From Sylvia Plath to Dylan Thomas, poetry has long been the evocative form that’s most comfortable to expressive young people. It’s a medium naturally suited to cultural, social, religious and economic musings—areas that have long been the province of thoughtful and talented students. Free verse, in particular, is a great fit for students who are exploring the literary arts.
One of the most heartening events in the life of all artists is the publication of their work. Youthful poets are no exception. Adults who are professional poets are able to publish their poetry in collections called “chapbooks,” but English teachers who want to praise and encourage talented students and showcase their work may feel at a loss when it comes to finding publication venues for their students’ work. No matter. A bit of research turns up numerous websites and magazines offering publication options. Generally speaking, these may be divided into contests and collections.
Legitimate poetry contests publish students’ work either on websites, in magazines, or both. They typically do not charge an entry fee, and are organized into categories by age. The two poetry contests listed below are reputable, but educators who have any doubts should check with the Better Business Bureau to see if a kids poetry contest has a consumer-friendly rating.
The American Library of Poetry Student Poetry Contest
This contest is open to grades 3 through 12 and divided into divisions based on age, with the winner of each division receiving a cash prize and certificate of achievement. A $500 grand prize is awarded to the overall winner. Submissions are accepted year-round, and judged on originality, artistic quality and creativity; obscenity and profanity are not permitted. Winners are announced every September, and winning entries may be published both in a print anthology and on the contest website.
Live Poets Society of New Jersey High School Poetry Contest
There are more than 200 winners in this wide-ranging poetry contest, which is only open to high school students. All winners have their work published in a national poetry journal, while the grand prize winner is eligible to receive up to $2,500 in prize money. The contest has a 15- year history and has published the work of more than 25,000 young poets.
Contests can be a challenge in terms of publication. Luckily, there are also many website magazines that will publish kids’ poetry provided it has sufficient artistic worth. NewPages.com maintains an up-to-date list of website magazines that publish poetry from young adults, and it’s worth bookmarking. Here are a few of many possibilities:
The Young American Poetry Digest
This digest is dedicated to publishing the poetry of talented young authors. Schools are invited to send kids’ poetry for consideration. A panel of judges reviews the materials and decides whether they are worthy of publication. Poetry selected for inclusion is printed in a digest that is disseminated to the student’s school library. The digest also employs a group of high school and college students who have a special interest in poetry.
This organization is well-known and respected in education circles, and it has devoted part of its website to publishing kids’ poetry that meets artistic guidelines. Scholastic also offers advice and recommendations for young poets who would like to be published in website magazines with a larger circulation.
Stone Soup Magazine
This publication fulfills a vital educational function by publishing prose and kids’ poetry from an often overlooked demographic—authors aged 8 to 13. Stone Soup has been in business since 1973, and it publishes student work online and in its print digest, which is carried in Barnes & Noble locations and also some independent bookstores.