Call for Poetry Submissions: Santa Barbara Reads 2021

Authored on
August 25, 2021

The Santa Barbara Public Library is inviting poets of all ages to enter our Santa Barbara Reads 2021 Poetry Contest! Winning poems will be displayed at the SB Reads Kick-Off event in November as part of the LIbrary’s Poetry Walk experience. 

Santa Barbara Reads is the Santa Barbara Public Library’s annual community read program. SB Reads 2021, an NEA Big Read supported by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest and the Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation, invites the community to read the same book at the same time to connect with one another, engage in discussions about issues that matter, and examine the world from viewpoints other than their own. This year’s selection is United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise. The book explores Indigenous pasts, presents, and potential futures in the United States, and prompts readers to unpack the ongoing impact of American colonialism. 

As part of SB Reads programming, the Library invites poets to write their own poem entitled “An American Sunrise” inspired by Harjo’s title poem (which can be read online at Poems can be entered into one of three categories: Children (under 12), Teen (12 - 18), or Adult (18+). Winning poems will be displayed at the SB Reads Kick-Off event in November and at other times throughout the program. 

Poems need not reflect the direct subject matter of Harjo’s poem, but instead should answer the question, “If you wrote a poem entitled ‘An American Sunrise,’ what would it be?” Poets are encouraged to consider adding the following elements to their poem: at least 3 images, a reference to their cultural history, and a wish, hope, or spell for the future—all of which are embedded in various guises in Harjo's original poem. Please note that these elements are not required, but are offered as creative suggestions for inspiration. 

Entry Guidelines:

  • Submit entries here 

  • Submissions must be received by 11:59 PM on September 24, 2021

  • Submissions should be 30 lines or less

  • Submissions should include “An American Sunrise” in their title and include “After Joy Harjo” as a subtitle

  • Submissions should include both a PDF and a word document 

  • Submissions should include the poet’s first and last name in the file name

  • Submissions will remain anonymous to judges, and should not include the poet’s name inside the document itself

  • Poets must reside, work, or be enrolled in a school within Santa Barbara County to be eligible for this contest

Additional Details:

  • Winning poems will be displayed on signs during SB Reads events, and therefore should be approximately 30 lines long (or less) to fit correctly on the signs

  • 18 year-olds who are still in high school may choose to submit in either the Teen or Adult categories

  • As Harjo is writing from her own cultural and lived experiences, we ask that you do the same

  • Further questions? Contact Lisa Neubert at or (805) 564-5605