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Poetry Reading Guide | FAQ

Poetry has been called “the voice that is great within us,” and yet there is no one way to write a poem. Particularly during these times of upheaval and reflection, we’re seeking new voices who will offer new perspectives and invite all of us to see the world anew—a crucial gift of writing in our contemporary moment.

Join the chorus and submit to our Seventh Annual Narrative High School Writing Contest! You can learn about the contest prompt and FAQs here, but first, look below for some writing tips.

Our Poetry Video Tutorial can help you on your way to creating your own poem for the competition—or simply for your own writing growth. Listen to Narrative cofounder/editor Carol Edgarian and last year’s guest judge, Salvadoran poet and Narrative Prize winner Javier Zamora, explain how to creatively and effectively craft a poem so that your readers will be moved by your words.

Have an idea, and wonder how to shape it into a poem? Get inspired by some of our favorite poems, hand-picked for you in our suggested Reading Guide for Poetry—including work from this year’s guest judge and Pulitzer Prize winner, Jericho Brown. Be bold. Be creative. Be yourself. Or, as we like to say: Tell Me a Story! We’re all ears. Before you get started, please read the following tips:

1. Start with what’s in your heart. Speak from your authentic voice, pull us into the poem, and seat us beside you. Write a poem that only you can write, not one you think someone else wants you to write. If you’re stuck, read some of your favorite poets and craft a piece in their image.

2. Revise, revise, revise! We believe that great writing comes through vigorous revision, so we encourage you to edit your work. Great writing is rewriting. Genius lies in revision. Comb through your poem and interrogate every word, asking if it’s necessary—either narratively or musically—and if it’s in the right spot.

3. Use all the resources at your disposal. Watch our Poetry Video Tutorial and read our guidelines about what makes a winning poem. We encourage you to ask your teacher for feedback and help and to read your poem out loud to some friends or classmates to test it out!

4. Seek inspiration. Create a free Narrative account, and then check out our Reading Guide for Poetry, with poems chosen specifically to give you a sense of the style and quality of the writing we publish.

5. Create an original piece for this assignment. This contest offers the opportunity to push yourself outside the bounds of academic writing, to flex your creativity in a new, poetic context. Shout, sing, tell us your story!

Looking for more advice? Check out our video tutorials, links to past winners, and a tailored Narrative reading list.

Before you submit with the help of your teacher: Review this checklist to make sure your work is ready for Narrative’s consideration.

Your poem is ten to no more than fifty lines long, typed in 12-point font, and single-spaced.

Your teacher has your final draft in a Word document.

• Your Narrative account has been created using your school email address prior to submitting your final draft to your teachers.