Northeast Texas Poetry in Schools

Our History

ne-poertyFor forty years, the Rusk County Poetry Society, a chapter of the Poetry Society of Texas, celebrated April as National Poetry Month with its annual Poetry in Schools competition. The program began in Henderson, Texas, schools and then expanded to surrounding counties to become one of the largest student poetry competitions in the state. 

The popular program offered literary enrichment to public, private and home-schooled students in grades 1-12, with judging by local poets. The contest organizer was Rusk County Poetry Society founder Mary Craig, with poet Anne McCrady serving as coordinator.

Two years ago, when the Rusk County Poetry Society members felt they could no longer manage the yearly project, Anne McCrady approached Young Audiences of Northeast Texas about hosting the event. The event was then renamed the Northeast Texas Poetry in Schools Contest.

Important Dates

Check back soon for information on this year’s professional development opportunities.


Wendesday, February 1st 2017:
2017 contest submissions open

Wednesday, March 1st 2017:
All submissions due by 11:59 p.m.

Tuesday, April 18th 2017:
Awards Ceremony
Region 7 ESC ~ 1:30 p.m.

Submission Guidelines

  • All poems must be submitted online.
  • Poems must be submitted by teachers or home school parents.
  • Only one entry per student.
  • Entries must be original, unpublished, typed poems written by the student.
  • Poems may not exceed 28 lines.
  • Poems must be submitted in a Word Doc or Pdf
  • Poems should be typed without illustrations and sorted by grade level.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I submit my poems by mail?

No. While we have accepted poems this way in the past, we switched to an all-online submission process in 2015.

Can my students submit their own poems?

No. While we appreciate every student’s excitement for poetry, we ask that poems are submitted only by teachers and homeschool parents.

Can I submit more than one poem per student?

No. While we are so glad to see students writing a lot of poetry, especially on their own, we only allow one poem per student to be submitted each year.

Should I put my students’ names on their poems?

Yes! Each student’s name, as well as other required information, should be on their poem. See our instructions on “how to format your poems” for more information.

Is there a theme for the contest?

No! Students may write on whatever topics or themes they would like.



Students in grades 1-12 from any public, private, charter, or home school that lies within the Northeast Texas Region are eligible to submit poems to the contest.

Notification of Winners

  • Teachers must reply by email to confirm the announcement of their winning students has been received. 

  • All winning students’ poems must have a parent permission form submitted before their awards can be finalized. Failure to do so will result in the poem’s disqualification. More information on the the permission form will be giving to teachers/parents of winning students. You may download the permission form here. 

Suggestions for Teachers and Parents

  1. Poetry is a conversation between the mind and the heart. Help your students feel comfortable explore interesting intellectual questions with a heart that is open to deep feelings and free to play!
  2. Prize-winning poems are marked by originality and imagination; they celebrate the power of language! Avoid asking your whole class to write similar poems or giving prescribed subjects or forms to use. It is very difficult to choose a winner from dozens of almost identical poems.
  3. Prize-winning poems feature language, subjects and thoughts that are mature for the grade level. Especially encourage secondary level students not to submit simplistic love and nature poems.
  4. Prize-winning poems are extraordinary. Encourage your students to “color outside the lines” with phrasing and word choices that are surprising and yet clear in meaning and well-understood.
  5. Prize-winning poetry speaks best with “what is between the words.” Have your students examine their poems for implied meaning and connotation. Secondary students, especially, should be able to identify the underlying theme of their poems, explain metaphors and express personal insights.
  6. Prize-winning poetry is more than fact or anecdote or narrative or even emotion. Encourage students to use imagery and metaphor, simile and sound, rhythm and repetition to make “word art.”
  7. Expose students to a broad range of poetry before writing. Share your favorite classic poems with your students, as well as works by less famous and contemporary poets. They should see that, while traditional poetry can be impressive, not all poems rhyme, follow a set form or feature “pretty” words.
  8. Encourage students to write about experiences that evoke conicted feelings: fears, dreams, joys, passions, regrets, memories, worries. Remind them that prize-winning poetry compels deep thinking.
  9. When choosing subjects to write about, especially for competitions, realize which topics will be overdone and help students choose an unusual subject or viewpoint they have experienced.
  10. Have your students type their work, then help them check it. Neatness, good grammar and proper spelling make it easier to judge a poem on its merits! Still, it should be their own writing!