Walt Whitman Birthplace Association THIRTY-SIXTH ANNUAL STUDENT POETRY CONTEST 2022

Theme: “Sing to my soul, renew its languishing faith and hope…”

WW Contest: Write a poem about “Renewal” or feeling “Renewed”
Deadline: March 18, 2022
Awards Ceremony: Sunday, May 15, 2022, from 12:00 noon – 2:00 PM at the Birthplace

The year 2022 brings a sense of renewal, especially after one of the world’s worst pandemics. Renewal is defined as replenishing or to fill with inspiration. Renewal makes us think of rebirth, growth, or re-growth. Renewal allows us to imagine and dream. Renewal gives us hope. We often renew library cards; wedding vows, and every day we get the opportunity to renew as individuals. Have you ever felt renewed? If so, when, and what caused this feeling? Was it an activity that you did? Was it an experience that you had? Was it being with a person or spending time in nature? How did this come about and how did it make you feel? Were you changed as a result?

The theme above comes from Whitman’s poem, “THE MYSTIC TRUMPETER.”

Whitman’s hope of “renewal” is personified with the music of the trumpeter, when he states, “Sing to my soul, renew its languishing faith and hope”. Whitman is asking for music to renew his soul. We can sense his renewal through the music and sound of the trumpet—what is YOUR image of a renewal or being renewed and how does it affect you? Write a poem about renewal that you envision—for yourself, for another, or for an inanimate object like the music. Don’t “tell” us about your image, but “show” us with vivid pictures and action words. You don’t need sentences for every line—try using repetition of words, phrases, or sounds for alliteration or assonance which make it poetry and not a story. Notice Whitman’s use of “renew/renewal” above. Use musical “beats” with your lines to create a rhythm and find uncommon words that give a sense of “renewal”. Listen to Whitman’s rhythm. Like Whitman, use ‘free verse” and do not rhyme. Use your five senses to describe renewal—what do you see, hear, touch, taste, or smell? For instance, the trumpeter might renew us with the rhythm of the notes, hearing the vibrant, loud, happy toots of the trumpet.

Does renewal have a taste such as eating watermelon on a hot summer’s day to cool off? Is there a touch associated with renewal such as taking a dip in the pool or jumping in puddles after a rain shower or walking barefoot in the grass on a spring day? In 30 lines or less, share this feeling of renewal and make us feel refreshed in the process. Good luck!

Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site is the home of America’s great poet, Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman Birthplace Association operates the site for New York State. Our Mission is to preserve and promote the legacy of Walt Whitman. All poetry lovers and contestants are encouraged to visit the Birthplace and walk in Walt’s footsteps. School groups may participate in a variety of unique educational programs. Contact Dr. Kelly Ronayne, Education Director, at 631.427.5240 x113 or educator@waltwhitman.org for reservations or contest information. ALL ENTRIES ARE TO BE EMAILED TO: educator@waltwhitman.org


The Mystic Trumpeter
Now trumpeter for thy close,
Vouchsafe a higher strain than any yet,
Sing to my soul, renew its languishing faith and hope,
Rouse up my slow belief, give me some vision of the future,
Give me for once its prophecy and joy.

Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass” (1881–1882)


Click any tab below to learn more about the contest guidelines.

THEME: “Renewal” ELIGIBILITY: Students in grades 3–12
Category A — Individual poem, grades 3–4 Category G — Class anthology, grades 3–4
Category B — Individual poem, grades 5–6 Category H — Class anthology, grades 5–6
Category C — Individual poem, grades 7–8 Category I — Class anthology, grades 7–8
Category D — Individual poem, grades 9–10 Category J — Class anthology, grades 9–10
Category E — Individual poem, grades 11–12 Category K — Class anthology, grades 11–12
Category F — Individual anthology Category L — Multi-media

1. Print or type a poem of up to 30 lines or less. Longer poems will be disqualified.
2. Multi-lingual poems welcome, with English translation.
3. Individual poems MUST have the following information on EACH page or poems will be disqualified:
➢  poem title and entrance category
➢  Student AND teacher email
➢  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
4. Class anthology MUST have the following information or anthologies will be disqualified:
➢  anthology title
➢  title sheet with the entrance category, teacher’s name, grade, school name, school phone number, teacher email,
and complete address
➢  the student’s name on each poem; student may enter a poem in an anthology and as an individual poem
➢  all anthology poems should be in book form
➢  for multiple entries by a teacher: anthologies must be noted by title, grade, AND class period

Entries must be emailed with a date stamped by March 18, 2022

All poems and anthologies are judged by a panel of published poets selected by the Birthplace Trustees.
➢  Winners Notified by April 25 with Winners’ names posted on WWBA website by May 1. If there is any objection to
the posting of a student name, please contact Dr. Kelly K. Ronayne at educator@waltwhitman.org
➢  Winners’ names published in WWBA Award Program distributed at Award Ceremony.
➢  Awards Distributed on Sunday, May 15, 2022, from 12:00 noon–2:00 PM, at the annual Walt Whitman Birthday
Celebration held at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.
➢  Nationally known, Natasha Trethewey, our 2022 Poet in Residence officiates at award ceremony.
➢  Grand Champion and multiple prize winners awarded in each category.
➢  Individual entries and anthologies will NOT be retained or returned.
➢  Awards held for pickup at the Walt Whitman Birthplace June 15, 2022. They will not be mailed.

EMAIL materials to educator@waltwhitman.org by deadline. All submissions become the property of WWBA.
Deadline: March 18, 2022

Please review the submission guidelines above. When you are ready, click the button below to submit: