2019 Poetry Contest Guidelines


 Theme:       To Realize the Future

Contest:     Write a poem using Whitman’s theme.

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The year 2019 marks the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman, born May 31, 1819, in a farmhouse built by his father in Huntington, Long Island. He published his first collection of poems in 1855, and at that time, he was already very mindful of the future and wrote about great poets:

“Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined.
The greatest poet … places himself where the future becomes present.”
Preface to Leaves of Grass – WW  1855

As a poet, Whitman looked to the future, and in the passage below, Whitman imagined space travel:

“O to realize space!
The plenteousness of all, that there are no bounds,
To emerge and be of the sky, of the sun and moon and flying clouds, as one with them.”
A Song of Joys – WW  1867

His dream came true! After Walt’s death in 1892, the Wright brothers conducted the first successful space flight in 1903, there was a U.S. manned moon landing in 1969, and in 2016 the Juno spacecraft observed Jupiter at close range. Space WAS realized!

In honor of Walt’s 200th birthday, we ask poets to look to the future and write a poem describing some aspect of the future. Imagine yourself, your community, your country, or your world in the future – a year from now, decades from now, two centuries from now, etc. What do you hope to contribute, to create, to experience, to invent? What comes after cell phones? Perhaps there is a challenge or problem that you would like to address to make the world a better place.

Once you have your ideas, create a poem using poetic techniques to describe the future you envision. Your poem should be of a longer line, like those of Whitman’s. Strive for unusual words (plenteousness of all), and use repetition of letters, words, or sounds for alliteration and assonance. Try to avoid end rhymes and use free verse like Whitman. Find a unique metaphor or comparison using “like” or “as.” Put music and rhythm into your poetic lines.

Follow Whitman’s example, and place yourself where the future becomes present!

Good Luck!




The 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:  To Realize the Future                                                                           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.)
  1. Individual poems 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 February 15, 2019



  • Winners notified by mail in mid-March.
  • Awards distributed on Sunday, April 7, 2019, from 12:00 noon – 2:00 PM, at the annual Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration held at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. This is in celebration of Walt’s 200th birthday.
  • 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 May 10, 2019. They will not be mailed.
  • Winning and non-winning anthologies will be held for pickup until May 10, 2019. 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.