Poetry of the Sacred 2017-08-23T15:41:50+00:00

The Center for Interfaith Relations is proud to sponsor the Thomas Merton Prize in Poetry of the Sacred, inspired by the legacy of Thomas Merton – monk, poet, hermit, activist, artist and interfaith pioneer – whose life continues to inspire millions. For over ten years, the Poetry of the Sacred contest has received thousands of submissions touching every aspect of spiritual life. Poetry has been called ‘the language of the soul’ and this annual contest encourages poets to awaken the reader to the deep meaning and beauty of a contemplative life. Poems are evaluated based on literary excellence, authenticity and spiritual tenor.

Contest Details

The 2017 Poetry of the Sacred Contest is open for submissions Friday July 14 trough 11:59 PM on Sunday August 27, 2017. This year’s final judge, Kentucky Poet Laureate Frederick Smock, will select three honorable mentions to receive $100.00 and one winning poem to be awarded the $500.00 Merton Prize in Poetry of the Sacred. The winning poem will be published in the 2017-2018 Winter issue of Parabola Magazine, an internationally recognized magazine devoted to the the world’s religious and cultural traditions.

We invite to contemplate this line from Thomas Merton’s “Hagia Sophia” as you compose your submission:

“There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.”

Submission Details

  • Entry fee of $15.00
  • Online submissions only (please call 502.583.3100 if you are unable to submit online)
  • Maximum poem length of 1000 words
  • Poems must be ANONYMOUS—the poet’s name or address must not appear anywhere on the attached document containing the poem
  • Previously published poems do not qualify
  • Only one submission accepted per person

A winner will be selected in late September and all applicants will be notified of the winning poem and three honorable mentions. Announcements will also be made online and through the general Center for Interfaith Relations and Festival of Faiths email communications.

Submission form closes at 11:59 pm (EST) August 27

Final Judge | Frederick Smock

Frederick Smock

Kentucky poet laureate Frederick Smock is a Louisville native. A graduate of Georgetown College and the University of Louisville, he serves as Professor of English at Bellarmine University.

For fifteen years he edited The American Voice, an international literary journal. Those papers are housed in the Duke University Archives.

Mr. Smock has published ten books of poems and essays. Two new books are forthcoming – Book of Earthly Delights, poems from Larkspur Press; and On Poetry: Palm-of-the-Hand Essays, from Broadstone Books.

His awards include the 2002 Henry Leadingham Poetry Prize, the 2003 Jim Wayne Miller Prize for Poetry, the 2005 Bellarmine University Wyatt Faculty Award, and the 2008 Kentucky Literary Award for Poetry. In 1995, the Kentucky Arts Council awarded him the Al Smith Fellowship in Poetry.

Nationally, his work has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Hudson Review, Poetry (Chicago), The Southern Review, Poetry East, Shenandoah, American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, The Antioch Review, The Bloomsbury Review, and many others.

Internationally, his work has appeared in Russkya Mysl (Russia), Dublin Poetry Review (Ireland), Olivier (Argentina), Art-Interpres (Sweden), and others.

About Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky and writer. His writings include such classics as The Seven Storey Mountain, New Seeds of Contemplation, and Zen and the Birds of Appetite. Merton is the author of more than seventy books that include poetry, personal journals, collections of letters, social criticism, and writings on peace, justice, and ecumenism.

Thomas Merton was born in Prades, France. His New Zealand-born father,Owen Merton, and his American-born mother, Ruth Jenkins, were both artists.

After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism whilst at Columbia University and on December 10th, 1941 he entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order.

During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk’s trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dalai Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known.

Contest Publisher

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Sarabande Books