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Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center

2013 Young Poets Poetry Contest

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - Friday, March 15, 2013

Walt Whitman Birthplace Association

is proud to present its

Twenty-Seventh Annual Poetry Contest


Contest: Write a poem about roads.


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

Walt Whitman (1856, 1881)

This year the theme is about the many kinds of roads.  The roads Whitman is thinking about are the untraveled roads--going into the countryside, along the beach, up into mountains.  Your road could be one you know or have traveled by foot.  It could also be an imaginary road that you wish to travel.  There are also roads of emotions--growing up, learning something new, falling in love, leaving home, meeting new friends, listening to parents or grandparents telling their stories, or imagining the kind of adult life you might choose.  Read Whitman’s poem to experience, see and hear the many voices, sights, and ideas that he sings about.  Yes, sings about, as this is a song of praise for the things you will discover.

Whitman writes:

Listen! I will be honest with you,
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you.

Use Whitman’s technique of detailed descriptions and use of the senses to compose your poem.  Include some or all of your senses:  see, smell, taste, touch, hear.  Perhaps include the sounds of a musical instrument, the colors you see or imagine you see, or another person you may meet or travel with on the open road.  Remember to use images, similes and metaphors to show us your ideas.  Your poem should employ a longer line, like those of Whitman.  Search for unusual words and craft them into poetics of sounds, repeating letters for alliteration and vowels for assonance.  Try to avoid end rhymes, although slant or internal rhymes may be used.

Immerse yourself with fanciful images of adventure and creativity.  Like Whitman, consider not only the many people, places, things in your everyday life, but also the new experiences you may encounter as you compose your own unique Song of the Open Road.

“Allons!  (let us go), whoever you are come travel with me!”  (section 9)

Good luck!

The Walt Whitman Birthplace


The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association maintains and operates the Walt Whitman Birthplace, home of America’s greatest poet.  All contestants and poetry lovers are encouraged to visit the Birthplace.  School groups may participate in a variety of unique educational programs.



ELIGIBILITY: Students in grades 3-12


Category A – Individual poem, grades 3-4                                            Category G – Class anthology, grades 5-6

Category B – Individual poem, grades 5-6                                            Category H – Class anthology, grades 7-8

Category C – Individual poem, grades 7-8                                            Category   I – Class anthology, grades 9-10

Category D – Individual poem, grades 9-10                                          Category   J – Class anthology, grades 11-12

Category E – Individual poem, grades 11-12                                        Category  K – Multi-media

Category F – Class anthology, grades 3-4                                             Category  L – Individual anthology


  1. Type or print any length poem up to 2 pages.
  2. Individual poems MUST have the following information on EACH page or poems may be disqualified:
  • poem title and entrance category
  • entrant’s name, complete address, home phone number, age and grade level
  • school name, complete address, school phone number, and teacher’s name
  • for multiple entries by a teacher: poems must be noted by grade AND class period
  1. Class anthology MUST have the following information or anthologies may be disqualified:
  • anthology title
  • title sheet with the entrance category, teacher’s name, grade, school name, school phone number and complete address
  • the student’s name on each poem; student may enter a poem in an anthology and as an individual poem
  • all poems should be in binder or book form
  • for multiple entries by a teacher: anthologies must be noted by grade AND class period


Entries must be postmarked by MARCH 15, 2013


  • Winners notified by mail in mid-May.
  • Awards ceremony: Sunday, June 2, 2013.
  • Awards distributed at the annual Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration held at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.  This is Walt’s 194rd birthday.
  • First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention Awards will be given in each category.
  • First place poems will be posted on the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association website.
  • Individual entries will NOT be returned.
  • To obtain a list of winners send self-addressed business envelope with two first class stamps.
  • Awards held for pickup at the Walt Whitman Birthplace until July 10, 2013.  They will not be mailed.
  • Winning and non-winning anthologies will be held for pickup until July 10, 2013.  They will not be mailed.

All submissions become the property of the Walt Whitman Birthplace and may be published online or in print.

The poems are judged by a panel of published poets selected by the Birthplace Trustees.


POETRY CONTEST  -  Carolyn Diglio, Education Coordinator

Walt Whitman Birthplace Association

246 Old Walt Whitman Road

Huntington Station, NY  11746-4148

(for additional information contact Carolyn at (631) 427-5240, ext. 113)