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Women's Lifestyle Magazine

Dyer-Ives Announces 50th Annual Poetry Competition

Jan 19, 2018 01:54PM ● By WLMagazine
The Grand Rapids Public Library is proud to announce the 50th Annual Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition. Open to Kent County residents,  poets can submit one original, unpublished poem Feb. 1 through midnight, March 1, 2018. Free to enter, the competition offers cash prizes as well as publication and a public reading held during Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts in June 2018 in the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Ryerson Auditorium.

The Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition was started in 1968 to encourage excellence in writing and to provide recognition for local work of high quality. The annual contest is open to poets ages 5 through adult who reside in Kent County. Winners selected in three age categories have their poems published in Voices, receive a cash award, and participate in a reading during the Festival of the Arts in June, which will now be held at the Main Library. As competition founder John Hunting states, "A little cash can help poetry seem justified," something 450 winning poets spanning the competition's 50 years might attest.

"I'm glad I'm still around to see it," Hunting continues, who founded the competition in 1968 at the urging of poet James Allen, a childhood friend of Hunting's and at the time, a poetry professor at GVSU. Hunting, a poet himself, says he understands that "poets are sensitive people" and realized that "a little recognition can go a long way to encourage young poets." Hunting's conversations with Allen led to the formation of the competition's mission, which is to "encourage excellence in writing and provide recognition for local work of high quality." Many Kent County poets receive their first recognition from the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition.

Local poets of note comprise the first tier of judging for the competition as they decide which poems continue on to the national judge, who makes the final decisions. Spanning 50 years, the list of national judges reads like a who's who in the poetry world, including luminaries such as William Stafford, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, James Wright, Diane Wakoski, Robert Bly, Naomi Shihab Nye, former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins, as well as former Grand Rapids Poet Laureates, Linda Nemec Foster and Patricia Clark.

Following in this tradition, the 2018 National Judge is author, community organizer, and cultural advocate, Azizi Jasper. He has shared the stage with rapper/actor Common, the poet Gil Scott Heron, Grammy winner Marvin Sapp, Detroit super-group Slum Village, renowned poet Saul Williams, and Minister Louis Farrakhan to name a few. Jasper has been featured alongside former Grand Rapids poet laureates in the acclaimed compilation Song of the Owashtanong. He is the founder of several open mic’s in his native Grand Rapids and is one of the founding members of the poetry collective, The Diatribe. His presentations are lively, powerful, and thought provoking.

The Grand Rapids Public Library urges Kent County residents to send one original, unpublished poem to the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition during the month of February. Divided into three categories that span all ages, the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition offers $900 in prizes to first, second, and third place poems, as well as publication and a public reading held during Grand Rapids' Festival of the Arts in June.

Guidelines for Submitting a Poem

  • Open to Kent County, Michigan residents of all ages and students attending classes within Kent County including GVSU and Kent ISD.
  • Submissions will be accepted February 1 – March 1, 2018.
  • It is free to enter.
  • One poem per person will be accepted. The poem must be original and unpublished. For complete submission guidelines, visit