Grand Rapids Public Library to host annual poetry competition

GVL / Courtesy - Christine Stephens Krueger

Christine Stephens Krueger

GVL / Courtesy – Christine Stephens Krueger

Nicole Bobb

The 49th annual Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition, hosted by the Grand Rapids Public Library is seeking poets in Kent County. The competition is split into three divisions: kindergarten through eighth grade, high school through undergraduate and graduate.

Submissions will be accepted Wednesday, Feb. 1 through Wednesday, March 1 and are open to Grand Valley State University students. All submissions should be original and unpublished, and each participant is limited to one entry.

Submitted poems will be judged by three preliminary local judges. Ultimately, one national judge will make the final decision on which poems are the in the top three and which of those three is eligible go to publication in the competition’s book “Voices.” The competition will be giving out $900 in cash prizes.

This year, the national judge is Oliver de la Paz, author of three collections of poetry. Paz teaches at Western Washington University and is a co-chairmen of Kundiman, a nonprofit that is dedicated to the promotion of Asian-American poetry. Paz is a winner of the Akron Prize for poetry, a NYFA Fellowship Award recipient and a winner of the GAP Grant from Artist Trust.

The competition receives up to 1,000 entries and recently added an honorable mention in each division last year so that they could publish more material.

“Just writing a poem, as sappy as that sounds, is a big reward. It’s a means for understanding and when we put our words out in the community it informs that community and enriches that community,” said competition coordinator Christine Stephens Krieger. 

The greatest number of applicants comes from the kindergarten through eighth grade group where teachers are asked to submit a classroom of poetry.

“Everybody’s writing has the potential to get better. It’s so helpful to see people look at your work and go ‘yeah, this part really spoke to me,” said Annie Livingston, a GVSU student who took second place last year.

Winners will read their poems at the Awards Reading in June at the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts.

“There are all these different age groups, so you get to see these like elementary kids read their poems beside like high school students and adults and college students,” Livingston said. “It just gives a legitimacy to everyone’s art and that’s so cool that a fifth grader is next to my work, which is next to a real writer’s work, or someone who has more life than I do.”