National Poetry Contest for Social Workers

National Poetry Contest for Social Workers                                            

Any social work student, faculty member, or alumnus from a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education may participate in the contest.  The deadline for submission is January 1, 2018.  Poems should speak to hopes, dreams, fears, and experiences related to social work.

The purpose of the contest is to acknowledge the creative talent of social workers and to draw attention to social work as a profession. “Hosting the national poetry contest here in Iowa City is a natural extension of what the School of Social Work has been doing for decades,” says faculty member Mercedes Bern-Klug, a founder of the poetry contest. “We have a 25 year track record of offering a Creative Writing Seminar for social workers and the University of Iowa is known as the ‘writing university’. Iowa City is a UNESCO City of Literature. Writing is in the air.”

There is no cost to enter the contest. One submission per social worker is allowed. Entries will be judged by a panel of social workers, writers, and poets. The top three submissions will be awarded cash prizes and all submissions that meet the requirements will be published in an electronic chapbook on the UI School of Social Work website.

Rules for submission

  1. Only students, faculty or alumni from United States CSWE accredited social work programs may participate in the contest.
  2. There is no cost to enter.
  3. Only one submission is allowed per person.
  4. All entries will be judged by a panel consisting of social workers, writers, and poets.
  5. The deadline for submissions is January 1st, 2018 by 5:00 pm.
  6. The poem must be no more than 15 lines (not including the title) and can be either an existing work or new. To fit on the page of the chapbook, lines should be no more than 60 characters each, in size 12pt in Calibri font. Spaces between words don’t count. To be included in the chapbook, your poem must fit within a 7.5″ w x 8.5″ h space.
  7. An excerpt from a longer poem will be considered if it can stand alone.
  8. Poems will be judged on quality of writing but also for accessibility and suitability for public display before a general audience.
  9. If reprint permissions are required, please get permission prior to submitting your work.
  10. Poems must be submitted online. No paper or email submissions please.


The top three submissions will be awarded cash prizes and will be published in The New Social Worker magazine. All of the submissions that meet the contest criteria will be published in an electronic book posted on The University of Iowa School of Social Work website.

First Prize: $300 and half-price admission to the annual Creative Writing Seminar in Iowa City.
Second Prize: $100
Third Prize: $50

Questions? Write to or call 319-335-3750.