were once the hallmark of romance novels. Yet the coupling is suffused with a romantic glow because of the comfortable domestic setting and the slow build-up of physical intimacy between the partners.

Timing is everything here, so it's important to reread your erotic poem with a critical eye for unnecessary asides and repetitive words that dissipate the tension. The style of "Breakfast's Lust" is relatively unsophisticated, a first-person "and then...and then...and then..." straightforward description of events, without the associative leaps that a more advanced writer would employ to connect sex to some other aspect of the human condition—for instance, something funny, melancholy, or frightening about our inner nature that breaks through our defenses and disguises when passion takes over. By comparison, the motivation of Davis' poem is simply to share the pleasure of the scene. If that is your goal, it's all the more important to be concise...

Click to continue reading this critique

These poems, 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. New: Follow Jendi on Twitter.


The Best Free Poetry Contests for July 16-August 31
New Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest Opens