2021 Annual Poetry Contest

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.


Our 2021 Annual Poetry Contest is open! 

This year’s judge is Simeon Berry, author of Monograph (winner of the 2014 National Poetry Series) and Ampersand Revisited (winner of the 2013 National Poetry Series).

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

and publication in Common Ground Review

Contest Submission Guidelines

Please send 1-3 poems

  • each under 61 lines
  • well-crafted
  • previously unpublished
  • no simultaneous submissions

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

 There is a $15 fee

(Honorable mentions will be published)

Deadline is MARCH 31, 2021

We are thrilled to announce the results of our 2020 Poetry Contest, chosen by Lori Desrosiers.  Here’s her statement and the list of winners:

LORI DESROSIERS:  First, I want to say that I had a terrible time deciding on which of the three top poems to rank for which prize. To me all three poems were extremely strong, and all deserved a first place win. Congratulations to everyone and thank you for entrusting Common Ground and me with your work!

1st Prize ($500)  “Table of Contents”:  Cassandra Rockwood-Rice 

“Table of Contents” is a poem about survival and bearing witness. It is also about what it means to write about abuse and struggle. The voice in the poem speaks to the rebuilding of a life through writing about trauma, and also about how in the life of a survivor there are frequent replays of that trauma through micro-aggressions perpetrated by those who have not had the same experience. It raises some great questions through the use of anaphora/ the repetition of words down the lines, in this case “how.” The lines are crafted to cascade down the page and bring the reader both a visceral and metacognitive experience, coming back around in a circle to the table: the table of childhood, the table of memory. The table of contents questions itself, how to make this book make sense, and brings the reader back around through rejection to the final table of reckoning in “the light of day.”

2nd Prize ($200) “When I Say I Have Known Black Boys”: Darius Simpson

Darius Simpson’s “When I Say I Have Known Black Boys Like You” is a poem from a powerful voice that needs to be heeded today, especially in the light of the last how many years of struggle to stop white people in authority from dehumanizing Black youth. It is also superbly crafted, using slashes to take the place of white space and this is both effective and symbolic. The use of space in the line  “then he got /                                 / and came back a whole letter grade shorter” is surprising and deeply important. The word that came to my mind was “disappeared” although it could mean “suspended” in the sense of taken out of life and time. This is a visual poem, where the reader sees the friendships of the young men and the violence surrounding them, as well as the concern expressed by the voice in the poem, who is older now and looking back, and the last stanza seems to be speaking to a young man of today, trying to show him the danger he is in. Finally, I want to thank Darius for this poem and end with another line from it that stays with me… “boy loud / cuz he need a hug / or a meal / or an open hand / on his shoulder / not a muzzle / not another brick / layered dismissal”

3rd Prize ($100)  “Wedding Dress”: Adrienne Christian

“Wedding Dress” is an extraordinary poem about a dysfunctional family, yet despite recounting the terrible behavior of these people (including the narrator!), the poet maintains a sense of humor throughout. This kindles in the reader a sense of pathos along with perhaps a bit of a morbid fascination. The language is surprising and very believable. It sustained the story, and held this reader to the page in anticipation of what might come next.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)

“Stay” : Arien Reed

“Yardsale” : Karen Mandell

“the easier way to deconstruct a monroe (by waveform? or otherwise?)”:

Tobi-Hope Jieun Park

“Working the Child At Risk Hotline” : Pamela Gemme

“Octavia” : Michael Baldwin

“Mi Casa Es Tu Casa” : Alfredo Antonio Arevalo

Thank you to all who entered our contest.  We loved reading your work, and we wish you the best of luck!

Our 2020 Annual Poetry Contest has been extended to MAY 30, 2020

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

& publication in Common Ground Review


Lori Desrosiers
Lori Desrosiers

Lori Desrosiers’ poetry books are The Philosopher’s Daughter (2013), Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak (2016) and the forthcoming Keeping Planes in the Air (2020), all from Salmon Press. Two chapbooks, Inner Sky and typing with e.e. cummings, are from Glass Lyre Press. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She holds an MFA in Poetry from New England College and teaches in the Lesley University M.F.A. program. She edits Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry, and Wordpeace.co, an online journal dedicated to social justice. She lives and writes in Westfield, Massachusetts.

Contest Submission Guidelines: 

Send 1-3  poems to the Poetry Contest link on our Submissions page
*  each under 61 lines and previously unpublished
*  no simultaneous submissions
*  $15 fee

Or snail-mail to Janet Bowdan, Editor
                            Common Ground Review
Western New England University
1215 Wilbraham Rd.
Springfield, MA  01119

Include contact information (name, address, email and phone number) and a brief biography on a cover sheet with a list of poem titles, but not on the poems themselves.  If you use snail-mail, please include a check for $15 made out to WESTERN NEW ENGLAND UNIVERSITY.

Honorable mentions will be published.

Deadline is MAY 30, 2020


Previous Contest Winners, 2019

First Prize, $500: Roy Bentley

“Luis Sarria, Muhammed Ali’s Longtime Cut Man, Prepares the Boxer’s Face for a Workout in Deer Lake in 1978”

This poem, ekphrastic from a photo, exceeds the mere description typical of ekphrastic poems by seeing the photo from the inside out. The poet uses a capacious Whitmanesque line to focus tightly on an intimate relationship of healer and warrior. These men do not speak, but the cut-man’s fingers feel their way into the hard history of Ali and all black Americans. This tight shot then brings the two out on the road into a country fighting for and against civil rights. The poet has researched the physical things in the photo and through concrete specificity has used them precisely to meld history and human particularity. I was moved by the poem, and thought of Ali with warmth. I was in Vietnam the year Ali refused to serve, and saw the effect of this on the black marines I was deployed with. By a few images the poet has not only sharply depicted the two men, but opened up the world around them and its history.

Second Prize, $200: Richard Cummins,  “Carpe Diem”

I like very much this father’s observation of his daughter as the family trio drives through a landscape. The father’s language of memory and time are counterpoint to the child’s joyful naming of things. The father knows the snow is coming; the daughter’s acquisition of language is immediate. The child’s grasping for language recapitulates the poet’s incessant choosing of the best words. The poet says, “Love tells me that we three close our eyes/and create the world each time we open them again, that there is nothing but now, nowhere but here.” This line is a demonstration of Coleridge’s argument that the poet creates the world as if for the first time.

Third Prize, $100: Terry Bodine, “Hitting the Bottle”

This poem is in one sense a struggle with alcohol but in another, just getting through life with its “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” The bruises are not only the broken blood vessels beneath the skin but life’s heartaches. Childhood is woven with the present. “We’re as likely to remember a story we’re told/as we are the story we lived.” Memory revises, innocence is bruised with experience. There is a need for a mother to wipe away tears but there is also a sense the speaker will survive and recover. “When I lie down in beds of guttered leaves/I’m still able to stand back up.”

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical order by poem title)

“After Slaying the Dragons”—Jonathan Greenhause

“Annunciation on Rue Saint-Urbain”—James Crews

“Between A Mother and a Son”—Candice Kelsey

“Mythomania”—Howie Faerstein

“Over”—Tom Paine

“Post Impressionism”—Kathleen Holliday

“They Watched”—LQ McDonald III

“Thirteen Truths”—Michele Randall

“To the Brink”—Linda Haltmaier

“Transition Period”—Bill Glose

We’d like to thank the judge, Doug Anderson, and everyone who entered.  We read many wonderful poems, and we’re hoping to find room for some of them in the Spring/Summer issue, so if your name is not on the list above, you may still be getting an acceptance from us after July 4th.  And Happy July 4th!


Send 1-3 poems* by March 31, 2019 using this link: Poetry Contest 

$15 fee.

This year’s judge will be DOUG ANDERSON, author of the poetry collections The Moon Reflected Fire (1994, and 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).

Doug Anderson

Each poem should be less than 61 lines.  If you are sending poems snail-mail, send them to Janet Bowdan, Editor, Common Ground Review, H-5132, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Rd., Springfield, MA 01119.  Postmark must be by March 31st.  The $15 check should be made out to “Western New England University.”

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

(fanfare & drum roll, please)

1st Prize, $500:  Jari Chevalier, “In the Bird Sanctuary”                                                  

2nd Prize, $200: John Sibley Williams, “Cosmology”  

3rd Prize, $100: 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
Many thanks to everyone who entered the contest!


Amy Dryansky will be judging the 2018 Annual Poetry Contest.

First Prize is $500 and publication in the Spring/Summer issue.

Second Prize is $200 and publication; Third Prize is $100 and publication.

Honorable Mentions will also be published.

Fee: $15.

The 2018 Poetry Contest will be open for submissions via our Submission page from January 17 to March 20th.  You can send poems snail mail to us at Common Ground Review, Box H-5132, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Rd., Springfield, MA  01119.

What should you send?  Up to 3 poems, each no more than 60 lines, and a check for $15 made out to Western New England University.

The contest closes March 20th.

amy_dryansky--2Amy Dryansky is author of Grass Whistle, winner of the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award for poetry, and How I Got Lost So Close to Home, winner of the New England/New York Award.

For more information on Amy Dryansky, please see our blog.  For more information on contest guidelines, or to submit poems to the contest, please see our Submissions page.

2017 Poetry Contest Results

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 PlaceElton 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 PlaceJanet 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 PlaceCharles 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.

Patrick Donnelly will be judging our 2017 Poetry Contest.
Patrick Donnelly will be judging our 2017 Poetry Contest.

First Prize is $500 and publication in the Spring/Summer issue.

Second Prize is $200 and publication; Third Prize is $100 and publication.

Honorable Mentions will also be published.

The 2017 Poetry Contest will be open for submissions via Submittable on December 24th–first night of Chanukah AND Christmas Eve–or you can send poems snail mail to us at Common Ground Review, Box H-5132, Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Rd., Springfield, MA  01119.

What should you send?  Up to 3 poems, each no more than 61 lines, and a check for $15 made out to Western New England University.

The contest closes on March 1st, 2017.

Congratulations to our 2016 contest winners!


First prize $500:
“Listen up, girl” by Meghan DePeau
Second prize $200:
“Paying Tribute” by Neal Whitman
Third prize $100:
“(on the telephone)” by Marian Kaplun Shapiro

Of Meghan DePeau’s “Listen up, girl,” Stephanie Lenox said, “There were many poems in this batch about the parent/child relationship, but this one really called my attention with its insistent and unapologetic voice.”

Of Neal Whitman’s “Paying Tribute,” Stephanie Lenox said, “This poem kept shifting as I read it. The strange ways the line breaks and words changed meaning as I read drew me to this poem.”

And of Marian Kaplun Shapiro’s “(on the telephone),” Stephanie Lenox said,  “I love a good prose poem, and the language-play in this one makes me happy.”

We would like to thank everyone who sent their poems for this year’s contest, and we hope to see your work again next year!

Annual Poetry Contest:

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

and publication in Common Ground Review

2017 Contest Judge to be announced.  Contest will open in January 2017.

You can now submit your contest poems via the Submittable link on our Submissions page!  All the details are available there.

If you want to mail your contest poems, send 1-3 unpublished poems under 61 lines, a brief biography, SASE and a $15 check made out to Western New England University.  Please write “CGR Contest” in the memo section of the check, and mail the submissions by March 15th to:

Janet Bowdan, Editor
Common Ground Review H-5132
Western New England University
1215 Wilbraham Rd.
Springfield, MA 01119

Please include contact information (name, address, email and phone number) on a cover sheet with a list of poem titles, but not on the poems themselves.

We do NOT accept simultaneous submissions for the contest.

Enclose SASE for a list of winners and honorable mentions.

Honorable mentions will be published.

Congratulations to our 2015 contest winners!

First prize $500:
“Good Work” by  Matthew J. Spireng
Second prize $200:
“Each Life Converges to Some Centre” by Beth Paulson
Third prize $100:
“I Walk in the Gentle Wood” by Diana Wolfe Larkin

We would like to thank everyone who sent their poems for this year’s contest, and we hope to see your work again next year!

The judge for the 2015 poetry contest was Nicole Terez Dutton