In October 2010 the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission (RACC) sponsored its first poetry writing contest, Richmond Writes!, in celebration of National Arts and Humanities Month, which takes place each October. Following up on the great success of the initial citywide contest, RACC held a second contest in October 2011, the themes of which were aligned with the Iron Triangle Legacy Project. Close to 200 students submitted over 300 poems in an inspiring display of their talents as writers.

Today we are proud to announce the 2016 Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest. This year’s theme is “Who Am I?” Submissions of short poetry forms are welcome. For details, please read below.

All poetry contest submissions must be received at the RACC office before 5:00 p.m. on February 5, 2016. The office is located at 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804. Electronic submissions are also welcome. Submit them by midnight of February 5, 2016 to

Eligible students are those attending any schools in Richmond, whether public or private. Home-schooled students, and students who reside in Richmond but attend schools outside of the city limits, are also eligible. A special competition category has been created for students in LEAP (Literacy is for Every Adult Program). NEW THIS YEAR: Richmond Writes! For Teachers! Teachers may submit up to two poems each, provided their class participates in the contest as well.

All short poems submitted by eligible students and teachers will be judged for originality, writing skills, and understanding of the chosen subject. Submission deadline is February 6th. Judges will pick three finalists for each category (elementary, middle school, high school, and LEAP). All participants will receive certificates of recognition, as well as a chapbook containing all submissions, and finalists will be honored by the Mayor at a celebration honoring their efforts during National Poetry Month in April 2016.

THE 2016 THEME – Who Am I?
Students are invited to write about “Who Am I?”  Some possible topics include:

  • Are you new to this country or were you born here?
  • What language do you speak at home?
  • What makes you special or unique?
  • What type of person are you – funny, serious, kind, sports-minded? What else?
  • What are your special interests or hobbies?
  • What do you like to daydream about?
  • Do you like to be around people or are you more the quiet type?

Short poems of any form will be accepted. However, we find that haiku is a short-form poetry accessible and appealing to students of all ages; the majority of the 2010 Richmond Writes! entries were haiku. Haiku poetry is a lyrical form of unrhymed short poetry originating from Japan that consists of variable syllables, arranged in three lines, open to different arrangements of syllables in those lines. Because of its brevity, its flexibility, and its ability to express much and suggest more in the fewest possible words, haiku provides beginner as well as advanced writers with quickly satisfying results.

This year, our expanded category of short poetry will allow a variety of poetry works submitted on a single page to be judged. (Normal 12 font with lines skipped for easy copy is expected.) This category is intended for LEAP entries and High School Entries.

The 2016 theme for this competition is called Who Am I? Every person is unique, and there is no one like you. This year’s theme encourages students to think about what makes them special and share those things through poetry. What makes you tick? The Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest 2016 invites students to tell their own story.


RichmondWrites! is sponsored by the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission. For more information contact Brenda Williams at or call the Arts & Culture Division Staff at (510) 620-6952.