Michigan River of Words—Annual Environmental Poetry & Art Contest

What is Your Ecological Address?

River of Words conducts a yearly international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of watersheds. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place where they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover.

About 100 poems and artworks from both US and international entries are selected as finalists each year. All winners receive ribbons, books and/or art supplies, t-shirts and other prizes. The Grand Prize winner receives an all-expense paid trip for the winner and a guardian to Washington, DC to attend the RoW Award Ceremony at The Library of Congress.

All entrants are acknowledged with a Watershed Explorer Certificate.

What are readers and judges looking for? Freshness of language, local specificity, and the quality of being alive to the place.

2008 National winners -- both are from Michigan:

River of Words Ribbon Art: Nina Dorje, Age 8
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Wines Elementary School

Poetry: Patty Schlutt, age 13
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Crossroads Middle School

This was a great year for Michigan, according to Susan Sarratt of the National River of Words: "we've never received so many entries from Michigan before, nor have we ever had so many Michigan winners! It's really quite an accomplishment to have two grand prize winners from one state, as well as several finalists!"

River of Words prize winners at the Library of Congress.

2008 Michigan winners, with separate state awards: poetry and art.

Congratulations, poets and artists!

Important Michigan 2009 Contest Information

Entering the contest is easy and free, but as in all things, there are some rules and guidelines. In addition to the students' and teachers' resources, we have some Michigan-specific guidelines:

If you want to be eligible for both National and Michigan Prizes, your art or poetry entry must be postmarked no later than February 15th, and received by February 22nd 2009, sent to:

River of Words Contest
PO Box 4000-J
Berkeley, CA 94704 USA

National winners are announced each April at a gala event at the San Francisco Library. The Grand Prize and International winners win an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC to attend the RoW Award Ceremony at The Library of Congress.

Eight National Grand Prize winners—four in poetry and four in art, in four different age categories—are chosen from the US entries:

Category I — Kindergarten-Grade 2
Category II — Grades 3-6
Category III — Grades 7-9
Category IV — Grades 10-12

Michigan winners are announced in June and are awarded cash prizes, books, and art supplies; Grand Prize winners also get a ride on the Inland Seas, courtesy of Inland Seas Education Association.

On your entry form, specify that you are entering as part of ROW/Michigan. Your entry is then autotmatically included in the Michigan contest where winners are announced in June:


Since good poets and writers are such good readers to begin with, an excellent opportunity to apply those close-reading skills will be the Contest Rules and Guidelines, which contains many important details:


Consult the Contest FAQ or write to Michael Moore: mmoore@mtu.edu


National River of Words

Library of Congress: Center for the Book