Fighting Words: Poetry in Response to Current Events [Contest and Workshop]

Fighting Words: Poetry in Response to Current Events [Contest and Workshop]


Announcing the 2021 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. Students may write in any language, and are welcome to submit multilingual poems. Judges will have reading fluency in English and Spanish.

Deadline: Saturday, May 15, 2021 11:59 PM EDT

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.

Submit your poems using this Google Form. The form will ask for some basic information, and you will upload your poem to the form as an attachment. You may also upload an audio or video file of yourself performing your poem; this file is optional, but the text file is required.

If you have questions about these guidelines or if the Google Form is not accessible to you, please email

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

Previous contest winners: Read the winning poems from 20202019, and 2018.

Schedule a Workshop to Prepare: Educators who would like to prepare their students to craft poems for this contest can contact to schedule a virtual workshop for their students facilitated by a Pulitzer Center education team member. Alternatively, educators may use the workshop guide included on this page (see "Workshop Guide" tab) to facilitate a workshop independently.