Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy’s 2023 poetry contest open for submissions

All Tennessee college students may enter the contest here.

In partnership with Vanderbilt University’s Department of English and MFA Program in Creative Writing, the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy is soliciting poems from students currently enrolled in any Tennessee college or university.

Students may submit a poem in the style of their choosing that explores what unity through American democracy means to them. For further inspiration on the prompt, students should view this short video about the Unity Project’s origins and purpose:

Submissions should keep the project’s seven pillars in mind: 

  1. Polarization: Its Past, Present and Future 
  2. Hours of Hope: Case Studies in American Progress 
  3. Race in America: Toward a Nation of Equality 
  4. Under God: The Role of Religion in a Divided Time 
  5. To Keep the Republic: Strengthening Democratic Principles at Home and Abroad 
  6. Information Marketplace: Ensuring that the Public has the Data 
  7. Cultural Bridges: Using Artistic Expression to Narrow the Divide

The winning poets will receive cash prizes and may have the opportunity to have their work published. 

  • First place: $1,000 
  • Second place: $500 
  • Third place: $250  

The contest judges include Major Jackson, a renowned American poet, Vanderbilt professor of English, director of creative writing and host of the podcast The Slowdown; and Cara Dees, a poet and Vanderbilt lecturer. 

Submissions are due by midnight CT on March 15, 2023. Submit your poem here. 

If you have any questions about the contest, please reach out to the Unity Project’s coordinator, Amanda Wood, at 

About the Unity Project 

The Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy is a nonpartisan initiative that aims to elevate research and evidence-based reasoning into the national conversation. Drawing on original research, evidence-based papers and crucial conversations from Vanderbilt’s world-class faculty and visionary thought leaders of all political persuasions, the timely endeavor aims to give policymakers and the public the tools needed to combat conspiracy and unfounded ideology with evidence, data and respectful discourse. The Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy can contribute to solving society’s most pressing challenges and bridging our most significant differences. Learn more at