The Walt Whitman Prize for Poetry

walt-whitman-9530126-1-402In 1855, Walt Whitman took out a copyright on the first edition of Leaves of Grass, which consisted of twelve untitled poems and a preface. He published the volume himself, and sent a copy to Emerson in July of 1855. Whitman released a second edition of the book in 1856, containing thirty-three poems, a letter from Emerson praising the first edition, and a long open letter by Whitman in response. During his lifetime, Whitman continued to refine the volume, publishing several more editions of the book. Noted Whitman scholar, M. Killingsworth writes that “the ‘merge,’ as Whitman conceived it, is the tendency of the individual self to overcome moral, psychological, and political boundaries.  (From: biography)
From: Song of Myself
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves…
All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, 
and luckier.
We are looking for a poem that reveals some connection to Walt Whitman’s poetry.  So much has been said about Whitman’s innovation – his beautiful, syncopated long lines, his painterly use of language, his effusive expression, his fearlessness in breaking convention.  The winning poem does not need to be similar to Whitman’s in form (though of course it can be), but we would like to see the same fearlessness – a similar commitment to the generous, uninhibited expression of the poet’s intellectual and emotional immersion in the chaotic flow of life.
  1. The winning poem will receive a $200 award.
  2. 5 additional poems will receive $25 honorable mention awards.
  3. There are no rules of form and content.  The sole criteria for selecting a winner is the power of the emotional/psychological/spiritual impact on editors reading the poem.
  4. There are no particular trade-craft requirements.  Single or double space, left-center-right justification, long lines/short lines, standard use of punctuation or use of line breaks to set the poem’s rhythm, etc.
  5. TYPOS – we understand it is difficult to catch all typos.  NOTE: we will presume a typo is volitional, so for the purpose of maintaining your intent for the poem it is in your best interest to review carefully, get help from other readers, etc.
  6. Review of poems is blind. Please do not put your name or any other identifying information on your pages.
  7. No BIO needed at this time. You can use the cover letter space provided on the submission form to lobby for your poem or skip the cover letter entirely.
  8. Editors are prohibited from rejecting a poem on first read.  All poems get at least 2 reads before a decision is made.
  9. Editors assume you are smarter than we are.  We will strive to understand your intention ; stay open-minded and avoid imposing our presumptions on your work.
  10. We will never use irresponsible and self-aggrandizing language to describe your work like “purple writing” or “center justification is a gimmick”.
  11. We will accept poems on a revolving basis during the submission period as blog posts on The Raw Art Review’s front page and for inclusion in The Raw Art Review’s next journal volume.  This first acceptance will include the writer’s work on the short-list for the contest winner.
  12. We are offering an expedite fee for shortlist consideration.  The response to expedited submissions will be one week or less.
  13. We value the slush pile.  (Not a derogatory term among our editors).  A poem that is rejected is returned to the slush pile for future consideration.
  14. 3 poems per entry.  Multiple entry submissions are fine but fee applies to each additional submission.
  15. Simultaneous submission is fine.
  17. No Deadline for Submission. We cap our submissions and will post when the period is closed
  18. You must use Submittable for submissions.