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Margaret Reid Poetry Contest Winners Announced

Recent Honors for Our Subscribers

Recent Publication Credits for Our Subscribers

The Best Free Poetry Contests, December-January

Notable Free Prose Contests, December-January

Calls for Submissions

Featured Poem:
"Bruises" by J. Lorraine Brown

Featured Poem:
"The National Geographic Society, 1968" by Anna Scotti

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December 2011

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

Welcome to our December 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.

From our latest Critique Corner by Tracy Koretsky below: "Some poems rise above. This month, in Critique Corner, we're going to have a look at why that's so." In this special feature, Tracy revisits five award-winning subscriber poems we reprinted in the newsletter in 2011, and examines what they're doing right.

Lost one of our newsletters? Formatting doesn't look right? Not to worry. All our recent newsletters are posted online at
Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers 2011
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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!


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.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31, 2012
Now in its 20th 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. 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.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest (no fee)
Online Submission Deadline: April 1, 2012
Winning Writers invites you to enter the 11th annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. We'll award $3,600, including a top prize of $1,500. Submit one humor poem online. No length limit. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. No fee to enter. Final judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Sports Poetry & Prose Contest - New!
Online Submission Deadline: May 31, 2012
New from Winning Writers, our Sports Poetry & Prose Contest will award $5,000 in total prizes, including a $1,500 top prize for poetry and a $1,500 top prize for prose (fiction and nonfiction). Submit an unpublished entry of 1-2 poems or one work of prose on a sports-related theme, up to 6,000 words in all. Fee is $15 per entry. Final judge: Jendi Reiter. Click for the complete guidelines.

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Postmark Deadline: June 30, 2012
Now in its ninth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. 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 $8 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 Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: September 30, 2012
Now in its tenth 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. New this year, there will also be a special $250 bonus prize for humorous verse. The entry fee is $8 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.


Tom Howard Books is pleased to announce the results from its eighth annual Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse. Jacie Ragan of Hannibal, Missouri won first prize and $3,000 for her poem "In the Shadow of the Condor", a sonnet sequence about the myths of the ancient Incas. Hundreds of entries were received from around the world. See the press release announcing the winners.

The judges said, "'In the Shadow of the Condor' is one of the finest poems submitted to this contest. It has all seven of the qualities I look for in a winning entry: (1) An intriguing title that immediately captures the reader's interest and attention; (2) A provocative heading or sub-title; (3) An arresting first line; (4) A perfect blending of theme, style and genre. In this case, rhyming poetry suits the theme so assuredly that the poem would lose at least some of its impact if every line was not a perfect rhyme in which there was no trace of strain or even of so-called 'poetic license'; (5) A theme of substance and weight; (6) A sustained length, in which the poet's thoughts are fully expressed, yet not overdone to the point of tiring the reader, or causing his or her attention to wander; (7) The poem comes to a fittingly definitive conclusion in which the powerful theme is neatly summed up yet leaves the reader with at least one or two intriguing afterthoughts."

Second prize of $1,000 went to Sherri Felt Dratfield of New York, New York for "Time Pieces Restored". In this wry character sketch set in a clock repair shop, the proprietor slights the narrator and her unremarkable stopped watch, in favor of a customer whose antique clock inspires an almost erotic fascination. Shirley Valencia of Dayton, Ohio won third prize and $400 for "An Overcast Morning on Mulberry Street". As the speaker of this narrative poem watches her neighbors go about their daily errands, she muses about the joys and tragedies that lie behind every home's placid façade. Helen Bar-Lev of Metulla, Israel won fourth prize and $250 for "The Path to a Village", in which hikers admiring the untouched beauty of a tree-lined path come upon sad evidence of why this landscape is uninhabited.

Most Highly Commended Awards of $150 went to Beebe Barksdale-Bruner, Anne-Marie Cadwallader, Duane Dodson, Phill Doran, Nicole Grace, and Caroline Zarlengo Sposto.

Read the top winning poems on our website plus the judges' comments. Thanks to all of you who participated. The ninth annual Margaret Reid Poetry Contest is now open for entries here through June 30, 2012.


Congratulations to J. Lorraine Brown. Her second poetry chapbook, Little Houses, is currently available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press (go to the Forthcoming Titles page), and will be released in March. She kindly shares a sample poem below. Poet and novelist Frank X. Gaspar says of this collection: "Little Houses is a good read. J. Lorraine Brown, through her characters, has gestured toward an entire novel in this svelte chapbook."

Congratulations to Sarah Tregay. Her young adult novel in verse, Love and Leftovers, will be available in January 2012 from Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. From the Publisher's Weekly blurb: "Poems, IM conversations, and emo love songs make up Tregay's emotionally turbulent debut novel in verse. Sophomore Marcie Foster unwillingly moves from Idaho to her mother's childhood home in New Hampshire after her father leaves her mother for a male bartender. Marcie is resentful until she realizes the move could be a chance to remake herself, escaping the image of a 'Leftover' who doesn't fit in."

Congratulations to Anna Scotti. Her poem "The National Geographic Society, 1968", first published in the 2011 issue of the literary journal Chautauqua, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She kindly shares it with us below. The Pushcart is a highly coveted international prize awarded annually for the best work published by small presses in the previous year.

David Kherdian's Gatherings: Select and Uncollected Writings was favorably reviewed at Ararat Magazine. This compendium chronicles the poet's formative years with the Beat Poets, his apprenticeship with William Saroyan, and his critical role in supporting Armenian-American literature.

Trina Porte's poem "to do list" was published in Issue #52 of the radical feminist journal Rain and Thunder (Fall 2011).

E.B. Dreier's book Thanks for Listening Lord: Thirty-One Days of Devotions Based on Favorite BIBLE Verses is now available from CreateSpace at

Renee Rojas's picture book What Color is God?, illustrated by Ellen Silva, is now available from her website. In this heartwarming story, no one can answer a little girl's question "What color is God?" except her Grandma, who shows her and her brother the answer through nature, with a surprise ending.

Ann Eustace's poem "The Lonely Sea Of A High Functioning Resident" was accepted for the December 2011 issue of Wordgathering, an online journal of disability poetry.


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.
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Deadlines: December 16-January 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.

12/16: California Book Awards +
Formerly December 17
Neutral free contest for published books whose authors lived in California when the work was accepted for publication. Gold medals are awarded in the genres of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, first fiction, Californiana, outstanding book production by a California publisher, Young Adult (ages 0-10) and Juvenile Literature (ages 11-16). Poetry winners have been established writers. Entries must have been published during the current calendar year. Author or publisher should send 6 copies of book plus a completed entry form.

12/17: Rider University's High School Writing Contest +
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $100 in each genre for poetry, fiction, and essays by high school students. Prose entries should be 5 double-spaced pages maximum, poems 50 lines maximum. One entry per person per genre. Sponsor is a liberal arts college in New Jersey.

12/22: Poetry Society of America Awards +++
These highly recommended contests on various themes, with prizes up to $1,000, are free to Poetry Society of America members. We highly recommend joining ($45 per year, $25 for students). For nonmembers, a $15 fee covers all contests for which you are eligible. One entry per person per contest.
Contests restricted to members of the Poetry Society of America
Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award ($1,000 for a manuscript sample of poetry or verse-drama)
Cecil Hemley Memorial Award ($500 for a lyric poem that addresses a philosophical or epistemological concern)
Lucille Medwick Memorial Award ($500 for a poem on a humanitarian theme)
Lyric Poetry Award ($500 for a lyric poem)
Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award ($250 for a brief poem inspired by Dickinson, though not necessarily in her style)

Contests open to the general public
George Bogin Memorial Award ($500 for 4-5 poems that use language in an original way to reflect the encounter of the ordinary and the extraordinary and to take a stand against oppression in any of its forms)
Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Student Poetry Award ($250 for a poem by a US high school student)
Robert H. Winner Memorial Award ($1,000 for poems by authors over age 40 who have published no more than one book)
Louis Hammer Memorial Award ($250 for a distinguished poem in the surrealist manner)
12/30: Missouri Warrior Writers Project Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers prizes of $250 apiece for poetry, fiction, and essays by US veterans and active military service personnel of Afghanistan and Iraq about their wartime experience. All entries considered for anthology publication by Southeast Missouri State University Press. Send 1-3 poems, maximum 5 single-spaced pages total, or one prose piece, maximum 5,000 words. Enter online. Unpublished work preferred.

12/31: American Book Awards ++
Recommended free contest honors published books in all genres that make a contribution to America's multicultural literary tradition. No cash prize, but winning carries prestige. Authors, editors, publishers, or interested readers should send two copies of the book to the Before Columbus Foundation, with optional publicity materials. Books must have been published or reprinted in the US during the current calendar year.

12/31: Angels & Devils Poetry Competition +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers two prizes of 100 pounds and online publication for a poem up to 30 lines about family relationships. One prize will be for the best English-language poem, the other for the best Dutch-language poem, which will be translated for publication. Contest sponsor London-based Holland Park Press Ltd. publishes literary fiction and poetry, placing special emphasis on bringing the work of Dutch authors to the English-language market. Enter by email only. Holland Park's contests are usually one-time events, replaced by a new themed contest next year. The 2011 contest is inspired by the release of Angel, the English translation of Arnold Jansen op de Haar's novel Engel.

12/31: Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest for published books offers two awards of $10,000 each: one for a book of fiction or poetry, the other for a book of nonfiction. The nonfiction category covers both creative nonfiction and scholarly works (biography, history, etc.) This award honors books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism or our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. Books must have been published in the current calendar year. Plays, screenplays, ebooks, unpublished, print-on-demand, and self-published works not eligible. Author or publisher should submit 5 copies plus entry form from website.

12/31: Franklin-Christoph Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $1,000 for unpublished poems, 100 lines maximum. Sponsor Franklin-Christoph is a manufacturer of fine pens and luxury items. Ten runners-up receive fountain pens worth $150. Maximum 2 poems per entrant. Enter by email.

12/31: Goldstein, Lawrence and Clayton Prizes in Poetry and Short Fiction ++
Recommended free awards sponsored by the literary magazine from the University of Michigan offer prizes of $1,000 for the best short story or poem or group of poems published in the magazine during a given calendar year. As of 2009, they also offer a $500 prize for poetry by an author who has not published a book-length collection. There is no special submission process; authors should submit following the magazine's standard guidelines.

12/31: Griffin Prize For Excellence In Poetry +++
Highly recommended free contest offers two top prizes of C$65,000 for poetry books published in the current calendar year. One prize will go to a living Canadian poet or translator, the other to a living poet or translator from any country (including Canada). See website for detailed eligibility rules. Publisher should send 4 copies of book plus a press packet. This is one of the most lucrative poetry prizes around, as well as one of the most prestigious. Entries must be postmarked by December 31, 2011 and received by January 10, 2012.

12/31: Neil Postman Award for Metaphor +++
Rolling Deadline
Highly recommended free contest offers $500 for the best use of metaphor in a poem published in RATTLE, a prestigious journal. Submissions are accepted year-round. Send 5-6 unpublished poems, any length. Wait for a decision on your first entry before submitting more. All poems published in RATTLE are automatically considered for this award. No separate application process.

12/31: Ohioana Poetry Award: Helen & Laura Krout Memorial +
Neutral free contest offers $1,000 to an Ohio poet for a body of published work that has made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to poetry, and through whose work as a writer, teacher, administrator, or in community service, interest in poetry has been developed. Award is by nomination only. Nominees must have been born in Ohio or lived there for at least 5 years. Note that no winner has been chosen since 2009 (the 2008 deadline year). Although contest is open for submissions, the actual awarding of the prize depends on whether the endowment generates enough funds to support it.

12/31: ORBIS Readers Award +
Neutral free rolling-deadline contest offers 50 pounds per issue for the best poem published in each issue of Britain's ORBIS Quarterly Literary International Journal, as determined by reader vote. Online submissions accepted from non-UK entrants only. Translations eligible.

12/31: READ Student Poetry Contest ++
Recommended free contest for students in grades 6-12 offers 6 prizes of $100 plus publication in an electronic issue of READ Magazine. Send 1-2 unpublished poems, one-page maximum per poem, plus entry form. Enter by mail or email. Formerly the Ann Arlys Bowler Student Poetry Contest, changed name in 2011. READ is a 51-year-old classroom periodical with a pass-along readership of more than 1 million teens and preteens and is part of the Weekly Reader family of classroom publications.

12/31: Unstuck Micro-Lit Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $200 and publication in Unstuck, an independent literary journal based in Austin, TX, for poetry, fiction, and essays that are the length of 12 "tweets" (a tweet contains 140 characters or less). Winners and finalists also receive free books and literary journals. Entrants must sign up to follow Unstuck on Twitter. Enter online. 2011 theme is "Lovemarks". Editors say, "We're interested in work that explores ideas like: 'respectful, intimate, committed, trust-based love relationships' between human beings and corporations; corporate personhood; corporate mythology; corporate empathy; brand/product/design fetishism; and the mystery and 'sensuality' of logos and other everyday symbols."

12/31: William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition +
Neutral free contest for students of medicine or osteopathy in the US and Canada offers prizes of $300, $200, $100 for a poem on any subject. Winners invited to read at Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine in April, possibly published in scholarly journal. Submit 1-3 poems, maximum 750 words each.

1/9: Texas Institute of Letters Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers prizes up to $6,000 for published books in various genres including poetry, fiction and translation. Entrants must have been born in Texas or resided in Texas for two consecutive years at some time, or the book's subject matter must substantially concern Texas.

1/15: Andres Montoya Poetry Prize ++
Recommended free contest offers $1,000 and publication by the University of Notre Dame Press for a first book of poetry by a Latino author. US citizens and permanent residents only. Send 2 copies of 50-100 page manuscript. Offered in even-numbered years only.

1/15: Charlotte Newberger Prize for Poetry +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly December 15
Neutral free contest offers $150 for unpublished poems touching on the experience of Jewish women. Send 1-3 poems, maximum 100 lines each. Sponsored by LILITH, a Jewish feminist magazine. Contest is open to both men and women. Online entries preferred.

1/15: Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Youth ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest for Canadian citizens or landed immigrants attending junior high or high school offers top prizes of C$350 in each of two age categories: Junior (grades 7-9) and Senior (grades 10-12). Send 1-2 poems, no more than 50 lines each. Enter by email only. Send as plain text file in the body of the message, not as attachment. Include poem titles, poet's name, address, phone, age, grade, and school. Prior to 2012, contest was known as the Poetic Licence Contest for Canadian Youth.

1/15: Levis Reading Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $1,500 for a first or second book of poetry published during the preceding calendar year. Winner also receives an expenses-paid trip to Richmond, VA for a reading in the fall.

1/15: Summerfield G. Roberts Award +
Neutral free contest offers $2,500 for the literary manuscript or published book written or published in the previous calendar year that "best portrays the spirit, character, strength, and deeds of those who lived in the Republic of Texas" (1836-46). Entries may be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, plays, short stories, novels, or biographies. Send 5 copies.

1/19: Poetry Society of Virginia (Student Categories) +
Neutral free contest offers prizes of $50, $30, $20 for college students, $25, $15, $10 in the elementary through high school categories, plus small prizes for poems on specific themes. Age categories are Grades 1-2, Grades 3-4, Grades 5-6, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-10, Grades 11-12 and College/University level. One poem per entrant. See website for line lengths and themes for each contest.

1/27: BRIO Awards ++
Formerly January 28
Recommended free contest offers 25 grants of $3,000 to literary, visual and performing artists aged 18+ who reside in the Bronx, NY. Full-time college and graduate students are not eligible. Works submitted must have been created in the past 5 years. See website for rules and length limits for each genre. Enter online or by mail.

1/31: Harold Morton Landon Translation Award +++
Highly recommended free contest from the Academy of American Poets offers $1,000 for the best book of poetry in translation published in the US during the previous calendar year. Translator must be a living US citizen. 3 copies of book should be submitted by publisher.

1/31: Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Chicago honors an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the US during the preceding calendar year. Literary novels, short stories, plays, poetry, biographies, and correspondences are eligible. Prize is $10,000 plus travel expenses for award ceremony in Chicago in June. Publishers should submit 6 copies of the book along with any relevant publicity materials.

1/31: Inspired by Tagore: An International Writing Competition +
Neutral free contest offers top prize of 300 pounds for adults, 200 pounds for youth, for poetry, short stories or reportage inspired by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the famous Bengali poet, philosopher, artist, playwright, composer and novelist. Sponsor is a British cultural center for South Asian arts. Submit 1-6 pieces, maximum 400 words each, by mail or online. May be a one-time event for 2012.

1/31: Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions for a manuscript by a poet residing in the Upper Midwest (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin). No simultaneous submissions. Length limit not specified, but standard length is typically 48-100 single-spaced pages.

1/31: Raiziss/de Palchi Translation Award +++
Formerly December 31
Highly recommended free contest from the Academy of American Poets alternates between a $25,000 fellowship for translators of modern Italian poetry to complete a work-in-progress (odd-numbered years), and a $5,000 prize for published books of English translations of modern Italian poetry (even-numbered years). US citizens only.

1/31: Spirit First Meditation Poetry Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $175 for unpublished poems of any length on the theme of meditation, mindfulness, stillness, or silence. Poems may reflect any discipline or any faith or none. Maximum 3 entries per person. Enter by mail or email. Contest sponsor Spirit First is an interfaith meditation center in the Washington, DC area.

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.



Visit For A Listing Of Over 50 Writing Contests

FundsforWriters For Christmas, give yourself the gift of writing markets, grants, and contests. For eleven years has held the Writer's Digest recognition of excellence on its 101 Best Websites for Writers list. Sign up for free newsletters or a paid subscription. 40,000 loyal readers strong. Spend time writing instead of searching for markets and resources.

Dream Quest One Last Call!
Dream Quest One Poetry and Writing Contest
Postmark Deadline: December 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 honored to present the winning poem from our Winter 2005-2006 contest:
A Single Rose
by Andrea M. Gratton

I was a single rose
That just didn't fit in
With the garden of wildflowers
Where I was forced to grow
Others thought I was unique and wonderful
But inside I felt alone
And was untrue to myself
As I tried to be a wildflower too
But then you came to rescue me
And even though my thorns
Sometimes drew blood
From your caring fingers
You worked hard to carefully uproot me
Gently untangling my twisted roots
And replanting me in my own space
Where I could grow
To be the beautiful rose
You knew I was always meant to be
You nurtured me patiently
Bringing light into my life
And watering me with my own tears
Until I was no longer afraid
To reach for the sun myself
And to show the world
What a beautiful rose
I now know I am

Little Red Tree Publishing
Little Red Tree Publishing Last Call!
The Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline Extended to December 31

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
Little Red Tree Publishing Last Call!
The Vernice Quebodeaux "Pathways" International Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline Extended to December 31

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 Poetry 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.

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize Last Call!
Tupelo Press Dorset Prize
Postmark Deadline: December 31

The Dorset Prize includes a cash award of $3,000, publication by Tupelo Press, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion. The final judge for this year's contest is Tom Sleigh. All finalists will be considered for publication. Results announced in April 2012.

The Dorset Prize is open to anyone writing in English, whether living in the United States or abroad. We welcome published or unpublished authors. Translations are not eligible. The contest is competitive. Simultaneous submissions to other publishers or contests are permitted; notify Tupelo Press promptly if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

Submit a previously unpublished, full-length poetry manuscript of between 48 and 88 pages (of poems). Include two cover pages: one with title only, the other with title, your name, address, phone, and email. Include a table of contents and, if applicable, an acknowledgments page for poems previously published in periodicals. For notification of receipt of manuscript, include a SASP. For notification of the winner, enclose a SASE. Manuscripts will not be returned.

A reading fee of $28 by check (payable to Tupelo Press) or via PayPal must accompany each submission. Multiple submissions are accepted, each accompanied by a $28 reading fee.

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript:

Submit your manuscript online or send via postal mail to:

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, P.O. Box 1767, North Adams, MA 01247

Read about past winners and more information about all Tupelo contests at:

Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest sponsored by Oregon Quarterly
Closing Next Month
13th Annual Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest (no fee)
Postmark Deadline: January 15, 2012

Oregon Quarterly invites entries to the 2012 Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest in both student and open categories. Entries should address ideas that affect the Northwest. The Oregon Quarterly staff will select finalists and this year's contest judge, Robin Cody, will choose the top three winners in each category. Past judges have been Kim Stafford, Barry Lopez, John Daniel, Karen Karbo, Brian Doyle, Lauren Kessler, Craig Lesley, Molly Gloss, Kathleen Dean Moore, Kenny Moore, and Thomas Hager.
  • Prizes in the Open Category: $750, $300, $100
  • Prizes in the Student Category: $500, $200, $75
  • No entry fee required
  • First-place essay in the open category will appear in Oregon Quarterly
  • A selection of top essays will be featured in a public reading on the UO campus
  • Fifteen finalists (ten in the Open Category and five students) will be announced in the Summer 2012 issue of Oregon Quarterly
  • All finalists will be invited to participate in a writing workshop with the contest judge on the day of the reading
Entries should be nonfiction, should not have been previously published, and should be no more than 1,500 words in the Student Category and 2,000 words in the Open Category. The student contest is open to any student currently enrolled and pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree at a college or university. One entry per person. Find complete guidelines at (click on Essay Contest at the top). Please enjoy this excerpt from "A Mountain Waltz " by Heidi Shayla. This essay won third place in the Open Category of our 2011 contest.
My great grandparents were Johnny-come-latelys to the Homestead Act. They made their way westward in fits and starts, by train and stagecoach. They finally arrived in Oregon in 1886, only to discover that they were too late for the good farmland in the Willamette Valley. The only free land still available was in the mountains, in the Coast Range, two days by wagon from anything one might call civilization. They dragged themselves and their belongings over the mountain paths that passed for roads, through forests where the underbrush was so dense a man could, in the space of time it took to turn around, lose sight of anything smaller than himself—certainly a dog or a child and, if she were short, even a wife. Great Grandpa survived this trek without the loss of wife or children, but when the family finally reached their remote destination they found their homestead burnt to the ground. A forest fire had left enormous swaths of the once abundant timber blackened and charred. Reportedly, my great grandmother looked at that blistered land and cried; it must have seemed like the apocalypse.

With nowhere else to go, they built a home and ran their fences between the crags of burnt trees. And when it came time to name their small isolated community, they looked around and called it Deadwood. I have a grainy black and white photograph of my grandmother standing on the family's land twenty years later, land that still appeared as if someone had cross-fenced the foothills of hell.

Click to view this and all the winning essays from our twelfth contest.

On The Premises

Closing Next Month
On The Premises Short Story Contest (no fee)
Online Submission Deadline: January 28, 2012

77% of web-based fiction magazines pay their fiction writers nothing. So do 60% of print-only fiction magazines!

If you'd like to try getting paid for your fiction, why not consider us? Since 2006, On The Premises magazine has aimed to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. We've never charged a reading fee or publication fee, and we pay between $40 and $180 for short stories that fit each issue's broad story premise. We publish stories in nearly every genre (literary/realist, mystery, light/dark fantasy, light/hard sci-fi, slipstream) aimed at adult readers (no children's fiction). Our most recent issue featured six authors we'd never published before and two authors making their first fiction sales.

The premise of the current contest is Home. There's no place like it. We find it, build it, break it, redecorate it, lose it, leave it, level it, come back to it, and take it. We make home plates, home pages, home rows, and home planets. Whether we love it, hate it, or feel some other way, we're rarely indifferent to it, because home is meaningful, wherever or whatever it is. You can find details and instructions for submitting your story at To be informed when new contests are launched, subscribe to our free, short, monthly newsletter.

On The Premises magazine is recognized in Duotrope, Writer's Market,, the Short Story and Novel Writers guidebooks, and other short story marketing resources.

Fish Publishing Writing Competitions

Friends of Acadia Closing Next Month
Friends of Acadia Nature Poetry Prize (no fee)
Postmark Deadline: January 30, 2012

Submissions are invited for the 2012 Friends of Acadia Poetry Prize. Established in 1998, this prize is awarded biennially to promote and recognize distinctive nature poetry. First, second, and third-place poems will be published in the Friends of Acadia Journal (print and online) and awarded cash prizes ($350, $250, $150).

Submit up to 3 nature-based poems, each of 30 lines or fewer. Entries must be original and unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are permitted; please notify us immediately if a poem is accepted for publication elsewhere. There is no fee to enter.

Format: Submit each poem on a separate page. Include a cover sheet with your name, address, and the titles of the poems you are submitting. Do not include your name on manuscript(s).

For notification of results, include a business-sized self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Manuscripts will not be returned. The competition results will be announced in the Spring 2012 issue of the Friends of Acadia Journal, to be mailed and published online in April.

If you wish to receive a copy of the Friends of Acadia Journal in which the first-place poem is published, include a self-addressed envelope, at least 9" x 12", with $2.00 postage attached. (This is in addition to a business-sized SASE for notification.)

Please submit your entries to: Editor, Friends of Acadia Journal, P.O. Box 45, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, If sending via email, please include your submissions and cover sheet as a single attachment.

We're pleased to present this poem by Robert Chute, second-prize winner in our 2000 contest.
by Robert Chute

Moose tracks crossed,
a long, sauntering angle, indifferent
to the woods road's purpose
or direction.

March melt-water filled
each pair of fat, inverted comma tracks.
Each black cloven mirror reflected
its bit of sky.

I reached above my head
to touch the bruised and bleeding Maples
where sharp incisors had
browsed bark away.

The air breathed around me
as I stood in the midst of the meaning
of an Indian word I'd forgotten
how to say.

It means, he had told me—suppose
we found track only, fresh, but feel the deerness,
not just of that one but
of all deer—

as the moose was still there in
the breathing air.

Grayson Books Closing Next Month
Grayson Books Chapbook Competition
Postmark Deadline: January 31, 2012
Prize: $500, publication of chapbook and 50 copies
Reading fee: $18, payable to Grayson Books
Submit: 16-24 pages of poetry, two cover sheets (one with contact information and one anonymous)
SASE for results only

Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.

This year's judge is Patricia Fargnoli. A former New Hampshire Poet Laureate, she is the author of four books and two chapbooks of poetry. Her newest book, Then, Something (Tupelo Press, 2009), won the ForeWord Poetry Book of the Year Award Silver Award, the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Award from the New England Poetry Club, and an Honorable Mention in the Eric Hoffer Awards.

Please mail your entry and fee to:

     Grayson Books
     P.O. Box 270549
     West Hartford, CT 06127-0549

Bird In The Hand by Paul Hostovsky Please enjoy this poem from Bird In The Hand by Paul Hostovsky, the winning chapbook in our 2006 Grayson Books Chapbook Competition.
by Paul Hostovsky

That boy was good with animals.
And he was good at animals the way
some hearing boys are good at
making sounds of artillery fire
using only the tongues in their heads.
Using only his face and his hands
he could paint any animal on the farm
on the air, and we'd recognize it
by some detail he'd capture, some
unmistakable physical thing, an angle
or posture, a sideways chewing,
the dangle of a tongue, the puppy's ear hanging
inside-out like a pocket.

He was the only witness when the neighbor's dog
got run over, and he told us the whole story
with his whole body, how the pickup
swerved to avoid her, grazing
her shoulder, the angle of impact
throwing her into the woods.
We all stood around, ignorant
of what happened exactly, hoping
and fearing as his story unfolded
and he embodied first the dog running, then
the truck braking, then
the dog then the truck then the dog
so we had the feeling we were seeing it all
just as it happened, and just as it was happening,
but in slow motion and with a zoom lens
and from six different camera angles.

William Saroyan International Prize for Writing CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS Closing Next Month
2012 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Entries must be received by January 31, 2012

Submissions are now being accepted for the fifth William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. This award, given by Stanford University Libraries in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, recognizes newly published works of fiction and nonfiction with a $5,000 award for the winner in each category. The prize is designed to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality and stylistic innovation. For entry forms and more information on the prize, visit the Saroyan Prize website:

Congratulations to our 2010 Fiction Winner Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. See our complete list of 2010 winners and finalists.
About Atmospheric Disturbances

When Dr. Leo Liebenstein's wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her—or almost exactly like her—and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that the original Rema is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love.

With the help of his psychiatric patient Harvey—who believes himself to be a secret agent who can control the weather—Leo attempts to unravel the mystery of the spousal switch. His investigation leads him to the enigmatic guidance of the meteorologist Dr. Tzvi Gal-Chen, the secret workings of the Royal Academy of Meteorology in their cosmic conflict with the 49 Quantum Fathers, and the unwelcome conviction that somehow heor maybe his wife, or maybe even Harveylies at the center of all these unfathomables. From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo's erratic quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.

Atmospheric Disturbances is at once a moving love story, a dark comedy, a psychological thriller, and a deeply disturbing portrait of a fracturing mind. With tremendous compassion and dazzling literary sophistication, Rivka Galchen investigates the moment of crisis when you suddenly realize that the reality you insist upon is no longer one you can accept, and the person you love has become merely the person you live with. This highly inventive debut explores the mysterious nature of human relationships, and how we spend our lives trying to weather the storms of our own making.

The W.B. Yeats Poetry Award

WB Yeats Society of NY Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: February 1, 2012
First prize $500, Second $250, honorable mentions. Unpublished poems in English up to 60 lines on any subject may be submitted. Each poem (judged separately) should be typed on an 8.5 x 11-inch sheet without author's name; attach a 3x5 card with name, address, phone, email. Entry fee is $8 for first poem, $7 each additional. Mail to: Dept WW, 2012 Poetry Competition, WB Yeats Society of NY, National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, New York, NY 10003.

Include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to receive the report. List of winners is posted on around March 31. Winners and honorable mentions receive 2-year memberships in the Society and are honored at an event in New York on April 2. Authors retain rights, but grant us the right to publish winning entries. These are the complete guidelines; no entry form necessary. We reserve the right to hold late submissions to the following year. For information on our other programs, or on membership, visit or write to us.

We are proud to present "Pink Sky", which received an Honorable Mention in our 2011 competition.
Pink Sky
by William Leo Coakley

for Margaret Drabble

Darkness descends on the pink corpse in the snow—
the dead don't bleed: it is their stiff last tactic.
The pink sky's pink transfusion floods the snow;
the courtyard fills with pink unearthly light.

The mannequin, the woman, swollen pink,
hugs her lost knowledge, what the pink world told:
the rate of falling bodies never falls;
the heart earns nothing that it cannot lose.

The shadow drops upon her, cutthroat's blade;
her stopped blood thickens to its cold black center.
The faces in the silent windows shutter.
The war-god Mars shines pink in the loathsome west.

Now, in the east, the horned moon struggles higher.
The dog howls murder; then the cats come out:
they purr and stare, their pink eyes thick with pity
for themselves only—like the other watchers.

The murderer comes out, his hands are pink.
Her hacked feet stalk through corridors of pink
in his pink mind: pink, pink, pink, he works his evil—
the sirens' outcry rouses him; he falters

back to the shadows: nothing pink can feed him.
Doctor and police bend to their duty;
they prod this cloth, this flesh, this carrion mystery.
The several madmen in the courtyard clamour.

The scavengers of health and order paw:
her legs lie fat and pink in the camera's flash;
a blanket covers what her body knows—
the cats lie down upon its pink rough warmth.

The body-bag, that pink devouring vulture,
cries for its food: it eats, and is forgiven.
There ought to be a rhyme against such weather.
There ought to be a charm, an answer, a law.

Babel's Moon by Brandon Som Now Open
Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Award
Postmark Deadline: February 29, 2012

The Snowbound Chapbook includes a cash award of $1,000, publication by Tupelo Press, 50 copies of your book, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion. The final judge for this year's contest is Christopher Buckley. All finalists will be considered for publication. Results announced in late spring 2012.

The Snowbound Chapbook Award is open to anyone writing in English, whether living in the United States or abroad. We welcome published or unpublished authors. Translations are not eligible. The contest is competitive. Simultaneous submissions to other publishers or contests are permitted; notify Tupelo Press promptly if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

Submit a previously unpublished poetry manuscript of between 20 and 36 pages (of poems). Include two cover pages: one with title only, the other with title, your name, address, phone, and email. Include a table of contents and, if applicable, an acknowledgments page for poems previously published in periodicals. For notification of receipt of manuscript, include a SASP. For notification of the winner, enclose a SASE. Manuscripts will not be returned.

A reading fee of $23 by check (payable to Tupelo Press) or via PayPal must accompany each submission. Multiple submissions are accepted, each accompanied by a $23 reading fee.

Read the complete guidelines before submitting your manuscript:

Submit your manuscript online or send via postal mail to:
Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Award, P.O. Box 1767, North Adams, MA 01247

Read about past winners and more information about all Tupelo contests at:

Here is a poem by Brandon Som, author of Babel's Moon (Tupelo Press, 2011), winner of the 2009 Snowbound Chapbook Award:

Of Babel's moon, I have notes. It was a marked card. It lit a chandelier out
of an acacia. The trowel glinted with it. Crickets were out, too, and, as if
they sightread stars, settled in to leg-kick song. A light wind blew seed into
the web between tines of a hayrake. A soldier stood letting his horse drink
well water from his helmet. The moon trembled there. There was nothing
forsaken about it. It simply issued a shadow while burnishing a surface. This
morning, I read that when returning from a trail, Thoreau knew he had had
visitors by what was left behind: a wreath of evergreen, a name in pencil on
a walnut leaf, a willow wand woven into a ring
. Its path not without
disruption, the moon, in its orbit, tethers and tethers again. The morning of
the funeral, my father dressed my grandfather: from the eyelet, each button
new to full; the tie's knot loose as if it had swallowed a small bird.

David Dodd Lee, Series Editor, 42 Miles PressThe 42 Miles Press Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: March 1, 2012

The 42 Miles Press Poetry Prize aims to bring fresh and original voices to the poetry reading public. The prize will be offered annually to any poet writing in English, including poets who have never published a full-length book as well as poets who have published several. New and Selected collections of poems are also welcome.

The winning poet will receive $1,000 and publication of his or her book. The winner will also be invited to give a reading at Indiana University South Bend as part of the release of the book. The final selection will be made by the Series Editor, David Dodd Lee. Current or former students or employees of Indiana University South Bend, as well as friends of the Series Editor, are not eligible for the prize.

Submissions must be at least 48 pages in length, and there is a $25 non-refundable entry fee, payable to I.U. South Bend. There is no limit on the number of entries an author may submit. Simultaneous submissions are fine, in fact they are encouraged, just please withdraw your manuscript if it gets taken for publication elsewhere. Please include a SASE with each entry. Please include a self-addressed postage paid postcard if you desire confirmation of manuscript receipt. No manuscripts will be returned. Entries sent by email or fax are not permitted; they will be disqualified. On your cover sheet include name, address, phone number, and email. The manuscript should be paginated and include a table of contents and acknowledgments page.

Mail manuscripts to:

     42 Miles Press Poetry Prize
     Indiana University South Bend
     Department of English
     1700 Mishawaka Avenue
     P.O. Box 7111
     South Bend, IN 46634-7111

Manuscripts submitted for the 42 Miles Press Poetry Prize should exhibit an awareness of the contemporary "voice" in American poetry, an awareness of our moment in time as poets. We are excited to receive poetry that is experimental as well as work of a more formalist bent, as long as it reflects a complexity and sophistication of thought and language. Urgency, yes; melodrama, not so much. Winners will be announced via this website, as well as through the mail. We will also announce the winner in major magazines (Poets & Writers) and blogs. The winning book, and any others chosen from the pool of entries, will be published in 2012. Questions? Please email or

upstreet upstreet
Submission period: September 1-March 1

upstreet, an award-winning literary annual, seeks quality submissions—with an edge—of short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, for its eighth issue. The first seven issues feature interviews with Jim Shepard, Lydia Davis, Wally Lamb, Michael Martone, Robin Hemley, Sue William Silverman, and Dani Shapiro. Payment: author copy. Distribution: Ingram, Source Interlink, Ubiquity, and Disticor (Canada). For sample content and to submit, see For news about upstreet and its authors, visit

From upstreet number seven:
Parts Per Million
by Connie Wanek

A clear night, the winter stars
seated, the bolt tightens a half turn,
the water's gone hard, the bear's in bed.
All's pure. The cold demands it.

A star for every wish we ever had
and many we have yet to make,
stars sharp enough to scratch glass,
bright enough to read by.

To feel lost—that's human, fear not.
So few parts per million—two?
Two left standing in a white field
opposite the stars.



These free prose contests with deadlines between December 16 and January 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.

12/16: Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers three prizes of $500 for books of fiction and nonfiction (creative or scholarly) written by an African-American and published in the US during the current year. There is one award for adult fiction, one for nonfiction and one for a first novel. The awards honor books that depict the "cultural, historical, or sociopolitical aspects of the African Diaspora". Must be nominated by publisher.

12/31: Culture of Enterprise Student Essay Contest ++
Recommended free contest for undergraduates offers prizes up to $10,000 and web publication for essays, 2,500-3,000 words, on the topic: "Can Character and Communities Survive in an Age of Globalization?" Sponsor is a libertarian think tank funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

12/31: 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.

12/31: French-American Foundation Translation Prizes +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers prizes of $10,000 apiece for the best published book-length translations of French fiction and creative nonfiction into English. Entries must have been published in the US during the current calendar year. (Bound galleys are accepted for books scheduled for publication by December 31.) Publishers should submit the translated book along with the French original and a cover letter with information about the book and its author.

12/31: Girls Gone Great Scholarship Essay Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest offers $2,000 college scholarship for Maryland high school junior and senior girls for essays, 800 words maximum, on how they are making a difference in their community. Entries should include a reference from an adult who is not a family member. Sponsor is a women's radio show in Baltimore. Enter by email.

12/31: L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest +++
Highly recommended free contest for emerging writers of short science fiction, fantasy and horror offers quarterly prizes of $1,000 plus an annual $5,000 grand prize for one of the four winners. Send only one story per quarter, maximum 17,000 words. See website for eligibility rules. Entrants may not have professionally published a novel or short novel, or more than one novelette, or more than three short stories, in any medium.

12/31: Metcalf-Rooke Award ++
Formerly September 30
Recommended free contest offers C$1,500 and publication for the best unpublished novel or short story collection by a Canadian writer. No length limit specified (200-400 pages is typical). Biblioasis is a small independent press in Ontario that publishes literary prose and poetry, and the critical journal CNQ: Canadian Notes & Queries.

12/31: Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction +++
Highly recommended free contest offers $5,000 for the best novel about the Civil War published during the current calendar year. Publishers, critics or authors should send 4 copies of the book to the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.

12/31: Micro Award +
Neutral free contest offers top prize of $500 for the best short story up to 1,000 words that was published or self-published, in print or online, during the current calendar year. Enter by mail or email. Mailed submissions must be postmarked from October 1 to December 31, and received by January 15. Emailed submissions must be sent between October 1-December 31.

12/31: Seventeen Magazine Fiction Contest ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest for short fiction by US and Canadian teenage girls (ages 13-21) offers top prize of $5,000 and publication on for a short story up to 500 words. Enter online. 2012 judges are Seventeen editors and author Maggie Stiefvater.

12/31: Thoroughbred Times Fiction Contest ++
Recommended free contest offers prizes of $600, $300, $200, plus publication, for fiction up to 5,000 words about some facet of the Thoroughbred horse industry. Mail or email entries accepted. Offered biennially (odd-numbered years only).

1/5: Japan Center-Canon Essay Competition +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly December 31
Neutral free contest for high school and college students in the New York Metropolitan area offers scholarships up to $2,000 for essays, maximum 750 words, on the spirit of Japan. Enter online only. Entrants must be 13 years old or older and enrolled in high schools or undergraduate programs in the New York Metropolitan area during the current school year. Entrants must be US citizens or legal permanent residents of the US except void in Maine and wherever prohibited by law.

1/5: Narrative Travel Writing Contest +
Entries must be received by this date
Neutral free contest offers prizes up to $500 and publication on for original and previously unpublished travel essays, 1,000-5,000 words, on an annual theme. Enter online only. Photo illustrations are encouraged.

1/7: John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly January 8
Highly recommended free contest for US high school students offers top prize of $5,000 cash, plus $5,000 to grow in a John Hancock Freedom 529 College Savings Plan, for essays about how a contemporary elected official (post-1956) risked his or her career to take a stand based on moral principles. Essays should be 1,000 words maximum and cite at least five varied research sources, including one non-Internet source. Online entries preferred.

1/15: Desert Writers Award +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly December 31
Neutral free contest offers annual fellowship of $2,000 for writers of literary or creative nonfiction to spend time writing in and about the desert landscape. Send 10-page writing sample, project description and biographical statement. Enter by email only. Finalists may be interviewed.

1/15: Donald Murray Prize ++
Entries must be received by this date
Recommended free contest from the National Council of Teachers of English offers $500 for the best essay about teaching and/or writing that was published in the previous calendar year. Anyone may nominate an essay of any length. Send 3 copies with information on the source and date of publication. Email Melissa Goldthwaite for complete rules.

1/15: LILITH Magazine Fiction Competition +
Entries must be received by this date; formerly December 15
Neutral free contest offers $250 for unpublished stories touching on the experience of Jewish women. Send one story, maximum 3,000 words (shorter stories preferred). Sponsored by LILITH, a Jewish feminist magazine. Contest is open to both men and women. Enter online.

1/15: Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest ++
Recommended free contest seeks essays that "address ideas that affect the Northwest" region of the US. Top prize of $750 in the open category, $500 in the student category (college or graduate school), plus smaller prizes and publication in Oregon Quarterly, the University of Oregon magazine. Maximum 2,000 words for the open category, 1,500 words for the student category. One essay per person.

1/15: VCU Cabell First Novelist Award ++
Recommended free contest from Virgina Commonwealth University offers $5,000 for a first novel published in the US during the previous calendar year. Author, agent, and editor also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Richmond, VA to participate in the Virginia Commonwealth University First Novelist Forum. Send 3 copies of published book. One prize per year, but two deadlines, depending on when book was published. Deadline is September 15 for books published January through June of the current calendar year. For books published July through December of this year, the deadline is January 15 of the following year.

1/18: Orwell Prize +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly January 19
Highly recommended free contest offers prizes of 3,000 pounds in each of three categories (Book Prize, Journalism Prize and Blog Prize) for the best political writing published during the preceding calendar year. Additionally, a Special Prize may be awarded at the judges' discretion. Entries may be published books of fiction or nonfiction, journalistic articles or broadcasts, or blogs. All entrants must have a clear relationship with the UK or Ireland as described in the contest rules. Submit 4 copies of one book, 4 copies each of 4-6 articles or broadcast transcripts (or a combination of the two), or 10 blog posts by a single author. The Special Prize is not a separate submission category.

1/20: RTE Radio 1 Francis MacManus Short Story Competition ++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly December 31
Recommended free contest for authors born or normally resident in Ireland offers top prize of 3,000 euros for unpublished short fiction of 1,800-2,000 words that is suitable for radio performance. One entry per person.

1/30: RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers ++
Recommended free contest offers C$5,000 for poetry or fiction by Canadian authors under 35 with no published books. Genre alternates by year. 2012 contest is for 5-10 pages (up to 2,500 words) of previously unpublished fiction.

1/31: American Kennel Club Fiction Writing Contest ++
Recommended free contest offers top prize of $500 for short stories up to 2,000 words that feature either a purebred or mixed breed dog. No simultaneous submissions. The AKC is a well-known organization that sets the criteria for purebred show dogs, as well as advocating for animal welfare and providing information for dog owners and breeders.

1/31: Amy Writing Awards ++
Recommended free contest offers $34,000 in prizes, top prize of $10,000, for articles with a Biblical perspective that were published in secular newspapers or magazines, or on mainstream, non-religious news or e-magazine websites (no blog entries), in the previous calendar year. "Examples of issues for consideration, but not limited to these, are family life, divorce, value trends, media and entertainment character, pornography, political morality, US national interests, abortion, religion and addiction to drugs and alcohol. The biblical impact on individual character and outlook are also appropriate issues. The need for obedience through biblical truth should be evident."

1/31: Caine Prize for African Writing +++
Entries must be received by this date
Highly recommended free contest offers 10,000 pounds for published short stories by African writers, defined as someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or whose parents are African, and whose work has reflected African sensibilities. Up to 5 shortlisted authors receive a travel stipend. For the 2012 contest, entries must have been published between February 1, 2007 and the deadline date. Must be submitted by publisher. Send 6 copies of published story. (They prefer 6 originals but will accept 1 original and 5 photocopies.)

1/31: Danuta Gleed Literary Award +++
Entries must be received by this date; formerly February 1
Highly recommended free contest offers C$10,000 for the best first collection of short fiction published by a Canadian author in the preceding calendar year. Publisher must send 4 copies to the Writers' Union of Canada.

1/31: Jack London Writing Contest ++
Recommended free contest for students in grades 9-12 offers prizes of $2,000, $1,000 and $500 for stories and essays of 2,000 words maximum (entries in both genres compete together). Entries should be submitted by the student's English teacher.

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

1/31: Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant +
Recommended free contest offers a $1,000 grant to an Ohio writer aged 30 and under with no published books. Submit 1-6 prose pieces (fiction or creative nonfiction), each of which should be 10-60 double-spaced pages in 12-point font. Applicants must have been born in Ohio or lived there for at least 5 years. See website for details and entry form.

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.



Ginosko Literary Journal
Rolling Deadline
Ginosko is a semiannual online journal that publishes poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, interviews, social justice essays, and spiritual insights. They accept submissions year-round by email (preferred) or postal mail. Previously published work is eligible. Read past issues to get a sense of their preferred style and length.

JMS Books Seeks GLBT Short Stories
Rolling Deadline
JMS Books LLC is a small press specializing in GLBT erotic romance. They release 3 e-books a week and 3 print titles a month. Authors receive 50% net on royalties from all sales. In addition to full-length manuscripts, they are currently seeking unpublished or out-of-print short stories with GLBT themes in all sub-genres, 5,000-20,000 words. Accepted entries will be released as stand-alone e-books. See website for guidelines.

Unbound Press Holiday Flash Fiction Prize
Entries must be received by January 9
Scottish literary publisher Unbound Press seeks flash fiction up to 500 words for their annual print anthology. Top three winners receive an iPad 2, iPod Touch, or iPod Nano. Fees start at 5 pounds, 8 euros, or $10 per story. Enter by mail or email.

Slipstream "Cars, Bars & Stars" Issue
Postmark Deadline: April 30
The literary journal Slipstream is currently accepting submissions of poetry and artwork for their "Cars, Bars & Stars" issue. Entries may feature any combination of the subjects or only one. Creative interpretations are encouraged. Editors say, "We prefer contemporary urban themes—writing from the gut that is not afraid to bark or bite—and shy away from pastoral, religious, and rhyming verse."



by J. Lorraine Brown

The bruise around her eye had faded
to lavender. She sat across from me in the rectory
parlor where the elderly housekeeper had hidden
us. I studied her eye and wondered
how a lover could break open such a heart.
What kind of a heart must he have?
Outside, the sky paled to lavender.
I brewed like a cup of tea: the wonder
of it all—that she could stay with him.

We sat on a tufted couch
faded by anxious parishioners hiding secrets,
twitchy, wearing the nub of the fabric with their friction,
leaving the color so worn it almost disappeared.
The shadows in the room stretched until they hid our faces.
I remembered her when she played the radio and sang along with Fats,
but memory faded in this desperate room
where we waited for the priest, wondering
what he would say to make things right, wondering
how he would warn her of the danger of staying with a man
who broke her heart and painted her eye lavender.
The wonder is that you can begin over, he would say.
The pain will fade like the lavender stain around your eye.

Father Mulcahey was old, his cassock faded
like the couch. "Marriage is for better or for worse," he said.
"You can't hide from your vows. Look into your heart."
He leaned toward her and whispered: "I wonder
if you are trying hard enough."

The sky grew dark, warning of a thunderstorm.
Lilacs against the window glowed lavender.
Later, I wanted to see her eyes again, but she kept them hidden
behind her dark glasses, so I couldn't warn my own tender heart.

Copyright 2011 by J. Lorraine Brown

This poem is reprinted from her forthcoming chapbook, Little Houses, which is currently available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press (go to the Forthcoming Titles page), and will be released in March.


The National Geographic Society, 1968
by Anna Scotti

Rainwater streaming, breaking and joining,
clear as brown agate, clear as marbles smacked hard
across another cracked walk, years ago, now.
Decades. Grass sprouting through the cracks, ragged
leaves of dandelion, cheap flowers cheerful
as a sun that was yellower then, and beneath the broken slabs
if you dared look, blind red worms, a potato bug
with fringed legs at the curve of its pearled shell,
fat cream colored grubs, dappled slugs, beetles
with orange bellies, and always
that loop running, running in my head, like
nature films projected on a yellowed screen in a darkened auditorium, tape crackling
and snapping: an excellent source of protein,
raw or pierced with a stick and broiled over flames—

(I would squat beside the men, their skins shining like leopard pelts, mine like ivory tusk.
I would scorch the stick and scarify my hard arms, I would wear my hair in matted knots
with beads worked through, I would be shirtless, flat and muscled like a man, like a cat. I
would gorge on grubs like shish kabob, like rinds of beef, like passion fruit, like honey—)

—Wednesday nights we'd board the groaning city bus
pushing past the weary workers coming home as we were going out,
three girls in prim dresses and white socks,
two boys chafing against their starched collars.
At Society Headquarters we were all in a line like Chinese
ducks, like matryoshka, like Appalachian measuring cups
filing neatly toward our usual row of grey metal folding chairs,
already lost in chimpanzee dreams,
grubs on sticks, smelted iron and gandydancers,
then a bus ride home in the deepening dark, drowsy now
between my brothers, just a girl again. Quarters tinkled
in a metal box beside the scowling driver whose bristled
neck rolled over his collar in grubby yellow folds.

Copyright 2011 by Anna Scotti

This poem was first published in the 2011 issue of the literary journal Chautauqua, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


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A Grandson's Questions Spark a Desire to Read

The famous French writer Victor Hugo once wrote that "there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson." Though he was born in a different country during a different time period, Hugo must surely have been talking about Emanuel Anderson.

Anderson is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, born in 1937. Married to his current wife for 46 years, he is the proud father of three daughters, and he worked his whole life to give his daughters an education and a solid footing in life. All the while, Anderson couldn't read.

"I worked hauling groceries and then I sold ice and from there I went to Pepsi-Cola where I worked on the truck," recalls Anderson. Eventually, he moved inside the warehouse and drove a forklift; any time there was a promotion or new job that required an application, Anderson wouldn't let the opportunity pass him by. Although he could not read the applications, he would take the applications home and seek help from his family.

He knew he needed help. He knew getting an education and learning to read were important. He even went so far, in 2003, as to seek out help from the South Baltimore Learning Center (SBLC), a member of ProLiteracy. At that time, he started working with a volunteer tutor, Steve Hobbs. Hobbs, it turned out, grew up not far from Anderson and is also roughly the same age. The two men bonded.

Anderson had some important motivation: his grandson Kaisdan. During the 2003 holiday season, Kaisdan asked Anderson to read him a book. Anderson asked Hobbs for help and the men selected The Sweetest of Angels.

"I read it to my grandson," Anderson says. "I read the whole book to my grandson."

But Anderson took a break from SBLC. He tried several other literacy programs and worked with his family. It wasn't until eight years later, when Kaisdan turned 11 years old, that Anderson really recommitted himself to learning how to read.

"My grandson started asking questions and I realized I needed to go back to school to answer his questions," he says. "Kaisdan was reading a lot, and I knew I was going to have to learn to read."

He returned to the South Baltimore Learning Center in 2011 and asked specifically for Hobbs.

"Coincidentally, Steve had just called to say he was ready to be re-matched with a new adult learner," says Meg Bullamore, volunteer and outreach coordinator at the center. "So we were able to connect these two old friends immediately. They were talking to one another again within days. It was really special timing."

Since their reunion, the two have made great progress. Anderson has completed all level one books and is now working on level three. Hobbs taught him how to read and write the alphabet, and Anderson credits this simple accomplishment with changing his life.

"Now when I talk to my family, they ask me to read certain words or sentences to them," he says. "It takes me a while but I read to them. And it's made me the happiest person in the world."

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.

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This month, Critique Corner is pleased to present a special feature: an appreciative reassessment of five poems by Winning Writers subscribers that were published in our newsletter this year.

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!

Praise Poem
by Stephen Derwent Partington

We praise the man who,
though he held the match between
his finger and his thumb,
beheld the terror of its tiny drop of phosphorus,
its brown and globoid smoothness
like a charred and tiny skull
and so returned it to its box.

So too, we hail the youth who,
though he took his panga on the march,
perceived it odd within his fist
when there was neither scrub
nor firewood to be felled,
so laid it down.

An acclamation for the man who,
though he saw the woman running, clothing torn,
and though he lusted,
saw his mother in her youth,
restrained his colleagues
and withdrew.

We pay our homage to the man who,
though his heart was like a stone
and though he took a stone to cast,
could feel its hardness in the softness of his palm
and grasped the brittleness of bone,
so let it drop.

We laud the man who,
though he snatched to scrutinise
the passenger's I.D.,
saw not the name—instead, the face—
and slid it back
as any friend might slide his hand to shake a friend's.

And to the rest of us,
a blessing:
may you never have to be that man,
but if you have to,

Copyright 2011 by Stephen Derwent Partington

This poem is reprinted from his collection How to Euthanise a Cactus (Cinnamon Press, 2010).


by Thelma T. Reyna

Mother plugged up the coffee spout
     with foil after dinner
to keep the cockroaches out
     and laid a pile
of patchwork quilts on the chilly floor
     for us to sleep on and urinate.
She hung them on the doors
     next morning,
colorful, stinky banners hanging
     room through room
to dry—rearranging
     them next night so the most pissed
would be on the bottom of the stack
     and we could sleep without the stench
of too much wetness.

Her black
     coffee sometimes had a baby cockroach
drowned in its bitters. Got through the foil, I guess,
     damned little fool,
got through the plug to mess
     her brew, as we messed her quilts—
growing kids lying shoulder to shoulder
     on the floor,
growing older,
     still peeing, still wrapped in each other's arms
to keep warm.

Copyright 2011 by Thelma T. Reyna

This poem is reprinted from her collection Breath & Bone, which was a semifinalist in the 2010 New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition and was published in April 2011 by Finishing Line Press.


Twilight of the Sword Swallower
by Dana Curtis

The metal ground sharp and
sparks: a brand new constellation: "Fire
Opal," "Ruined Lizard," "Eye's
Inner Sanctum." In the sweet
illumination, I work at the saw
cutting fish out of silver
for jewelry or some soon to be invented
weapon. Everything is manipulated,
softened by heat, hair caught
in the polishing wheel, glitter
of new set jewels. Titanium,
treated with flame or electricity, turns colors
no bomb would wear: consumptive nova
bursting myriad blades. It takes skill
to split small things. Let the new sky
bless the new stars.
   Evening, what is known
as golden hour, the film crew
rush to get the shot while Seraphim
walk their small mad dogs.
So attracted to the camera's
rigid intent blinking their watery eyes,
spoiled by wingspans: a sexy use
for archaic weapons. Visit me
at my pretty house where I'll serve
grapes and whisper
something no one remembers, hopes
never to hear. Not the inevitable
edge, the intimate comprehension
of swallow and remove, my presence
on a red cushion in the black and white
night. We cut our throats on
the new sky, old angels.

Copyright 2011 by Dana Curtis

This poem is reprinted from her new collection Camera Stellata, which was recently published by WordTech Communications.


Composite Color
by Robert Savino

The night sky is black, perforated by bb holes
of light, sometimes under a blanket of doubt.
Perhaps it will change to African American night;
and Indian Summer to Native American autumn.

Why not...ask Crayola!
prussian blue changed to midnight blue
flesh is now peach
indian red, chestnut

and while green-blue, orange-red and lemon-yellow
were retired and enshrined in the Hall of Fame,
pink flamingo, banana mania and fuzzy
wuzzy brown were added to the list.

Segregation has become a tempered memory.
A double scoop of chocolate and vanilla,
once packed like fists of Sugar Ray
and Jake, now melts in handshakes.

Sammy and Frank; Martin and Bobby—
forging connections, a slow crawl
of tap dance steps to gigantean proportions,
a mixing bowl with no sense of separation.

Crayola brands, ice-cream stands,
playful minds, shaded hues of humanity.

Copyright 2010 by Robert Savino

This poem was first published in the Fall 2010 issue of North American Review.


News of the Nameless
by Veronica Golos


I climb marble steps worn to the shapes of waves.
I follow those with the loudest voices.

I am a dry broom
an old man sweeps his floor with; the sunlight speaks in Braille.

All Bethlehem is a child's tale: the crisis-crossed road,
the man in the white robe, the donkey,

the already dangerous dust.
Now the news is full of splinters.

Graffiti scars my palms, my wrists—
I walk through the library of forgetting.

I am my own news and nothing's


Who was he, naked and bound on the ground?
He is gone now.

Disappeared into the crowd of other news,
disappeared into someone's home,

where he sits, hands flat on the table—
pierced by a brilliant sun.

Where is the solider, the helmet, the hands, the threat
that pulled him naked from his cell

held him
as the choker clicked like a timepiece?

Who carries the dead weight, the iron cuffs,
the chair in the center of the room,

the whisper behind the earlobe?
I hear particulates strung along air, vibrating:

What is his name?
What is his name?

Copyright 2011 by Veronica Golos

This poem is reprinted from her collection Vocabulary of Silence, which was released in February 2011 by Red Hen Press.

Critique by Tracy Koretsky

Some poems rise above. This month in Critique Corner we are happy to announce a new feature in this series: occasional essays in which we consider why this is so. Rather than revising a piece offered by a contributor, we will, from time to time, offer an appreciative reassessment of poems reprinted elsewhere in our pages, poems that have either won awards, or received significant publication, or been included in award-winning collections.

To launch these new appreciations—as well as bid farewell to 2011—let's take a look at five poems reprinted in the Winning Writers newsletter during this last year in our Recent Honors for Subscribers feature: "Praise Poem" by Stephen Derwent Partington (February 2011), "Quilts" by Thelma T. Reyna (March 2011 supplement), "Twilight of the Sword Swallower" by Dana Curtis (July 2011), "Composite Color" by Robert Savino (March 2011 supplement), and "News of the Nameless" by Veronica Golos (February 2011).

One characteristic common to all of these poems is their artfully selected and occasionally outstanding diction: the descriptive precision of "its brown and globoid smoothness/ like a charred and tiny skull" from "Praise Poem"; the emotional connotation added by the final word in the phrase, "a baby cockroach /drowned in its bitters" from "Quilts"; the economy of "consumptive nova" from "Twilight of the Sword Swallower"—such a big idea conveyed in just two words; the specificity of the proper nouns in "Composite Colors"; the punning "crisis-crossed road" (as opposed to criss-crossed) in "News of the Nameless".

Diction can always benefit through revision. Ask yourself if your verbs are active and interesting, if there are more specific or less prosaic ways to convey ideas, if your descriptions really help a reader visualize. Take the time to use a thesaurus, especially for adjectives. Words with connotative meanings add layers to a poem.

But beyond diction, each of these poems offers some insight into what works effectively...

Click to continue reading this critique

These poems and our critique appear in full at:

See all of our poetry critiques.


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The Best Free Poetry Contests for January 16-February 29