Nature Poetry Contest 2024

Water Into Words


An Inter-Generational
Poetry Contest

Seneca Park Zoo’s Nature Poetry contests are community-based explorations of the connections we have with nature.  Our theme for 2024 is “Water Into Words,” taking inspiration from water, bodies of water, waterways, rain, or water in any form that inspires you, as water is the lifeblood of nature.  We seek submissions of poems by writers of all ages and backgrounds, referencing water in some way and grounded in an ethos of conservation. Submissions in both English and Spanish are encouraged. There is no fee to enter, so let your words flow!  


Youth: Ages 12 and under

Teen: Ages 13 – 18

Emerging Adult Writer: Unpublished poets, ages 19 and above (self-published writers may select this category)

Published Adult Writer: Poets published in print and/or online, ages 19 and above


Up to three Honorable Mentions in each category receive: 


One Winner in each category receives all Honorable Mention benefits stipulated, plus:

The Winner of the Adult – Published category will receive: 


April 22, 2024 – Submissions open
August 16, 2024 – Submission period closes

Guidelines & Submission Instructions

Unpublished, original poems written in English or Spanish, in any style, including prose poems and song lyrics.

Simultaneous submission to other competitions should be noted: immediate notice upon winning such a competition is required.

At the top of the first page, please include the category in which you are submitting (Youth, Teen, Emerging Adult or Published Adult).

Title of the poem and the category should appear in the upper-right corner of each page.

Format poems in 12-point font size, Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman font, as .doc or .docs or .pdf  

Poems with more than 500 words will not be reviewed.

1. One poem per poet.
2. Poem must be submitter’s original work, unpublished in print or online.
3. Maximum length: 500 words.
4. Poem must reference water or a body of water in some way.
5. Format poems in 12-point font size, Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman font, as .doc, .docx., or .pdf
6. Paginate when poems exceed one page.
7. No illustrations.
8. Online submissions only via this webpage’s upload instructions
9. Title of the poem and the category should appear in the upper-right corner of each page.
10. Poet’s name and contact information may not appear on the submitted document.
11. Poems may not be edited or re-submitted.
12. Winners will be notified in September 2024.

Current or former colleagues, employees, family members and close friends of the judges; and current or former employees and members of the board of Seneca Park Zoo Society or Writers & Books are ineligible.

If any of the selected Winners or Honorable Mentions fall under the above exclusions, they will be disqualified and a replacement chosen from among the finalists. As the poetry community is small and the contest is judged without knowledge of the submitter’s identity, mere acquaintance with the judges or participation in a workshop taught by them are not disqualifying criteria.

Reviewers & Judges

Every eligible poem is scored by a panel of reviewers, whose cumulative rankings establish the top ten poems in each category.  The top ten scoring poems are reviewed by the judges to determine the winner and honorable mentions in their category. More judges to be announced soon!

Finalist Judges

Final judge panelists are experienced literary arts practitioners, including poets, authors, educators, librarians, arts administrators, and other relevant professionals. We are honored they contributed their time and talent to ensuring the highest standards for Water Into Words. 

Adult - Published Category

Sean Hill-1 credit Geoff Wyatt

Born and raised in Milledgeville, Georgia, Sean Hill is the author of two poetry collections, Dangerous Goods, awarded the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, (Milkweed Editions, 2014) and Blood Ties & Brown Liquor, named one of the Ten Books All Georgians Should Read in 2015 by the Georgia Center for the Book, (UGA Press, 2008). 

Hill’s poems and essays have appeared in Callaloo, Harvard Review, New England Review, Orion, Oxford American, Poetry, Tin House, and numerous other journals, and in nearly three dozen anthologies including Black Nature and Villanelles. His poems have also been featured as part of the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and on The Slowdown podcast when hosted by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith.

Hill has served as the director of the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference at Bemidji State University since 2012. Hill lives with his family in southwest Montana and is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Montana. 

Adult - Emerging Writer Category

Alison Meyers is Executive Director of  Writers & Books, a literary arts center in Rochester, NY. A veteran nonprofit leader, she previously led Cave Canem Foundation (Brooklyn, NY) as Executive Director, 2006-2016; served at Hill-Stead Museum (Farmington, CT) as Poetry Director and Director of Marketing & Communications, 2000-2006; and was General Manager of the Oberlin (OH) Consumers Co-op, a $2.9 million bookstore serving Oberlin College & Conservatory and surrounding communities (1995-1999). 

For many years she owned and managed an independent bookstore in Connecticut. She consults, sits on panels, and presents widely; serves as a LitNYS mentor for New York State-based literary arts nonprofits; and is Treasurer of the Board of Kweli Journal. Alison is a Pushcart Prize‐nominated poet, fiction writer, and essayist whose work may be found in journals and anthologies and at

Thank you to Writers & Books for helping make this event possible!

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