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Deadline nears for 44th annual Bucks Poet Laureate contest

Bucks County poets are encouraged to sharpen their pencils and get their creative juices flowing as the Sept. 4 deadline nears for the 44th annual Bucks County Poet Laureate contest.

Bucks County Community College Professor Ethel Rackin, Ph.D., director of the longest-running poet laureate program in Pennsylvania, said the current state of the world, where lives have been upended due to the novel coronavirus, might influence this year’s entries.

“During the pandemic, many of us have had the opportunity to reflect on our lives, on what’s truly important,” said Rackin, who is also a published poet. “This kind of reflection inevitably sparks new directions in writing, so this is the perfect time to collect those thoughts or revise older work, and send it to us.”

The contest is open to Bucks County residents over age 18 who have not previously served as poet laureate, said Rackin, who teaches language and literature at Bucks County Community College, and is the program’s administrator.

Each entrant must submit 10 original poems of any style or length along with an entry form to the college’s Language and Literature Department. Entries must be submitted online by Friday, Sept. 4.

The winner receives a $500 honorarium, a proclamation from the Bucks County Commissioners, and a reading at Bucks County Community College with 2019 Poet Laureate Mary Jo LoBello Jerome and contest runners-up. This fall’s reading will likely be a virtual event, according to Rackin, as most college operations have moved online since March.

Two judges will blindly select the winner. The preliminary judge will narrow the entries down to a few dozen for the final judge, who will choose the winner and three runners-up from the pool of finalists.

The preliminary judge will be former Montgomery County Poet Laureate Liz Chang, author of the chapbook “Animal Nocturne” (Moonstone Press) and “What Ordinary Objects” (Book&Arts Press), a book of original poems and translations. Her poems have been included in Verse Daily, Origins Journal, and Stoneboat Literary Journal, among others, and her translations from French appeared in The Adirondack Review.

The 2020 final judge will be Grady Chambers, author of the poetry collection “North American Stadiums” (Milkweed Editions, 2018), selected by Henri Cole as the winner of the 2018 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. His writing is forthcoming or has appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

There is no charge for entry. Poetry of any style, form or length is welcome. All work must be original, published or unpublished, typewritten or word-processed on one side in black ink. Entry forms and poems must be submitted online at, with a limit of one entry per person.

For information, contact Rackin at