Ends on March 3, 2019

What is it then between us?

What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us? 

Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not, 

I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine, 

I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it, 

I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me, 

In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me, 

In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed they came upon me, 

I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution, 

I too had receiv’d identity by my body, 

That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should be I knew I should be of my body. 

—Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

To celebrate the bicentennial of Walt Whitman’s birth on May 31, 2019, Brooklyn Poets invites you to submit a poem to our Whitman Bicentennial Poetry Contest in response to the bard’s indelible question from “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”:

     What is it then between us?

Whitman answers with supreme confidence that whatever is between us “avails not,” that neither time nor distance separates him from us or anyone else. But how do you hear that question? How has it taken on new resonance today?

Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang, Mark Doty and Rowan Ricardo Phillips will judge the contest, selecting three winners from three different age brackets: 13–17, 18–22, and 23+. First prize in each bracket will win $250; second prize $100; third prize $50.

Entering the contest is free. Please submit one previously unpublished poem only. The winners and judges will read at our bicentennial celebration on May 31 at Smack Mellon in DUMBO and have their poems published in a commemorative chapbook.

Submissions are due by Sunday, March 3 (11:59 PM). Winners will be announced at the end of April. We strongly encourage women, writers of color, LGBTQ+ writers, indigenous writers, writers with disabilities and writers from other underserved communities to apply.

Cosponsored by the Academy of American Poets and Smack Mellon, in partnership with Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman!, the Poetry Coalition and the Whitman 2019 Consortium.