Calling all poets for chapbook competition


Executive Director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, Jeff Ingram, stands in the doorway with a coffee mug at the North Water Street Gallery located on 257 N. Water St. on August 29, 2014.

Erin Zaranec

The Standing Rock Cultural Arts Center 5th annual Chapbook Poetry Competition can turn one poet’s dream of being published into a reality. 

Part of the Rock in the River Literary Series, the Chapbook Competition seeks to promote literary art in the Kent community and to promote local and national poets through publication. The competition will give one author the opportunity to have their poems published in a chapbook, a small book of poetry.

“I humbly feel that in our fifth year, we’ve established a great little niche for ourselves amongst small presses,” said Standing Rock President Tina Puckett. “I feel like we’ve grown and matured and the poets’ entries blow me away every year due to the diverse styles and caliber of the work.”

Puckett got the idea for a chapbook competition four years ago and combined her experience with creating chapbooks and the volunteer efforts of other poets to create what has now become an annual contest. 

The competition is accepting submissions until Oct. 15. Each submitted manuscript must range from 15 to 20 pages in length and has a $9 submission fee. 

The winner of the Chapbook Competition will have his or her manuscript published as a chapbook, in February, with an initial run of 100 copies.. The author will receive 25 copies for personal distribution and the remaining 75 will be split between the North Water Street Gallery, the competition judges, Standing Rock staff and Last Exit Books for sales to the public. A $50 prize will also be awarded to the winner. 

Next year, Standing Rovck will publish the winning title with sales to benefit the Standing Rock Cultural Arts Center and scholarships for New World Children’s Theatre. During that year, authors can sell their portion of the chapbooks with all profits benefitting themselves and will have total control of sales at the years end, said Puckett.  

While there is no set theme for the competition, judges recommend avoiding “Hallmark verses” — poems that are overly sentimental and sound like a greeting card, Puckett said.

“We absolutely do not tolerate ‘–isms’ of any kind, so entries will be disqualified from publication if they are negative toward a population of people,” she said. 

Puckett said this means any poems featuring sexism, racism or any kind of strong discrimination will be automatically taken out of the running. 

“We don’t wait to censor per se, but we also don’t want to support prejudices,” she said.   

Judges read each poem blindly, meaning the authors names and any credentials are removed. Puckett wanted to ensure that no bias could be used during the judging process, so by removing accolades, she said no writer has an upper hand in the competition.  

Previous winners of the competition are always welcomed at Standing Rock for poetry readings. Elizabeth Kerlikowske, the 2013 competition winner, will be in Kent in early October for a reading of her 2014 collection of poems, titled “Last Hula.” 

Some past winners have used the competition to benefit their career. Jeff Fearnside, the first winner of the Chapbook Competition, won a Peace Corps writer’s award for his chapbook, “Lake and Other Poems of Love in a Foreign Land.”

Poetry entries can be submitted on the Standing Rock website.

Contact Erin Zaranec at [email protected].