Eighth Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest

To help guide you, here’s a short video featuring last year’s winners along with guest judge Jericho Brown and Narrative editor Carol Edgarian as they share their thoughts on inspiration and writing.

Contest Overview

We’re inviting poetry submissions from all US and international high school students, grades 9–12, to participate in our Eighth Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest! We are eager to hear from as many voices as possible.

Contributing students in last year’s Seventh Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest covered the globe: indeed, we’ve received submissions from twenty-eight countries, including South Africa, India, China, Serbia, Poland, and Taiwan. Within the United States, we’ve heard from young poets in forty-one states and 298 cities and towns—an amazing outpouring of poetry. This year, we hope to hear from YOU!

2022—2023 Narrative High School Writing Contest Rules and Guidelines

Who can enter?

Students from the US and internationally, grades 9–12, are eligible to submit to the contest. Winners and finalists, along with their teacher representatives, will be asked to provide identification.

What is this year’s prompt?

“It is difficult to get the news from poems,” wrote William Carlos Williams, “yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” In our era of fake news and extremist opinions, when the internet affords everyone a platform from which to shout, what is the state or meaning of truth? We are looking to you—through your art—to write to the prompt TRUE OR FALSE?

What in your life, your view, outside your window or in your heart strikes you as most true, or false? Is it possible to hold multiple truths at once—even if they conflict—in a typical day or moment at school and life? Is truth relative to what is false, and vice versa? Can either stand in isolation? In other words, does morality play a role in these definitions?

Can you capture in a poem a moment when truth or lies are pivotal to the outcome? You may turn toward the metaphorical or the literal, the small or the large, the individual or the systemic. Lean into that space of self-questioning and ask others to join you. We each have something to learn, and something to teach. We challenge you to express your ideas without using the terms true and false—or at least to use them in an artful way. Take us on a journey that is distinctly your own. Shine some light on the corners we’ve left in the dark, and tell us what we’re missing.

We invite you to write a poem, 10 to 50 lines long, in response to the prompt: TRUE OR FALSE?

How do I send my work?

Writers will submit work through their English teacher, who will upload the work through the contest Submission Portal starting on January 4, 2023. Each teacher may submit the work of no more than ten students—with one poem per student and each student’s submission made separately by their teacher. Schools may submit a maximum of thirty submissions in total. The contest is free to enter. Teachers may submit their students’ work via our Submission Portal starting on January 4, 2023.

When’s the deadline?

Once again, the contest opens January 4, 2023, and the submission deadline is Wednesday, February 1, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. All submissions must be previously unpublished, either in print or online (including on social media and blogs). The contest results, including winners and finalists, will be announced in mid-April 2023.

How will the winners be chosen, and when will they be announced?

For fairness, all judging of submitted poems will be done with names, grades, and school affiliations removed and, further, entries will be sorted randomly by Narrative’s team—led by Narrative cofounder/editor and New York Times–bestselling author Carol Edgarian and Narrative poetry editor and executive editor of Copper Canyon Press Michael Wiegers. Guest judge Naomi Shihab Nye, former Young People’s Poet Laureate, will select the ultimate winners and finalists. A first-, second-, and third-place winner, along with several finalists, will be announced in mid-April. Narrative editors will mentor winners prior to publication in the magazine. Cash prizes totaling more than $1,000 will be awarded. And new this year: winners and finalists will get to perform in our virtual global poetry slam!

What awards will the winners receive?

The winning author will be presented with a $500 award. The second-place winner will receive $200, and the third-place winner will receive $100. Each finalist will receive $50. The schools of winners will also receive special recognition and prizes. The winning works will be published in Narrative, alongside many of today’s great writers. The winners will also have an opportunity to perform their work for our popular Narrative Outloud podcast and at our virtual poetry slam.

Need help getting inspired?

Check out our Best Advice with this year’s guest judge, Naomi Shahib Nye, as well as last year’s winning works. Also be sure to explore our Reading Guide for Poetry, made just for you!

For more information, head to our FAQs.

Narrative High School Writing Contest | Recommended Reading
Video Tutorials with Carol Edgarian | Explore by Theme | Writing Prompts