The Caged Bird Sings Poetry Contest

Because these are uncertain times, and because we want to make sure that we celebrate the poetry you have worked on earnestly in its fullness, we have decided to postpone the Caged Bird Sings Poetry Festival to November.

We are making this decision at this time because we believe that what keeps poetry alive is a community that engages through listening, speaking, and sharing.  

We have not yet determined how current submissions will be affected and whether we will revise the current call. But we will make sure the contest is fair to all when it is re-launched in November. We are also excited to share that our guest poet, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, will still be with us in November. 

We seek submissions from members of the University of Rhode Island community in celebration of national poetry month. The word poem originates from the Greek word poiema which means “to make.” William Carlos Williams defines a poem as a “little machine” while Audre Lorde argues that poetry allows us to give a name to the nameless so it can become a thought.

Participants are asked to submit a 14-line poem in response to the subjects of “making,” “inventing,” “naming” or “creating.” We ask that participants think deeply about their inspiration in response to this prompt.

There will be two categories: Student and Faculty/Staff.
Winners in the student category will receive $1000 (first prize), and $500 (second prize) while winners in the faculty and staff category will receive $500 (first prize) and $250 (second prize). 


A. Submit a 14-line poem in response to the subjects of “making,” “inventing,” “naming” or “creating.” 
B. Do not include any identifying information in the poem.
C. Provide a 150-word biography that identifies you and your inspiration for the poem. 


  • Participants are allowed only one poem per entry. There must be no identifying information in the poem. Do not write your name on the document.
  • Work must be original. Collage poems will not be accepted. 
  • Submissions are open from February 17, 2020 and are due by 5pm on March 20, 2020.
  • Collaborations will not be accepted at this time. 
  • You must complete an application form in which you will upload your poem as a word doc. or a pdf. Pictures will automatically be disqualified.
  • There will be ten finalists and two winners in each category.
  • Submissions will be read by a panel of published poets from the English Department.
  • Graduate students and Faculty in the English department are exempted from this contest at this time.


Questions and concerns can be directed to


Finalists will be notified on April 15, 2020 and will be invited to share their poems at the Caged Bird Sings Festival reading on April 23, 2020 with distinguished poet and Professor Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.