Claudia Emerson Teen Poetry Contest

2018 Contest

Claudia Emerson Teen Poetry Contest

Read the 2018 Winners and Honorable Mentions!

Celebrate National Poetry Month with the Claudia Emerson Teen Poetry Contest. 2018 marks our fifteenth year hosting this event!

Teens in grades 6-12, from Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Westmoreland, and out-of-region library cardholders are invited to submit their original poetry online between April 1-15, with a maximum of two entries per person.

Winners are selected from participants in two categories—grades 6-8 and grades 9-12—and are chosen anonymously by faculty from the University of Mary Washington: Amanda Rutstein, Adjunct English Instructor, and Laura Bylenok, Assistant Professor of English.


Teen Poetry Night

“Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently.”
-Jorge Luis Borges, Seven Nights

Treat yourself to an evening of poetry read aloud at the Claudia Emerson Teen Poetry Night Reception at the Fredericksburg Branch on Thursday, May 10, 7:30-8:30. This celebration of our local talented young people will include readings by the winners of the contest.

We are honored to have our hosts and judges, University of Mary Washington faculty, Amanda Rutstein, Adjunct English Instructor, and Laura Bylenok, Assistant Professor of English also read. Ms. Rutstein and Ms. Bylenok have the daunting task of anonymously choosing the best poems. Highlights of the evening include the judge’s introduction of each poem before it is read by the author, considering why it was chosen. For the teens, hearing their work validated by professionals is motivating and inspiring.

Claudia Emerson, 1957-2014

Claudia Emerson

We would not be celebrating our annual Teen Poetry Contest if not for the help and guidance of Claudia Emerson, former professor at the University of Mary Washington and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, who also served as Virginia's Poet Laureate. She judged the Teen Poetry Contest and hosted Teen Poetry Night from its inception, encouraging countless young poets and gently shaping the event as it grew to over 300 entries. Before each winning poem was read, Claudia shared what it was about that poem the moved her. Her goal was to empower the young poets, and her comments showed the depth of thought and attention she had given their works.

Claudia's talent as a poet was equaled by her generosity of spirit and passion for developing young poets.