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Lesson Plan April 1, 2022

Fighting Words: Poetry in Response to Current Events [Contest and Workshop]


Thank you to all participants in this year's Fighting Words Poetry Contest! See all winners and finalists and explore their poems here. Stay tuned for more information about next year's contest, which will open in March 2023.

Announcing the 2022 Pulitzer Center Poetry Contest!

How can poetry be an effective response to current events and underreported stories? How can we use poetry to connect global issues to our local and personal contexts? Students are invited to explore these questions and make their voices heard in their entries to the Fighting Words Poetry Contest.

Para ver esta página en español, haga clic aquí.


Any current K-12 student in the United States or internationally may enter. Students may write in any language, and are welcome to submit multilingual poems. Judges will have reading fluency in English and Spanish.


  • 1st place: $300, publication on the Pulitzer Center website
  • 2nd place: $200, publication on the Pulitzer Center website
  • 3rd place: $100, publication on the Pulitzer Center website
  • Finalists: $75, publication on the Pulitzer Center website


Sunday, May 15, 2022, 11:59pm EST

Entry guidelines:

Go to the Pulitzer Center website and select a story (see the “Suggested Stories” tab above for a curated list). Write a poem of any form and length that includes lines from the story. Include an epigraph in the following format: With lines from "STORY TITLE" by JOURNALIST NAME, a Pulitzer Center reporting project.

The form will ask for some basic information, and you will upload your poem to the form as an attachment. You may also upload an audio or video file of yourself performing your poem; this file is optional, but the text file is required.

If you have questions about these guidelines or if the entry form is not accessible to you, please email

Judging criteria:

Poems will be judged by the following criteria:

1. Success of the poem on its own terms (craft, linguistic style, emotion, etc.)

  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • What response(s) do I want to evoke in my reader? Have I chosen the best words to evoke this response?
    • Have I used poetic devices (e.g. repetition, imagery, metaphor), or chosen not to use them, to achieve a specific effect?

2. Successful inclusion of lines quoted from a Pulitzer Center story

  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • Have I chosen lines that add something important to the poem?
    • Are the lines integrated into the poem smoothly, so their presence feels natural?

3. Thoughtful choice of perspective and respectful treatment of subject matter

  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • What is my relationship to the story I have chosen? How can I make a personal connection?
    • Why am I writing from the perspective I have chosen? What other perspectives could I choose, and how would those choices change the poem?
    • If the subjects of the story I have chosen read my poem, how might they feel?

Previous contest winners:

Read the winning poems from 20212020, 2019, and 2018.

Support for preparing students for the contest:

Please navigate to the "Resources for Teachers and Students" tab above to find a slide presentation to lead students through a preparatory workshop and a graphic organizer to support the workshop and guide students as they write their poems. The "Suggested Stories" tab contains a curated list of stories suggested for different grade levels.

You can also schedule a free, virtual workshop facilitated by a member of the Pulitzer Center education team. To make a request, please email and let us know...

  1. What is the name of your school, and where is it located?
  2. What date(s) / time(s) is your class available for a workshop? (Please include time zone)
  3. What do you teach, and what grade are your students in?
  4. Approximately how many students do you expect to join the workshop?
  5. What virtual platform would you like to use? (Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
  6. Will students be able to join the virtual workshop link individually? (This is ideal, but we can work with any technological setup.)

Please help us understand your needs better by filling out this brief survey!

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