National Poetry Contest for Social Workers 

Submissions for the 2024 contest are OPEN! Submit poetry here. Past winners are posted below.

teal blue manual typewriter on a white table with a pair of hands resting on the keys

The University of Iowa School of Social Work conducts an annual, nationwide poetry contest to acknowledge the creative talent of social workers and to draw attention to social work as a profession. “Hosting the national poetry contest here in Iowa City is a natural extension of what the School of Social Work has been doing for decades," says School of Social Work Professor Mercedes Bern-Klug, one of the contest's founders. "We have been offering a Creative Writing Workshop for social workers for more than 30 years; and the University of Iowa is known as 'The Writing University.'" In Iowa City — recognized internationally as a UNESCO City of Literature — writing is the air we breathe."

Rules for submission

  • Students, faculty, or alumni from United States CSWE-accredited social work programs may participate in the contest.
  • There is no cost to enter.
  • Only one submission is allowed per person.
  • The poem must be an original work by the person entering the contest.
  • All entries will be judged by a panel consisting of social workers, writers, and/or poets based on poetic technique, effectiveness, style, and creativity, as well as accessibility and suitability for public display before a general audience.
  • The deadline for submissions is Saturday, February 19th, by 11:59 pm CST. 
  • The poem must be no more than 15 lines (the title does NOT count as one of the 15). 
  • An excerpt from a longer poem will be considered if it can stand alone.
  • If reprint permissions are required, please get permission prior to submitting your work.
  • Poems must be submitted online. No paper or email submissions will be accepted.
  • Current submissions will be accepted Nov 17th, 2023 - Feb 19th, 2024.

The top three submissions will be awarded cash prizes and will be published on The New Social Worker website during National Poetry Month, in April. Submissions that meet the contest criteria may also be published on the University of Iowa School of Social Work website and/or social media.

First Prize: $200
Second Prize: $100
Third Prize: $50

Questions? Write to or call 319-335-1265.

Annual National Poetry Contest for Social Workers
2023 Winners

First Place
Coming Home to Alcoholism
Laura Gaudette
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Second Place
Doña Delfina / Mother Justice
A. Gallup
University of Michigan 
Ann Arbor, MI

Third Place
Imposter Syndrome
Meggie Royer
University of Michigan 
Ann Arbor, MI

Previous winners


  • Devin Dierks, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL
  • Honor Heindl, Washington University, Albuquerque, NM
  • Sara Shilling, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Durham, NC


  • Rebecca Saenz, University of Houston, Houston, TX
  • Kadence Mitchell, Columbia University School of Social Work, Henderson NV
  • Kerriann Kelleher, Boston College, Sagamore Beach, MA


  • Sandra Braine, Dominican University
  • Lacy Cunningham, Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Matthew Parra, Boston University School of Social Work


  • Aisha Naseem, University of Chicago
  • Kristin Bartley Lenz, Wayne State University
  • Elizabeth Weiss, University of Chicago


  • Christopher Joseph, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Angela Chaney, Indiana University
  • Brittany Humphrey, Arizona State University


  • Leslie Olson, University of Iowa
  • Rebecca Thieman, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Christopher Joseph, University of Michigan


  • Sarah Trotta, University of Pennsylvania
  • Patrick Scott Feagans, George Mason University
  • Jessica Greenbaum, New York University


  • Marjorie Thomsen, The Catholic University of America
  • Nahomi Martinez, University of Texas at El Paso
  • Joel Izlar, University of Georgia


  • Jonathan Knight Palley, University of California—Berkeley
  • Sarah Pettit Dawson, University of South Carolina
  • Catherine Crandall, University of Georgia


  • Anna Forbes, Bryn Mawr College
  • Sara Staggs, University of Houston
  • Mary Ann Getse, Washington University, St. Louis