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The Massachusetts Poetry Festival First Poem Contest Mass Poetry


About the Contest:

The 2023 Massachusetts Poetry Festival returns to downtown, Salem, MA, May 5-7, 2023. Friday, May 5, the Festival’s opening headline event will start with a reading of a poem by a New England writer. The winner of the contest will be invited to join us at the Festival and read the winning poem in person if they are able. 1st place also comes with a prize of $250. Two honorary mentions will be awarded $50 each. The names of our winners and the text of the winning poems will be published on the Festival website.


This contest is open to all New England writers or writers who have previously lived in New England. This year’s guest judge is Charles Coe. Those with a relationship to the guest judge that may represent a conflict of interest such as very close friends or mentees are not eligible for the contest. Please submit 1 original, unpublished poem in .pdf or .docx format. There are no restrictions on length or poetic style. Please do not include your name in the document. A $10 submission fee helps us administer the prize and supports other Festival programming. Please submit only 1 poem per entry. For students and those for whom $10 represents a financial burden, a no-fee submission option is available. No-fee submission entries are limited to 1 per person. Submissions are open until March 15, 2023. Winners will be announced in mid-April.


Mass Poetry asks for the non-exclusive rights to publish and archive the winning poem, all or in part, on our website, social media, print, or for any marketing purpose. We ask that the poem be unpublished as of the reading on May 5, all other rights remain with the poet. Please send only your own creative work; do not submit another poet's work or any work for which you do not hold the copyright.

About Charles Coe

Charles Coe is the author of three books of poetry published by Leapfrog Press: All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents, Picnic on the Moon, and Memento Mori, designated a “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. A fourth volume, “Purgatory Road,” will be released by Leapfrog in Spring of 2023. He is also author of Spin Cycles, a novella published by Gemma Media. Charles was selected as a Boston Literary Light by the Associates of the Boston Public Library and is a former artist fellow at the St. Botolph Club in Boston.

Charles was a 2017 artist-in-residence for the city of Boston, where he created an oral history project focused on residents of Mission Hill. He is poetry editor of “Multiplicity,” an online literary journal published by Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Mass, and associate editor of “About Place,” an online literary journal published by Black Earth Institute. Charles has served as poet-in-residence at Wheaton College, the Newton Public Schools, and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. He is an adjunct professor of English at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and Bay Path University, in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where he teaches in both MFA programs.

More about Charles at

Previous Winners:

In 2021, three winning poems were chosen by guest judge Dara Barrois/Dixon (former Dara Wier)

· Samn Stockwell of Barre, VT, “The Transmigration of Souls at the Donut Shop”

· Samantha DeFlitch of Portsmouth NH, “I am a Parking Chair”

· Emily Joan Cooper of Peabody, MA “Upon Quitting My Job”

Regular Submission

Temp Closed

Submit a single poem to 2023 The Massachusetts Poetry Festival First Poem Contest. Your $10 submission fee goes to fund the prize and support Festival programming. Multiple submissions are allowed but each submission should be accompanied by a separate fee. See the full guidelines here. Learn more about the Festival here.

Student & Financial Hardship Submission

Temp Closed

Submit a single poem to 2023 The Massachusetts Poetry Festival First Poem Contest. This call is for student writers and those for whom the $10 submission fee represents a significant barrier to submission. No-fee submissions are limited to a single submission per person. Not paying a fee does not decrease your chance of winning, and the guest judge will not receive information on which submissions were accompanied by a fee. See the full guidelines here. Learn more about the Festival here.