Poetry and Spoken Word Competition: 2021



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“A tool for dialogue and healing.” That’s how the British spoken word artist Sukina Douglas describes poetry. Poems, American poet Jane Hirschfield explains, take fragments of the human experience and “make [something] new by rejoining parts into a visibly changed whole.”   

At a time, when the world needs to come together, when the pieces need to be reassembled, it seems poetry might offer a way through. “My experience,” Hirschfield says, “is that every truly good poem has in it, somewhere, an anchor dropped down into wholeness.” And good poems, Hirschfield contends, invite the reader into a sense of interconnection and compassion. Poems, she says, can “loosen us from the loneliness of separation.”
 
This month, give us the world re-made whole, conjuring poetry into stanzas, meter, or free verse; or with an original piece of spoken word (poetry performed aloud). We’ll award two top prizes—one for a written poem, and one for a recorded performance.  
   
Guiding Ideas
  • THE FORM: From the strict sonnet to the unbridled free verse, all forms of poetry are welcome. 
  • THE RHYTHM: Like musicians, poets are highly attuned to the rhythm of language. It’s sometimes assumed that poems should therefore rhyme, but many come to life with non-rhyming cadence. Poets use repetition of sounds, the positioning of stressed and unstressed syllables, and pauses and line breaks to build rhythm. Check out the Glossary resource for more information.  
  • THE LANGUAGE: “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar,” wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley. Poets, this is a tall order! You must magnify certain parts of the world so the reader can experience them, as if for the first time. Can the sea be described in such a way that the reader feels she is seeing it (or smelling/hearing/feeling it) anew? Imagery and other forms of sensory description are one of your primary engines, but you can also utilize figurative language (symbolism and metaphor), drawing a non-literal comparison to shed new light on your subject matter. Look in the Glossary for examples. 
  • THE SPEAKER. THE OCCASION. THE VOICE. Who is speaking the words of your poem? Is the reason for their expression clear to the reader? Is their persona (their emotions, thoughts, and motivations) shining through? Every poem has a speaker with a voice, and a particular reason (the stakes!) for speaking at this moment.
  • THE HISTORY: Read poems, and listen to spoken word! Spend just as much time absorbed in the work of other poets as writing poems yourself. This is how we learn technique, and also learn where we fit within the history of poetry. Read poems from decades long past as well as those written yesterday. 
  
A Note on Spoken Word
Spoken word pieces are meant to be performed. In addition to considering the rhythm and cadence of your poem, take time to practice elements such as projection, enunciation, pauses and eye contact. Watching these performances will give you a sense of how the delivery of a piece creates mood and meaning just as much as the words themselves. You’ll also notice that the spoken word genre celebrates authenticity of voice and subject matter. As you experiment with your own lines, remind yourself that the power of spoken word comes from writing about what matters most to you, and expressing these sentiments in your own voice. 
  
How to Record and Submit a Video File (optional)
This month, we'll award a prize for the best performance, as well as one for the best written poem. If you’d like to create an audio/video version, you may use any platform of your choice—simply copy the link within the text of your submission. Some options to consider:  Please note that these are public platforms and are not affiliated with WtW. If you need assistance getting started, please contact hello@writetheworld.com.  
  
Who is Eligible?  
Young writers ages 13-18  
   
Guest Judge
Jacob Sam-La Rose is a poet, educator and editor. His poetry has been translated into Portuguese, Latvian, French and Dutch, and his collection 'Breaking Silence' is required reading for an A level syllabus. He has served as an artistic director for the Spoken Word Education Programme (post-graduate training and accreditation for poet-educators), Shake the Dust (a national youth poetry festival) and countless other creative development initiatives for young and emerging poets. He has presented and performed poetry internationally, and has delivered programmes or commissioned works for the British Council, Raffles Institution (Singapore), the Open Book Festival (Cape Town), the Ministry of Education (Malaysia), the London School of Economics, Southbank Centre, the National Theatre, the Arvon Foundation, the Arts Council and more. For 2021, Sam-La Rose maintains a role as a poetry professor for Guildhall School of Music and Drama, leads the Barbican Young Poets programme (which he founded in 2009) and continues research into speculative futures for poetic composition through code and generative text.

In partnership with Mass Poetry 
We’re excited to partner with Mass Poetry to bring you this month’s competition. Mass Poetry works to broaden the audience of poetry readers, bring poetry to readers of all ages, and transform people’s lives through inspiring verse. 

Prizes 
  • Best Entries: Two prizes of $100 will be awarded: one for the best written poem and one for best performance. (author interviews will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog) 
  • Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog) 
   
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions? 
  • Prizes: The winning entrants (best poem and best performance) will each receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.       
  • Professional Recognition:  The winning entries, plus the best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.             
  • Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday, April 12 and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.  

Key Dates 
  • April 5: Competition Opens  
  • April 12: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)      
  • April 16: Reviews returned to Writers  
  • April 20: Final Submissions Due
  • April 30: Winners Announced  

WtW Poetry Events and Workshops!
Eager to dive deeper into poetry? To celebrate the launch of Write the World's Global Writing Workshops program, we are pleased to host world-renowned spoken word poet Phil Kaye for a free virtual performance event on April 23rd at 7pm ET via Zoom. Register for the reading and check out our virtual poetry workshops and camps taught by esteemed poets, editors, and educators, here.

Upcoming Competition
Our Food Writing Competition opens Monday, May 3rd.
Stay tuned for more details!  

Is previously published work eligible?
Our monthly competitions are designed to get you writing across a range of genres throughout the year, so we encourage you to  write a new work for each  competition, but we will also accept work that has been previously shared with a small, local audience (for instance, a piece that was published in a school journal).

How to Enter 
  1. If you haven’t yet, sign up for a free account for Write the World as a young writer here
  2. Hit the “Start Writing” button above! 
  3. Draft your entry! Hit “Save” to return to it later. 
  4. The first 100 people to submit a draft by March 8 will receive an in-depth review from one of our Expert Reviewers—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals—that you can use to revise your final entry. The “Submit for Expert Review” button will be clickable if slots are still available—click it to have your draft reviewed. (Note: you can still enter the competition if you haven’t received or don’t want to receive an Expert Review!) 
  5. When you are ready to submit your entry, hit the "Submit as Final" button (You can revise, re-publish, and mark any version as your "final submission" until the deadline.)
  6. Only one entry per person, please. 
 
Writing Guidelines
The power of our writing goes hand in hand with responsibility. Make sure that you’re supporting other people through your writing rather than pulling them down. The types of content that will be removed from the site include, but are not limited to:   
  • Anything that may be deemed hurtful, defamatory or discriminatory in nature.
  • Anything deemed explicit or gratuitously violent.
  • Anything referencing self-harm. 
  • Any commercial posts and/or spam. 
  • Plagiarism (see more at our Writing Guidelines page). 
  • Personal contact information—including usernames on social media or other platforms. This is to protect the privacy of our members.
  • Links to any external websites, with the exception of links to citations as part of an essay, or including links to illustrations or audio as part of a Write the World competition or prompt.
If a writer posts content that violates our terms or goes against our guidelines, we will remove the post and contact the writer when necessary.  Please refer to our Writing Guidelines and site’s terms for further information.

Due Dates
  • Apr 12 - Drafts Due for Expert Review

  • Apr 20 - Competition Deadline

Resources