The pandemic has affected every demographic and age group in ways we probably won’t begin to fully understand for years to come. It’s been especially difficult for teenagers, who have been cheated out of socializing with friends during a crucial stage in their development, in-person education, and time-honored traditions and rites of passage including prom and graduation. Now a literacy-focused nonprofit is encouraging young people everywhere to put pen to paper (or keyboard to screen) and to help them connect during COVID.
1455 Literary Arts, an independent nonprofit organization focused on fostering community through storytelling, just launched its Teen Poetry Contest. The global competition, part of the organization’s third annual summer festival (held virtually this year), was created to inspire writers aged 13 to 19 to share their thoughts and feelings about the disruption that virtual learning has caused. They’ll write about how stressful it’s been to not be able to socialize and interact with their peer groups, their reaction to world events, and the resiliency they have to show during what’s arguably been the most challenging year and a half of their young lives.
The contest runs until July 1 at midnight, and will culminate with an announcement of the winner during the summer festival running July 15 to 17. The contest is free to enter, and poets can upload their submissions here; poets are encouraged to submit any previously unpublished poem of any length or style. The work should be a reflection on or reaction to a current sociopolitical and cultural issue, including but not limited to COVID-19, as well as relevant topics like #BLM, #MeToo, LGBTQ+ issues, and more.
Entries will be judged by the 1455 advisory board and the 2019 Hippocrates Young Poet Maia Siegel of Roanoke, who will also read one of her poems at the festival. The winning poet will receive the $5,000 first prize and will have the opportunity to read their poem during an online reception on July 16; there will also be three finalists selected. The festival will feature more than 60 panels with 150 speakers offering storytelling experiences, interviews, conversations, and deep dives into genres including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and multimedia.
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