GRAND RAPIDS (April 1, 2021) The Grand Rapids Public Library is proud to announce the 53rd annual Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition. Open to Kent County residents or students, poets can submit one original, unpublished poem between April 1-20, 2021. Free to enter, the competition offers cash prizes as well as publication in Voices and the opportunity to participate in a poetry reading.


The Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition was started in 1968 to encourage excellence in writing and to provide recognition for local work of high quality. The annual contest is open to poets ages 5 through adult who reside in Kent County. 


Local poets judge the first tier of the competition. They decide which poems continue on to the national judge, who makes the final decisions. Past national judges include William Stafford, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, James Wright, Diane Wakoski, Robert Bly, Naomi Shihab Nye, former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins, as well as former Grand Rapids Poet Laureates, Linda Nemec Foster and Patricia Clark.


About the National Judge

The 2021 National Judge is Safia Elhillo. She is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), which received the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award, Girls That Never Die (forthcoming from One World/Random House), and the novel in verse Home is not a Country (Make Me A World/Random House, 2021). With Fatimah Asghar, she is co-editor of the anthology Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books, 2019).


Sudanese by way of Washington, DC, Safia received the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and was listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.” In 2018, she was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Safia is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland.


Guidelines for Submitting a Poem

Kent County residents can submit one original, unpublished poem to the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition during the month of April. Divided into five categories that span all ages, the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition offers $900 in prizes to winning poems, as well as publication and a public reading.

  • Open to Kent County, Michigan residents of all ages and students attending classes within Kent County including GVSU and Kent ISD.

  • Submissions will be accepted April 1-30, 2021. 

  • It is free to enter.

  • One poem per person will be accepted. The poem must be original and unpublished. For complete submission guidelines, visit


Supported by a grant from the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation-Dyer-Ives Foundation Poetry Fund, the competition is proud to carry on the mission to encourage excellence in writing and provide recognition for local work of high quality.


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