The organizers of Split This Rock believe that as citizens and artists, our obligation has never been greater. We call on poets of conscience to move to the center of public life as we forge a visionary new arts movement for peace and justice.

Poets have long played a central role in movements for social change. Today, at a critical juncture in our country’s history, poetry that gives voice to the voiceless, names the unnameable, and speaks directly from the individual and collective conscience is more important than ever.

Split This Rock explores and celebrates the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.

Our biennial festivals in Washington, DC have featured readings by some of the most beloved poets of our time, workshops, panel discussions on poetry and social change, youth programming, films, parties, walking tours, and activism—unique opportunities to hone our activist skills while we assess and debate the public role of the poet and the poem.

2019 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest (formerly Split This Rock Annual Poetry Contest)

Judge: Franny Choi

Benefits Split This Rock, helping to sustain its work to bring poetry to the center of public life

$1,000 in Prizes Awarded for Poems of Provocation & Witness!

Deadline: November 1, 2018 

Reading Fee: $20, which supports Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2020. 

Prizes: First place $500; 2nd and 3rd place, $250 each. Winning poems will be published on and within The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. All prize winners will receive free registration to Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2020, and the 1st place recipient will be invited to read the winning poem on the main stage at the festival.

Themes: Submissions should be in the spirit of Split This Rock: socially engaged poems, poems that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world; poems of provocation and witness. This theme can be interpreted broadly and may include but is not limited to work addressing politics, economics, government, war, leadership, issues of identity (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic class, body image, immigration, heritage, etc.), community, civic engagement, education, activism, and poems about history, Americana, cultural icons. Visit Split This Rock’s website to read past winning poems.

Ethics: Split This Rock subscribes to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics. Read it online at our website.

Accessibility: If Submittable is not accessible to you, you are welcomed to submit your poem(s) using the accessible Word version of the submission instructions available at Split This Rock's website. After submitting your poem(s), if you have not  received an email confirmation of receipt within a week's time, please contact us at or (202) 787-5210.


Franny Choi is the author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) and the forthcoming Soft Science (Alice James Books, 2019), as well as a chapbook, Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and the Helen Zell Writers Program. Her poems have appeared in PoetryAmerican Poetry Review, the New England Review, and elsewhere. She is a Kundiman fellow, an Editor of News and Politics at Hyphen Magazine, co-host of the podcast VS, and member of the Dark Noise Collective.  

Franny will serve as a final judge for the contest, selecting the winning poems from up to 20 top poems chosen by first readers. As she desires, she may also select poems as honorable mentions. 


  • Submissions need to be received by 11:59pm on November 1, 2018, Eastern Standard Time. We encourage you to submit before the November 1 deadline so that if you encounter problems we can assist you.
  • Submit up to 3 unpublished poems, no more than 6 pages total, no more than 1 poem appearing on each page, in any style, in the spirit of Split This Rock (see above). Entries longer than 6 pages will not be read.
  • What we mean by “unpublished”: We accept only poems that have not yet been included in a publication with an ISBN number or online via a juried journal or website. If your poem is selected and it is posted on social media, we ask that you take it down prior to our publishing contest results.
  • We read entries anonymously. Please do not put your name or contact information on the document you upload to Submittable or within its title or your poems will be in jeopardy of being disqualified.
  • Simultaneous submissions are OK, but please notify us immediately if the poem is accepted elsewhere.
  • Close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judge are excluded from the contest. Likewise, the current Board of Directors, staff, Teaching Artists, and DC Slam Team of Split This Rock are excluded, as are members of their immediate families. (For more detail: visit the code of ethics on our website.)
  • Mailed and Emailed Submissions: Except for special circumstances we are aware of in advance or in the case of people for whom Submittable is inaccessible, we do not accept mailed or emailed submissions.
  • Late entries will not be accepted.
  • Once decisions have been made, you will receive an email notifying you of the status of your submission. We do not send hard copy notifications or accept self addressed stamped envelopes. Please monitor Split This Rock’s website and Facebook page for updates on the contest if for some reason you have trouble receiving emails.

For more information: 202-787-5210 | |

Split This Rock