Annual William Carlos Williams Poetry competition

Celebrating Medical Student Poets for Four Decades

The William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition, sponsored annually by the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University, is open to students attending allopathic or osteopathic schools of medicine in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

NEOMED’s William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition was founded by Drs. Martin Kohn and Delese Wear in 1982.  A call for medical student submissions was issued in the fall of that year and the first awardees were invited to campus to share their work alongside a guest speaker in the spring of 1983. The competition is named for the iconic American poet and physician William Carlos Williams, who is celebrated for his humanistic and patient-centered values as a practitioner and the spare, imagistic style of his poems like “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This is Just to Say.” The late Williams’ son ― physician William Eric Williams ― endorsed the naming of NEOMED’s competition for his father in a letter to Dr. Wear, writing:

By all means use my father’s name as a title for your poetry competition.… I’m sure Dad would be happy, not to say proud, to think that there are 224 embryo medices out there sufficiently interested in poetry to submit their work to be judged. I like the tone of the whole thing. Puts me in mind of Robert Coles up in Boston barking up the same tree.

Continued success in your most worthwhile endeavor.
Very truly yours, W.E. Williams M.D.

The competition remains enthusiastically received and nationally renowned. Each year, the competition receives hundreds of entries, which are judged by the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University. The top three prize-winning poems receive a monetary award ($300, $200 and $100 for first, second and third place, respectively) and are considered for publication in the Journal of Medical Humanities. In addition, the winning poets are invited to NEOMED’s campus in late spring to read their poetry alongside an esteemed guest and receive commendation in a formal awards ceremony. Past featured speakers include physician writers, Drs. Rafael Campo, John Stone, Audrey Shafer, Dagan Coppock, David Watts, Jay Baruch and Amit Majmudar (a 2003 NEOMED graduate and Ohio’s first poet laureate). Travel expenses are paid by NEOMED’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

The 40th Annual William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition begins accepting submissions Sept. 1, 2021 and continues through Dec. 31, 2021. Please preview the Submission Details and Eligibility Criteria below before submitting your work through the online submission management system.

Eligibility and submission details

Eligibility Criteria

  • Entrants must be enrolled in programs leading to a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree in the United States, Puerto Rico or Canada.
  • Submissions must be original, unpublished (except for college publications) and must not have won a contest at the time of submission.
  • Previous monetary winners of the William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition are not eligible to compete again in any future William Carlos Williams Poetry Competitions.

Submission Details

  • The William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition accepts submissions annually from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
  • Online submissions must be received before 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31 to be considered.
  • All entries will undergo blind review and should contain no identifying information other than the title of the poem.
  • Students may submit up to three poems per entry (one poem per page)
  • Each poem is not to exceed 750 words.
  • Poems must be written in English and can reflect medical as well as non-medical subjects.
  • Please preview the eligibility criteria before submitting your work.

Video: 2022 Competition Winners

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