2021 Poetry Contest Results

Common Ground Review would like to thank everyone who entered the contest this year.  We are thrilled to announce the winners of our 2021 Annual Poetry Contest, chosen by our judge, Simeon Berry:

First Prize, $500

Connor Drexler, “Alone Another Vacation”

Simeon Berry writes: “Alone Another Vacation” is an anti-pastoral that lights up the countryside in an apocalyptic negative while the speaker wrestles necromantically with entropy and exegesis.  Acknowledging both the gyre of Robinson Jeffers’ savage inhumanism and the bleak susurrus of cosmic indifference, Connor Drexler searches unflinchingly for the antidote inside the traumatic cloud of unknowing that is masculinity.  This is a poem that is both surgical and gracefully suggestive as the capillary action of ink in a charcoal wash.

Second Prize, $200

Scott Ruescher, “Plumbing”

“Plumbing” is skillfully held aloft with elegant syncopation on the zephyr of a single sentence, borrowing from the harmony of a sonnet’s interlaced lines without importing any of its claustrophobia. Ruescher manages the difficult trick of stirring up the dark sediment of Blake’s Satanic mills and the depredations of catastrophic economies while maintaining the placid surface of his rhetorical argument, demonstrating all the contradictory ways that privilege is encoded in our circumstances and our art.

Third Place, $100

Charles Gillispie, “As Close as Anyone Gets”

“As Close as Anyone Gets” is a slant memento mori, a snapshot of a wilderness of grief superimposed on the crystalline cordial of a dinner party. In just three deceptively-simple stanzas, Gillispie advances his aural argument using the hinge of punctuation—first ellipses, then dash, then question mark—to maintain the tension between comfort and anxiety. This deft doubling reminds us that grief makes the world both uncertain and simultaneous, a confusion of chronology and essence that keeps us painfully alert, even when we would prefer the consolation of the anesthetic.

Honorable Mentions:

Zebulon Huset, “The Mathematics Are Indisputable”

Sandra Fees, “Self-Portrait as Flame”

Michael Buebe, “JigSaw 32”

Congratulations to all the winners!  Their poems will appear shortly in our first on-line issue.  We would like to accept a few of the other poems for our second on-line issue, and will be contacting everyone soon with more information on that.


Poetry Contest 2021

 $500 First ◊ $200 Second ◊ $100 Third Prizes

and publication in Common Ground Review

Judge: Simeon Berry

 Contest Submission Guidelines

Please send 1-3 poems

  • each under 61 lines
  • well-crafted
  • previously unpublished
  • no simultaneous submissions
  • There is a $15 fee

To https://cgreview.org/submissions-guidelines

(Honorable Mentions will be published)

 Deadline is MARCH 31, 2021 



2019 Poetry Contest Judge

Doug AndersonOur Judge this year will be Doug Anderson.

Poet Doug Anderson grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. He served as a combat medic in the Vietnam War, and after Vietnam attended the University of Arizona, where he studied acting. He started writing poetry after he moved to Massachusetts, where he met up with the poet Jack Gilbert.

Anderson has written about his experiences in the Vietnam War in both poetry and nonfiction. He is the author of the poetry collections The Moon Reflected Fire (1994), the winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Blues for Unemployed Secret Police (2000). In 2009 he published his memoir, Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self-Discovery. His most recent book is Horse Medicine (Barrow Street Press, 2015).

Poetry Contest!

Here’s the NEW info on our annual poetry contest:

We will have a new judge–to be announced soon.

The deadline will be March 31st, 2019.

Here’s what we kept the same:

Send us 1-3 poems in a single document.  (Go ahead, send three!)

Each poem should be shorter than 61 lines.

Give us a short bio.

The fee is still $15.

If you send the poems snail-mail, the check should be made out to “Western New England University.”  The address is c/o Janet Bowdan, Editor, Common Ground Review, H-5132, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Rd., Springfield, MA 01119.

Or save the time it takes to type all that out and submit the poems via Submittable using the contest entry on our Submissions page.

Contest Winners!

We are thrilled to announce the winners chosen by Amy Dryansky in our 2018 Poetry Contest!

(fanfare & drum roll, please)

1st Prize:  Jari Chevalier, “In the Bird Sanctuary”                                                  

2nd Prize: John Sibley Williams, “Cosmology”  

3rd Prize: Elton Glaser, “Under Capricorn”                                                         

And our Honorable Mentions:

C. Wade Bentley, “What You Came For”

Lisa Desrochers-Short, “Yellow Woodsorrel”  

William Greenfield, “I Would Like to Be Someone’s Guardian”  

Jonathan Greenhouse, “Defenseless”

Kevin Griffin, “Always”

Janet MacFadyen, “Feast”                                                                            

Beth Paulson, “In the Museum”

It was a great pleasure to read the poems submitted to this competition. I found much to admire, and selecting the top three was challenging.  Because this is a contest, however, I did choose, but can honestly say that the top three are all “winners” in their own right––number three could easily have switched place with one, number two for three, and so on.

To me, this is by no means a bad thing, but instead speaks to a variety and flexibility in poetry that can and should be celebrated. What I love about these poems is how each takes a different approach to their subject, and stands out in its own way:
Cosmology” offers up tightly constructed syntax and line breaks that underscore a tense domestic moonscape. “Under Capricorn“’s sculptural couplets precisely capture a flickering constellation (and stage of life).  And “In the Bird Sanctuary” uses playful form and diction to great effect, as an illuminating contrast to a serious human condition.
The one aspect that all three of these poems share is the element of surprise. In each, I came across fresh language and imagery, interesting ideas and perspectives; poetic devices that made me look, and look again. In looking, I saw something that changed what I knew about a piece of the world. Something new was revealed.
So, congratulations, poets, on this fine work. And thank you, for teaching me some of what you know.
                                                                             –Amy Dryansky



2018 Poetry Contest Judge Amy Dryansky

amy_dryansky--2Amy Dryansky, ready to read your poems!

Amy Dryansky’s second book, Grass Whistle (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), received the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award for poetry. Her first book, How I Got Lost So Close to Home, won the New England/New York Award from Alice James. Her work is included in several anthologies and individual poems appear in a variety of journals, including Barrow Street, Harvard Review, New England Review, Memorious, Orion and The Women’s Review of Books.

She’s received honors/awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She was also an Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on women poets. Dryansky is currently the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA, and assistant director of the Culture, Brain & Development Program at Hampshire College.

Patrick Donnelly announces the 2017 Poetry Contest Winners

We are very pleased to present the winners of this year’s poetry contest, judged by Patrick Donnelly, with his comments on the prize-winning poems:

1st Place: Elton Glaser, “The Fifties, from the Back Row” $500

“This poem delighted me with the assured way it talks, with its wit, its long and sensually specific memory, and its deep understanding of how public and private cultures exist in contradiction.”

2nd Place: Janet Reed, “Toughs: A Pantoum to the Third-Grade” $200

“Read aloud, this poem has a gorgeous mouth-feel, seeming to channel Gerald Manley Hopkins’ way of making strong, sharp music with words and syntax, as it describes the serious awfulness of childhood.”

3rd Place: Charles Atkinson, “Less”  $100

“This poem touched me very much with its intimate, painful account of one person caring for another whose body is failing. The speaker’s gaze is steady, tender, alert to the human poetry of the encounter.”

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Roberta Marggraff, “Arcade”

Allen Tullos, “The Dream of Calibration”

Anna Mullen, “Oshodi Birds”

Matthew Spireng, “Haunted”

Our thanks to everyone who entered, and our congratulations to the winners!  Their poems will be in our Spring/Summer issue, coming out soon.  If you would like a copy, send us a check for $10 made out to “Western New England University,” and addressed to Janet Bowdan, Common Ground Review, Box 5132, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Rd., Springfield, MA  01119.  Mention this post, and we will pay the cost of mailing it.

Poetry Contest News

We are delighted to announce that Patrick Donnelly will be judging our 2017 Poetry Contest!

PATRICK DONNELLY is the author of three books of poetry, The Charge (Ausable Press, 2003, since 2009 part of Copper Canyon Press), Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2012), a 2013 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and Little-Known Operas, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2019. Donnelly is director of the Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place, Robert Frost’s old homestead in Franconia, NH, now a center for poetry and the arts.

You can find more information about him at:

For more details on the contest itself, see the contest page.

Summer’s Lease

Today I came out of the air conditioning and into the hot mugginess of August: an overgrown patch of yellow black-eyed Susans, a pink stand of tall phlox, a few squash blossoms and fewer tomatoes than there should be because someone–a raccoon? a chipmunk?–has been munching on them. This is the time of year when our vacations aren’t coordinated and we get work done a bit haphazardly. But here’s what’s going on at the magazine:

1. We’re reading submissions, thinking they’ll be for the Spring/Summer 2017 issue. There may be a few spots left for some Fall/Winter 2016-17 poems, and we’ll figure that out in early September.
2. We’re catching up with snail-mail submissions as well as Submittable. If you’ve sent a submission to our email address, you probably aren’t aware that we’ve had to stop accepting those due to difficulties accessing those emails. There was a small matter of a Trojan…
3. We sent out the initial run of the Spring/Summer 2016 issue–our most recent contest issue. If you would like to order one before September 20, we’ll happily send it to you for $10. If you want to order one after that, we will charge an extra $3 for the cost of mailing it.

We’re looking forward to the Amherst Poetry Festival & Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon September 15-17th.

But just for now, I’m going back to the garden.  There’s a chipmunk nibbling at the zucchini.


Announcing the 2016 Contest Judge!

We are very pleased to announce that Stephanie Lenox will be our judge for the Spring/Summer 2016 Poetry Contest!

Stephanie Lenox is the author of The Business (winner of the 2015 Colorado Poetry Prize, a book full of slyly wicked poems such as “Rejoice in the Petty Thievery of Office Supplies,” “ATTN: To Whoever Left Fish Uncovered in the Office Fridge for Three Weeks, Think of Others!” and “Interview for Position of Mythological Hero”–poems that sneak into amazing revelations from mundane things) as well as her first book, Congress of Strange People, and the chapbook The Heart that Lies Outside the Body, which won the Slapering Hol competition.

And for the first time, we are accepting contest submissions on our Submissions page!  The contest fee is still $15 for up to three poems.  First prize is $500, second prize is $200, and third prize is $100.  And of course the winning poems and honorable mentions will be published in the Spring/Summer issue of Common Ground Review.