Submissions for the 2025 contest will be accepted between November 1, 2024, and January 31, 2025. 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.
  • Entries will be judged on: relevance to the experience of being a social worker, poetic technique, style, creativity, effectiveness, as well as suitability for public display before a general audience.
  • Poems will be judged by a panel consisting of social workers, writers, and/or poets.
  • The deadline for submission is Friday, January 31, 2025, by 11:59 p.m. Central Time. 
  • 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.
  • Submissions for the 2025 contest will be accepted between November 1, 2024, and January 31, 2025.

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
2024 Winners

First Place
Home Lessons
Carrie Gilman
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI

Second Place
Kristin Bartley Lenz
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI

Third Place
Another Mass Shooting and I Write Another Poem
Fara Tucker
Portland State University
Portland, OR

Previous winners


  • Laura Gaudette, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • A. Gallup, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Meggie Royer, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI


  • 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