Frequently Asked Questions


Why haven't I heard of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes before?

This new poetry competition was established in 2004. In his will, Marvin Rosenberg left the bulk of his money to establish this writing competition in memory of his first wife Dorothy Rosenberg, in order to encourage young poets. The first competition was held on December 10th, 2004, and awards were announced February 5th, 2005.

What will the poetry prizes be?

This competition will award poetry prizes from $1,000 up to $25,000. The prize levels that have been awarded so far are $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $7,500 and $10,000. Honorable mention awards of $250 will also be granted.

How many prizes will there be?

We reserve the right to vary the number of prizes awarded in this writing competition based upon the funds available and the quality and quantity of submissions. For example, in the first year we granted fewer prizes because the number of entries was fairly small. Fifty-one prizes and 16 honorable mentions with total value of $192,000 were awarded in the fourth year.

What criteria are used to select the winning poems?

We are looking for the finest lyric poems celebrating the spirit of life. For us a lyric poem is sung from the heart. This means, among other things, that it expresses personal experience. It may have qualities of beautiful wording and imagery, rhythmic melody, direct and intensely personal emotion, and personal vision or understanding.

Celebrating the spirit of life suggests to us a poem that evokes appreciation for the worth of human being and the individual dignity of all beings, and brings to mind the most important aspects of life.

We expect a fine lyric poem celebrating the spirit of life to invite the reader to rejoice in the wonderful vibrancy and resilience of the human spirit in face of the difficulties and obstacles that often arise, and to inspire the listener with its beauty and message when read aloud.

How are the submissions judged?

Judges evaluate the poems without knowing the names or personal details of the authors. In the early stages, judges select a subset of entries that are potentially worthy of prizes. As the selection process approaches completion the panel of judges read every poem being considered. Some of these will be awarded honorable mention, and others will be identified as likely candidates for prizes. At that stage, the judges normally contact the entrants to learn more about them and their work. Ultimately, the list of prize winners is determined, the entries are ranked, and the prize winners at each monetary level are selected. It is only at this stage that we will know exactly how many prizes of each type will be awarded.

If an entry comprises more than one poem, the judges generally evaluate the body of work as a whole, rather than selecting one superior poem from the group. It is often best to submit only a single poem unless two or three poems are of equal caliber and complement one another unusually well.

Will the winning poems be published on the website?

We hope to present all of the prize-winning poems on the website, but not with the intent of "publication." The copyright for each poem remains with the author, and we expect that winning entrants will go on to publish their poems in other ways.

How will the $10 entry fee be used?

We have asked for $10 entry fees to help pay for the expenses of running the poetry competition.

How should the entry fee be paid?

The entry fee for the poetry contest is ten US dollars. If you have access to a $US checking account, please send a check for US $10 payable to the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund. Entries posted from outside the United States are exempted from the fee, because we recognize the difficulties of arranging international payments.

How is this poetry competition related to the Dorothy Rosenberg Memorial Prize in Lyric Poetry at UC Berkeley?

Marvin Rosenberg established the UC Berkeley poetry contest in memory of Dorothy Rosenberg many years ago. Those prizes are now supported by an endowment given by this Fund. At Marvin's request, this new writing contest uses Dorothy's full name "Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg," incorporating her pen name, Dorothy Sargent.