March Poetry Contest Winner

I received a record number of entries this month! I think that the theme of equanimity resonated with a number of readers. This month, I am excited to announce that we have our first international winner!

Photograph of Ojo Taiye by Downtown Studios

Ojo Taiye is a Nigerian poet whose work appears in the Rumpus, Glass Poetry Journal, and a number of other places. His poem, “Hereditary Blues,” has a subtle connection to the theme. I appreciated the way his work made me pause and think.

Due to challenges related to international transactions, this month, I made an exception and gave the prize directly to Ojo himself. I definitely didn’t anticipate having international poets enter this contest, so I didn’t anticipate this issue. But I think it’s a good problem to have!

Hereditary Blues

for some years now, you lay out your blue-coated pills & thank them
for their taste buds: the dilating seas that neatly occupy your bed
with a living dream. the sky today is made of your lover’s breath. you
realize your love for him is like a city on fire: mother of all balm &
each growing desire is a wing shaped by time. you dream of homeland
only in your poems. this is always what you wanted: to hold your
breath when no one else will. all day you watch for the mail—lost in
the reverie for some news from a distant place. you are an un-happy
thing—a grey country quietly waiting for the catastrophe of its own
beauty. haven’t you travelled enough—to end the chore. to be lost in a
suspension of time. it maybe the coldest month of the year— & you are
an odd spot of calm misled by want. how your imprecise side stayed up
to watch the sun eat the moon. this morning you woke up to snows &
skies of laughter not enough—

March Poetry Contest: Equanimity

Equal parts cookie and cream

March is the month of the spring equinox. My favorite equinox memory is when my 9th grade geography teacher brought Double-Stuff Oreos for all of her students, because they had equal parts light and dark. (Apparently the true balance of this particular cookie has been debunked, but it remains a wonderful memory nonetheless.)

For the March contest, create a poem that incorporates the theme of equanimity. You can do this any number of ways:

  • Write a poem in which the content is concerned with equanimity;
  • Write a concrete poem representing equanimity;
  • Use, bend, or break the rules of a poetic form to create a sense of equanimity.

I am so excited to see what you come up with!

Email your poem to by 11:59 pm on March 20th. The winner will receive a gift certificate to the independent bookstore of their choice, or I will make a donation in their honor to a nonprofit.

View past contest winners here.

The Best of It: I Survived the Texas Snowpocalypse Edition

A contemporary reenactment of Lady and the Tramp
  1. That you can (usually) light gas stoves even when the power is out.
  2. That we had emergency bags filled with water and other supplies.
  3. The way the neighborhood came together to help each other out.
  4. Being able to charge my phone off of my portable car jump starter.
  5. Being able to flush the toilet again.

February Poetry Contest Winner

Another month, another delayed contest result. This time it was the fault of the Texas Snowpocalypse! I’m glad to be on the other side of that and getting things back on track.

Արման Բարսեղյան, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This month’s winner is Peter H. Schmidt. His golden shovel, “Rise Up,” draws from John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight,” as well as “My Shot (Rise Up Part)” from the musical Hamilton. Peter asked me to make a donation to an organization helping homeless people in Austin; I selected Caritas of Austin, an organization dear to my heart, to receive a $25 donation in his honor.

Rise Up
What does it mean to rise up
Is it enough not to give up
Is hope caged the rage the
Phrase of the heart too long
Denied a fair start, delirious
Furious infamous self-injurious burning
Away as respect is due, blue
Notes all through, I’ve
Never stopped, won’t be topped
Won’t take my eyes off the
Sky, gonna do, not die, wind-swept
I will climb clouds to heights
Flights of eagles at my feet with
Stars so close I’ll make it easy
For all eyes to see: my amazing grace

The Best of It: More Good Things About Moving Edition

  1. Having a dishwasher for the first time in seven years.
  2. For the first time in my life, having a space where I don’t have to take into account anyone else’s needs.
  3. My neighborhood Buy Nothing group.
  4. Much better lighting in the new place.
  5. Being in walking distance of Monkey Nest Coffee

February Poetry Contest: Golden Shovel

Photo by Scott R on

I can’t wait to see what y’all write for this month’s poetry contest! There are two prize options: 1) A $25 gift certificate to the independent bookstore of your choice, or 2) A $25 donation to the literacy nonprofit, aid organization, or public library of your choice. Please see the Monthly Contest Page for complete rules (there aren’t many) and past winners. This month’s deadline is Friday, February 20th.

The golden shovel is a form invented by poet Terrance Hayes. He created it in homage to Gwendolyn Brooks. In honor of Black history month, the February contest is to write a golden shovel related to environmental or climate issues. Feel free to be creative with the source text. My friend E. Kristin Anderson has a series of golden shovels based on Ke$ha songs.

If you’re unfamiliar with this form, read the poem “Golden Shovel” by Terrance Hayes as a reference point. Notice how the line endings in both parts are made up from Brooks’ “We Real Cool.” Notice how Hayes uses the words in a more straightforward way in the first section, and focuses more on sound in the section section. (Note: you do not need to write a multi-section poem; go with what works for you.)

Email your golden shovel to by 11:59 pm on February 20th. Please also send me the title and author of the poem or song you used as your source text. (Include a link if possible.) The winner will receive a gift certificate to the independent bookstore of their choice, or I will make a donation in their honor to a nonprofit.