Theme: “I am large....I contain multitudes”

WW Contest: Use your poetic voice to tell us about the “multitudes” contained within you.
Deadline: March 17, 2023
Awards Ceremony: Sunday May 21, 2023, 12PM at the Birthplace

The year 2023 arrives with a “jolt of momentum,” with “inclusion,” “diversity” and “unity” top of mind. As we continue to heal from one of the world’s worst pandemics, people across the globe are eager to come together and reconnect. This year’s theme celebrates our commonalities and our contradictions, the “multitudes” contained within us all.

…I celebrate myself, and sing myself,” Whitman writes in his most famous poem, “Song of Myself.” “And what I assume, you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents their same…(Verse 1 from 1888 edition of “Song of Myself.”)

For your poem, think of your parents, grandparents and all those who came before you. Your teachers, your friends and acquaintances, the places you’ve been, the lessons you’ve learned, the hobbies and interests you enjoy. For Whitman, the range of his influences was so immense, he admittedly embodied “contradictions. “Do I contract myself,” he writes, “Very well then, I contradict myself, I am large….I contain multitudes.” (Verse 51)  So, don’t forget to include the contradictions – the oddities and imperfections – that make you, YOU! 

The theme above comes from Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself.”

Whitman’s “Song of Myself” has been hailed as an ode to individuality and originality.” He was in his thirties when he published at his own expense, Leaves of Grass, a volume of twelve untitled poems, including the one he would eventually name “Song of Myself.”

Considered among his most famous works, “Song of Myself” spans about 70 pages and is divided into 52 sections. It begins with the poet celebrating himself:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself…”

But the “I” Whitman speaks of is really the universal, all-encompassing “You.”

He writes of finding himself in every person he sees, in every blade of grass, and with tangible and intangible aspects of the universe. 

Over his lifetime, Whitman would expand and grow “Song of Myself,” just as he expanded and grew himself. In his own words, he strives to speak for  every member of society, to be a voice for every person who has ever lived before him and for all those who will come after him in the future.  

In all people I see myself, none more and not one barley corn less, All the good or bad I say of myself, I save of them.” (Verse 19, 1888 version.) 

Later in the poem he asks, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then…I contradict myself, I am large….I contain multitudes.” (Verse 51) 

Challenge: In 30 lines or less, use your poetic voice to tell us about the “multitudes” contained within you. Explore the people, both living and those who came before you, the places you’ve visited and those you hope to see, hobbies and things that interest you, perhaps music, art, sports, nature, and the experiences that continue to mold and shape you. Or course, don’t forget to highlight the “contradictions,” the peculiarities and eccentricities that make you, YOU!  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 Lisa Pulitzer, 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


Click Any Tab Below for Contest Guidelines

THEME: “I am large, I contain multitudes”

ELIGIBILITY:  Students in grades 3–12


Category A — Individual poem, grades 3–4 

Category B — Individual poem, grades 5–6 

Category C — Individual poem, grades 7–8 

Category D — Individual poem, grades 9–10 

Category E — Individual poem, grades 11–12 

Category F — Individual anthology 

Category G — Class anthology, grades 3–4

Category H — Class anthology, grades 5–6

Category I — Class anthology, grades 7–8

Category J — Class anthology, grades 9–10

Category K — Class anthology, grades 11–12

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’s email (address must accept outside emails.)
➢  Entrant’s name, complete address, home phone number, age, and grade level.
➢  School name, complete address, school phone number, and teacher’s name.
➢  Teacher’s submitting multiple entries must not grade and class period on each individual poem.  
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’s email, and complete address.
➢  Each poem must include the student poet’s name. Students may enter a poem in an anthology and as an individual poem.
➢  All anthology poems should be in book form.
➢  Teacher’s submitting multiple entries must put the title, grade, AND class period on each anthology. 

Entries must be emailed with a date stamped by March 17, 2023.

All poems and anthologies are judged by a panel of published poets selected by the Birthplace Trustees. 
➢  Winners will be notified by April 25th with winners’ names posted on WWBA website by May 1st. If there is any objection to
the posting of a student name, please contact  educator@waltwhitman.org
➢  Winners’ names will be published in WWBA Award Program which will be distributed at our Awards Ceremony.
➢  Awards will be distributed on Sunday, June 4, 2023, from 1:00–3:00 PM, at the annual Walt Whitman Birthday
Celebration, held at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.
➢  Nationally known, Kwame Dawes, our 2023 Poet in Residence, officiates the award ceremony.
➢  Grand Champion and multiple prize winners will be awarded in each category.
➢  Individual entries and anthologies will NOT be retained or returned.
➢  Awards will be held for pickup at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, only awards for out-of-state winners will be mailed. 

EMAIL materials to educator@waltwhitman.org by deadline. All submissions become the property of WWBA and may be published in a future anthology. Students retain all rights to their poem/poems. 
Deadline: March 17, 2023

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

Song of Myself

Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass” (1855–1888)