Announcing the Pulitzer Center Poetry Contest!
How can poetry be an effective response to current events and under-reported 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.
- 1st place: $100, publication on the Pulitzer Center website
- 2nd place: $50, publication on the Pulitzer Center website
- 3rd place: $25, publication on the Pulitzer Center website
- Finalists: Publication on the Pulitzer Center website
Eligibility: Any current K-12 student in the United States or internationally may enter.
Deadline: Monday, May 20, 2019 11:59 PM EST
Submission guidelines: Go to the Pulitzer Center website and select a story (see workshop guide below for suggestions). Write a poem of any form and length that includes lines from the story. Use “With lines from “STORY TITLE” by JOURNALIST NAME, a Pulitzer Center reporting project" as your epigraph.
Send poem(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org as a Word document, PDF, GoogleDoc, audio file, or video. If you choose to submit an audio or video file, please include a transcript of your poem as well. Do not include your name in the document.
In the body of your email, please include your full name, school, grade, state and/or country, and phone number.
Judging criteria: Poems will be judged by the following criteria:
- Success of the poem on its own terms (craft, linguistic style, emotion, etc.)
- Successful inclusion of lines quoted from a Pulitzer Center story
Schedule a Workshop to Prepare: Teachers and after-school activity leaders who would like to prepare their students to craft poems for this contest can contact email@example.com to schedule a workshop for their students facilitated by a Pulitzer Center education team member, or may use the workshop guide outlined below.
You can view last year's winning poems here.
In this workshop, students will examine the intersections of poetry and journalism. They will have the opportunity to explore multimedia, under-reported news stories, analyze poems that respond to those stories, and write their own poems using a pressing story that speaks to them.
Poems produced in this workshop can be revised and entered into the Fighting Words Poetry Contest for the chance to win cash prizes and publication.
Students will be able to…
- explain the connection between journalism and poetry
- analyze the connection between a poem and the news story by which it was inspired
- make a personal/local connection to a Pulitzer Center news story
- write a poem that includes lines from a news story
- What is an under-reported story?
- What under-reported stories are you aware of in other parts of the world right now?
- What under-reported stories are present in your community?
- How can you make people aware of the under-reported stories that matter to you?
- How can journalism be an effective way to spread awareness?
- How can art be an effective way to spread awareness? What can poetry contribute, specifically?
- How would you compare the job of a journalist and the job of a poet?
- How would you compare journalism and poetry?
1. Watch 0:00-5:05 of the New York Times documentary “Inside a Suicide Prevention Center in Puerto Rico.” While you watch, consider: what makes this an under-reported story? Why should we care about it?
2. Read and listen to the audio (1:55) of “Permission” by Noel Quiñones. While you listen, highlight lines you hear that you heard word-for-word in the documentary.
3. Discuss the poem:
- What lines jump out at you as important, interesting, beautiful?
- What is the subject of this poem? What under-reported stories can you identify?
In what ways is the poem similar to the documentary? In what ways is it different?
- How does the speaker of the poem express personal connection to the subject matter?
Why do you think Quiñones chose to construct this poem as a pantoum?
What does “119 syllables” refer to?
4. Read Quiñones’s commentary on the poem:
“In the aftermath of Hurricane María, Puerto Rico has been struggling to rebuild and been denied federal grants to do so. While reporters and news stations have focused on people’s access to food, water, and electricity we are seeing a new crisis develop. The New York Times published a mini documentary entitled ‘Inside a Suicide Prevention Center in Puerto Rico’ at the beginning of January highlighting the mental health crisis now taking hold. As a third generation Puerto Rican, I have never been able to shake the pain of being from a place that is not quite a country and not quite a state. We have always lived in a precarious identity and while many state Hurricane María as the beginning of our traumas, we have suffered since America’s invasion 119 years ago.”
- Revisit: What does "119 syllables" refer to? How is this related to the content of the rest of the poem?
Does Quiñones’s commentary change your perspective on the poem in any way? What about your perspective on how poetry can respond to under-reported stories?
*Want to explore more examples of poems written in response to under-reported news stories, written by students? Here are the 2018 Fighting Words winners and finalists.
Exploring Your Story:
Now you will have the chance to choose an under-reported story that speaks to you.
1. Take a few minutes to explore the headlines/images/article summaries for the articles listed below. Select the one that most interests you.
2. In the next 15 minutes, read the corresponding article. While you read, highlight phrases that jump out at you as important, interesting, or beautiful. These should be phrases that capture the feeling of the story.
3. Find a conversation partner with a different article and discuss:
- What is your story about?
- What local and/or personal connection can you make?
- What is one phrase that you highlighted, and why?
1. [Optional] Take 5 minutes to create a cento from the lines you highlighted and other language in your article. A cento is a poem comprised entirely of quotes from other texts. (Find example centos here.)
2. Take another 15 minutes to write a poem that includes lines from your cento and your own original writing.
1. Share your poem with the class and receive your peers’ feedback. See if they can guess what your story was about.
2. Here are some suggestions for how to give good feedback to your peers:
- Mention lines or words you thought were especially powerful or beautiful.
- When you say that you “liked” or “didn’t like” different aspects of the poem, say why.
- Consider the question: How did the poem address the subject of peace and conflict?
Text and photo stories:
- El Salvador: The Deportees Taking Our Calls
- A Tragedy in Yemen, Made in America
- For Uganda's LGBTQ+ Community, Visibility Brings Violence
- Life in the Streets of San Francisco Through the Lens of Ex-Inmates
- The Rising Voices of Women in Pakistan
- A Witness to Iran's Intensifying Struggle with Climate Change
- In California, Salinan Indians Are Trying to Reclaim Their Culture and Land
- The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea
- American Origam: From Columbine to Parkland, Reading the Relics of Grief
- Children of No Nation
- Afropunk Brings the Black Lives Matter Ethos Abroad
- Despite Promises, an Indigenous Community's Land Is Still Flooded
- Workshop Norms:
Writing, especially writing poetry, can be a very personal experience. As a result, it is important to create a space in which students feel free and supported in expressing themselves. Before beginning workshop, students should agree to a set of workshop norms. Time permitting, you may wish to establish these guidelines collaboratively with the class. A basic sample set follows:
- During reading and discussion time, I will be an active participant. I will listen to my peers and to my teacher with the understanding that they will do the same for me.
- During writing time, I will respect silence and my peers’ concentration.
- During sharing time, I will listen to and be supportive of my peers.
- During feedback time, I will share at least one positive comment before making suggestions for improvement. When making suggestions, I will state them not as things my peers did poorly, but as things they could do better.
- After this workshop, I will not share anything that my peers have said or written with anyone outside the workshop unless I have asked for and gotten the consent of the person who said/wrote what I would like to share.
Students should additionally be introduced to good ways of expressing support for their classmates while they share their poems (snapping their fingers, etc.).
More Suggested Resources:
Students may use any story on the Pulitzer Center website to write their poem. However, those seeking guidance may find it easiest to explore via the On War and Peace issue portal.