Defining Moments by Lin Rolens

As Amanda Gorman read her poem at the presidential inauguration and then read again at the Super Bowl, she vividly reminded us about the transformative power of language and poetry—and this is a moment for poetry. And, as the Ventura County Poetry Project launches its fourth annual poetry contest, we hope to tap into some of that remarkable energy.

Last year’s contest was the most successful of our contests to date: we enjoyed many and varied, quality entries from all over our county and well beyond, and, in spite of the fact that our reading ceremony celebrating the winners was virtual, it was a moving triumph.

This year’s contest should build on that success; people are hungry for human connection and ways to connect with the world. Our theme is “Defining Moments,” and it’s particularly appropriate for the transitions we’re all currently undergoing, as individuals and as a country. We invite all poems, but suggest “Defining Moments.”

No matter what our age, each of us has our distinct history and defining moments that changed or elevated us, shaped us, brought us profound joy or sorrow or a stronger sense of who we are.

These crossroads and epiphanies stick with us for a lifetime and focus our pleasures and direction. We invite you to pick one of these and bring readers into that moment.

You may submit poems by April 21 online at

Please submit a single file of up to five poems, each no longer than 35 lines. Your name must not appear on the poems; include a cover sheet with your name, full address, phone, and email. Let us know if you’re a youth (18 or younger) or an adult. Please include your local or favorite library. In these difficult times, we are celebrating our libraries.

Authors will be notified of results online in the first week of May. All winners will be invited and honored at a virtual reading. VC Poetry Project may share winning poems.

We look forward to your participation.  As Ms Gorman reminded us:


there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.



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