Media Contact:

Ewa Zadrzynska
[email protected]
(917) 774-8834

For Immediate Release
January 15, 2014


New York City—After a successful six-year run in Europe, the Poetry Unites contest, inspired by Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem project, is coming to New York State.
Marie Howe, the New York State Poet Laureate, and Corinne Evens, a philanthropist, in co-ordination with the Academy of American Poets, the New York State Writers Institute and the New York State Office of Cultural Education, are pleased to announce a contest for the best short essay about a favorite poem.  The contest is open to all New York State residents.

Marie Howe issues the following call to New York State residents:

Do you have a poem you carry in your wallet? Or, in your heart? Perhaps you have a poem you taped on your refrigerator? How has this poem changed your life?

Briefly, deeply in no more than 600 words, tell us how. Say a few words about yourself and the story of the poem.

Are you seven, or twenty-two, eighty-two or ninety four? Are you a construction worker, a priest, waitress, doctor, student, homemaker? Are you self-employed, employed or unemployed? Whoever you are we want to hear about how one poem has affected your life.
We believe that everyone has a favorite poem, but not everyone knows about it.
If you do, tell us about it. If you don’t, try to find the poem now. We want to hear from you.

Four individuals’ essays will be selected to be featured in a series of six-minute-long film profiles, which will be posted on and PBS' website and may be broadcast by PBS and other media. These winners will receive invitations to a celebratory film screening in New York City in October 2014.

Poetry Unites Contest Guidelines

Participants are asked to write a two-page (or 600 word) piece about their favorite poem and its importance in their life. The selected poem should be by a published poet. The contest participant’s essay can be in any style or form, but the piece should touch upon the following three questions:

1. What’s your favorite poem, who wrote it, and when did you read it for the first time?
2. Why is this poem important to you?
3. Please provide some information about yourself: what does your day look like, what are your dreams, what do you expect from life?

The jury, headed by New York State Poet Marie Howe, will select four winners and each of their essays will be awarded a Certificate of Merit. The winners will each be featured in short film profiles, which will be posted on, the State Library website, and may be broadcast by public television across the United States.

All winners will be invited to a celebratory film screening in October 2014. Travel within New York State and hotel accommodation in NYC will be covered.

The Jury Members:

Marie Howe, New York State Poet Laureate, 2012-2014
Jeffrey Cannel, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Office of Cultural Education
Nina Darnton, Author
Donald Faulkner, Director, New York State Writers Institute
Edward Hirsch, Poet and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets
Robert Pinsky, Poet, former US Poet Laureate and the Founder of Favorite Poem project
Ewa Zadrzynska, Writer and Filmmaker

Submissions should be made electronically, and should be emailed to [email protected]. The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2014

Contest winners will be announced at the beginning of May on, and production of films of the four winners will commence. The production process will conclude in September, and the films will premiere at the celebratory film screening in New York.

History of the Poetry Unites Contest in Europe

In Europe, the Poetry Unites contest was developed and produced by Ewa Zadrzynska for the Evens Foundation. Ms. Zadrzynska, a US and Polish citizen, saw the films on poetry lovers on Robert Pinsky’s PBS program one day in the early 2000s. When she met Robert Pinsky during a Poetry Festival organized by Edward Hirsch and Adam Zagajewski in Cracow in 2004 she asked Robert Pinsky if she could bring the project to Europe. With his blessing and with the financial help of the Evens Foundation she started the program in Poland in 2006.

The project consisted of the production of a series of five-minute films, shown on television, the internet, and in the cinemas, in each of which a particular poetry lover speaks about his or her life in the context of presenting a favorite poem. Initial broadcasts began on Polish National Television in February 2006 and have been continued once a week, till today. Screenings of the films took place in France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Israel, Hungary, and the United States.
Over the course of seven years, the public broadcasting network in Poland presented series of 85 films on Polish, French, Italian, German, Bulgarian, Belgian, American, Israeli poetry lovers from the ages of 6 to 94 to its millions of viewers. The films were all directed by Ewa Zadrzynska and financed by the Evens Foundation.

Zadrzynska said, “The project, which celebrates the integrating power of poetry, introduces the medium as an instrument of mutual understanding in the world.
The goal is to promote poetry and poetry readers in the hope that their enthusiasm will be contagious to thousands, if not millions, of others.” 

In 2008, the Evens Foundation launched the First Nationwide Poetry Unites—My Favorite Poem contest in Poland. The contest was opened to school-goers of all grades.

The contest became an annual event in Poland. In 2012 the Evens Foundation decided to extend the contest to other European countries.  So far the contest has been held twice in Germany, five times in Poland, and once in Bulgaria.

Concluding galas took place in Warsaw and in Berlin. The partner in Berlin was the Literaturwerkstatt Institution.

The State Minister of Culture and Media in Germany, Bernd Neumann, and the Polish Minister of Culture, Bogdan Zdrojewski, were supportive of the contests.

In 2013 Poetry Unites was launched in Bulgaria, Germany and Poland. From approximately 1000 entries 8 winners were selected. They all met in Warsaw in June 2013 during the Grand Finale. The films about the winners were premiered at the gala, and are currently being broadcast by National TV in Poland, Germany, and Bulgaria.

About the New York State Poetry Unites Partners:

Marie Howe is the author of three volumes of poetry, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008); The Good Thief (1998); and What the Living Do (1997), and is the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (1994). Stanley Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the Academy of American Poets. She has, in addition, been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others. Currently, Howe teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and New York University. She is the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of New York State.

Corinne Evens is a leader in the fields of international business and philanthropy. She is a co-founder and Honorary President of the Belgium-based Evens Foundation. Following her degree in Mathematics at Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1975, Mrs. Evens studied film directing in New York, theatre in France at Jacques Lecoq School and worked in feature, video art and documentary’s until 1982.

Mrs. Evens is a board member of the College International of Philosophy in Paris, Planet Finance, Madariaga European Foundation, Universal Education Foundation, Synergos and the Forum of Philosophy at London School of Economics. She is also a board member of several commercial companies, international funds and partnerships in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, United-States, India and China. Several years ago, she began designing jewelry and created the Goralska Jolaillerie in Paris 2011.

The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s largest membership-based organization promoting American poets and poetry. Founded in New York City in 1934, over the past eight decades the organization has helped bring attention to some of our most distinguished poets, including e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath. Each year, the Academy of American Poets enables millions of individuals to engage with the art of poetry by offering an array of free and low-cost programming. The organization originated and organizes National Poetry Month, the world’s largest literary celebration, which takes place each April; it introduces readers to poets and their work through Poem-A-Day, a program that distributes 250 previously unpublished poems to more than 200,000 individuals daily; it organizes annual poetry readings in partnership with cultural venues in New York City, including the High Line and Lincoln Center;  it offers an annual series of major poetry prizes; publishes a biannual journal, American Poet, which has a readership of 9,000; and produces, one of the world’s most popular websites for poetry.

The New York State Writers Institute is one of America’s premiere sites for promoting the art of the written word. Its central aim is to enhance and celebrate literature, writing, and performance, and to recognize the position of writers as a community within the larger community. Books, films, plays, and their creators can provide portals through which the most personal or complex issues of human understanding can be explored.   Originally founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Kennedy, the Institute received a mandate from New York's governor and legislature in 1984 to provide “a milieu for established and aspiring writers to work together. . .to increase the freedom of the artistic imagination.”

To meet the challenge of that original mandate the Institute sponsors a diversity of programs including author visits , film screenings, symposia, stage readings, and writing workshops for adults and high school students. The goals of these programs, most of which are free and open to the public, are to increase access to major authors for students of writing and readers of literature, broaden exposure for emerging authors, and provide important cultural initiatives for audiences.

The Office of Cultural Education (OCE) operates three major cultural institutions with stewardship responsibilities for collections$mdash;the New York State Museum, State Library, and State Archives, and the Office of Educational Television and Public Broadcasting. All three collection-holding institutions ensure that valuable information, knowledge, and collections under their care, are preserved and made available for current and future generations. In addition to collection stewardship and public programs, OCE also administers chartering, technical assistance, program coordination and grant and aid programs serving 7,000 public and academic libraries and 73 library systems; museums, historical societies, zoos, aquaria, botanical gardens, science centers, and other similar organizations; 26 public radio and television stations; 3,000 historical records repositories and 4,500 local governments.