Illinois’ First Lady, poet laureate team to offer Poetry & Prose Contest

SPRINGFIELD—Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich and Kevin Stein, Illinois’ poet laureate, encouraged Illinois students to submit their original work to the Illinois Association of Teachers of English (IATE) Best Illinois Poetry and Prose Contest.

The contest is open to students from 6th through 12th grades. Entries must be postmarked by Jan. 31. This is the second year the First Lady has partnered with IATE to promote the competition.

“Poetry is a great form of personal expression, and I encourage all Illinois students to participate in this year’s IATE Poetry and Prose Contest,” Patti Blagojevich said. “I enjoyed reading last year’s entries and am looking forward to what students submit this year.”

Stein added: “This statewide poetry contest encourages students to believe their words matter. It also shows young people the power of language to express and reflect on their life experiences.”

Stein, the fourth poet laureate since the creation of the post in 1936, gives frequent poetry readings around the state and maintains a Web site ( to feature other Illinois poets, including young people. Coordinating a statewide writing contest for the youth of the state was one of his initial goals after being appointed in December 2003. He also serves as the Caterpillar Professor of English at Bradley University in Peoria.

The First Lady chaired the committee that chose Stein as poet laureate. The first-place entries are published in the fall issue of the Illinois English Bulletin, and a selection of the pieces will be posted on the poet laureate’s Web site. The First Lady and poet laureate also send certificates of congratulations to the winners of the contest. Approximately 30 poetry and 30 prose entries win first place each year.

The Illinois Association of Teachers of English, the oldest English organization in the U.S., is based at the Department of English of Illinois State University in Normal. The Illinois English Bulletin is also published there. IATE membership is open to any individual interested in English instruction, English language, and literature. Currently, IATE has 1,035 members statewide.

Only IATE member teachers can submit entries, which should be clear and legible on standard-sized paper and postmarked by Jan. 31. Poems are to be no longer than 40 lines, and prose is to have no more than 1,000 words, with no illustrations. A panel of judges, including the poet laureate, will read submitted work and choose the winners. Other rules can be found at the IATE Web site, First-place honorees will be notified in summer 2006.

Poetry should be submitted to:

IATE Poetry Contest

ATTN: Robin L. Murray

Department of English

Eastern Illinois University

600 Lincoln Ave.

Charleston, IL 61920

Prose should be submitted to:

IATE Prose Contest

ATTN: Kimberly M. Radek

Division of English, Mathematics, and Education

Illinois Valley Community College

2578 East 350th Rd.

Oglesby, IL 61348-1099

From the Jan. 4-10, 2006, issue

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