2018 Poetry Contest Guidelines


Theme:       TRIBUTE

Contest:     Write a poem using Whitman’s theme.

Smile O voluptuous cool-breath’d earth!

Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!

Earth of departed sunset—earth of the mountains misty-topt!

Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!

Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!

Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!

Far-swooping elbow’d earth—rich apple-blossom’d earth!

Smile, for your lover comes.


                                       - Walt Whitman (1855, 1881), Song of Myself    


Poets are often moved to write about something they love or admire, a tribute that expresses ideas and feelings about it.  A poem of this kind is called an ode.  Walt loved nature.  In this poem he addresses the earth and all its beauties, conveying his ardor and delight.   

As poet, tell your reader about something you value.  Write a poem that may entertain or enlighten, warm or mourn, a poem that reaches the listener.  As poet, you direct the listener’s thoughts, just for a moment, to see what you see, and then to go beyond that to other ideas.  A poem has power.

Try not to see this as an assignment.  This is an opportunity to give your point of view in your own way.  Every poet has their own individual style.  Seek your own voice.  Strive to be unique.  This poem must be your own creation, built with rhyme or free verse, or both.  Explore the type of poetry that comes naturally to you.  What do you love or admire? 

Good luck!



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



THEME:  TRIBUTE                                                                                        

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. (Multi-lingual poems welcome, with English translation.)
  2. Individual poems can be submitted without a school/teacher's endorsement and MUST have the following information on EACH page or poems will 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 will 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 16, 2018



  • Winners notified by mail in mid-May.
  • Awards distributed on Sunday, June 3, 2018, from 12:00 noon – 2:00 PM, at the annual Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration held at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. This birthday is Walt’s 199th
  • Grand Champion and multiple prize winners awarded in each category.
  • Grand Champion poems will be posted on the WWBA website and their names will be made available to the media.
  • 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 13, 2018. They will not be mailed.
  • Winning and non-winning anthologies will be held for pickup until July 13, 2018. 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.


MAILING INSTRUCTIONS: Walt Whitman Birthplace Association 

246 Old Walt Whitman Road

Huntington Station, NY  11746-4148



Copyright ©2018 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. All Rights Reserved.