Below are winners of previous Poetry Unites contests around the world.

Aylin Chabaan - Bremen, Germany

Adrian Gnus - Bytom, Poland

Anna Grochowska - Busko, Poland

Helena Kargol - Berlin, Germany

Stefan Genev - Sofia, Bulgaria

Marita Boulos - Rouses Point, NY

Robynn Sims, Hutchinson, KS

Rosanna Oh - New York, NY

Luke Gilstrap - Wichita, KS

Klaudia Zargaryan - Lodz, Poland

Urim Jusufi - Aalen, Germany

Ventsi Ivanov - Sofia, Bulgaria

Paul White - Buffalo , NY

Kaylee James - Lindsborg, KS

Matthew Powers - Liitle Falls, NY

Dave Farson - Shawnee, KS

Anna Merecik - Przemysl, Poland

Wiktor Urbanski - Elblag, Poland

Kinga Fulara - Ilza, Poland

Artur Dybowski - Siedlce, Poland

Beniamin Bukowski - Rzeszow, Poland

Magdalena Hudyma - Jaslo, Poland

Andrzej Szczeklik - Krakow, Poland

Aleksandrowicz Katarzyna - Grudziadz, Poland


All essays submitted to Poetry Unites Alabama will be read and voted upon by a distinguished panel of professional writers, editors, critics, and scholars, with input  

from a Board of Advisors. The contest judges include:


The Poet Laureate of Alabama (2022-2026), is the author of three poetry collections: REPARATIONS NOW! // dark / thing (Pleiades Press, 2019), and Magic City Gospe. She is the winner of many awards, among others: the silver medal in poetry in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Jones lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival, board member of the Alabama Writers Cooperative and the Alabama Writers Forum.

the Poet Laureate of Alabama (2017–2021), is the author of three collections of poems, a collection of short stories, and has edited four volumes of poetry, essays, and stories. Her latest work is a biography of the writer Sara Mayfield, forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press.

She lives in Cottondale, Alabama.



Hirsch is an American poet and critic who wrote a national bestseller about reading poetry. He has published nine books of poems, including The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (2010) and Gabriel: A Poem (2014), a book-length elegy for his son that The New Yorker called "a masterpiece of sorrow." He has also published five prose books about poetry.  His latest book  of essays, 100 Poems to Break your Heart was published in spring 2021.  He is president of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York City.

Hirsch lives in Brooklyn NY and Atlanta GA

Celebrating the power of poetry in the lives of Americans


Let us share your story of what a poem you love has meant to you.

Whether you are a truck driver, lawyer, farmer, student, nurse, artist, or doctor, 

Poetry Unites invites you to tell how a poem has changed your thinking, 

explained your feelings, captured your imagination or touched your heart. 


Poetry Unites America is an essay contest and documentary film project, which reveals how much Americans have in common when they open up through their love of poetry. 

 Using the integrating power of poetry, the series of 30-minute episodes, shot in different states, shows how easily we can feel united beyond political, racial, religious and cultural divisions. 

The four heroes of each episode are selected through a statewide contest for the best essay on their favorite poem. The contestants are asked why this particular poem has resonance for them. 

A jury composed of established writers, poets and critics, selects the best essays and the director, Ewa Zadrzynska and her crew shoot portraits of the winners. The result is a unique, heart-warming, and uplifting picture of the USA, an America United, whose existence we tend to doubt lately. 

Launched with the financial support of the Belgian Evens Foundation by filmmaker and author, 

Ewa Zadrzynska, Poetry Unites began in Europe where it has produced more than 100 portraits of people born in Poland, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Israel, Korea, Japan, Bulgaria and Rwanda. 

The series has been broadcast on Poland’s national broadcasting network and German Public TV, BBG, and has been shown at screenings in Warsaw, Paris, Berlin, Venice, Padua, Tel Aviv, Cracow, Sofia, London, Brussels, Budapest, and Wroclaw to millions of viewers.

In 2014, Zadrzynska brought her Poetry Unites contest to America with the announcement of 

a call for entries in New York State. 

In 2017 the contest was launched in Kansas and was produced by Uhlig LLC. The first 30 min episode was broadcast on PBS AllArts channels several times in 2019 and 2020.

The series aims to expand its reach throughout the United States featuring 4 winners from contests in selected states in the nation. 


845 West End Avenue · Apt 4B · New York · New York 10025

©2020 Poetry Unites America. All rights reserved.

Winners will be featured in a forthcoming documentary

The Contest’s deadline moved to October 20 th , 2021

Ashley M. Jones, the upcoming Alabama Poet Laureate joins the Jury

Alabama is the fourth state after New York, Kansas and Kentucky to be featured in the series.

Poetry Unites Alabama Contest




Alexus M. Cumbie is the founder of Birmingham's Literary Vibes, an organization dedicated to increasing literacy rates in low socioeconomic communities in the Birmingham area. Through the use of poetry, public speaking, and fundraising from open mics featuring local artists and musicians, she merges her love for poetic verse and social justice.

Celebrating the power of poetry 

in the lives of Alabamians


September, 2021  

Poetry Unites Alabama contest calls on all Alabamians to share what their favorite poem means to them

Wednesday, April 27 2022


Four winners of a statewide contest explore the power of poetry to move and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds.

What poem do you love? That was the question posed by Polish filmmaker Ewa Zadrzynska and Alabama Poet Laurette Jennifer Horne in an essay contest conducted in Alabama early in the pandemic. The response was tremendous and helped Zadrzynska identify the subjects for her film Poetry Unites Alabama which premieres Wednesday, April 27 on Alabama Public Television in recognition of National Poetry Month. 

 “We received entries from Alabamians of different ages, diffwerent backgrounds, who live in different parts of Alabama, but they all share a love for poetry,” said Horne, who headed the jury for the contest. “We selected nine winners, four of which are included in the film.” 

Christian Crawford wrote his essay on Ballad of Birmingham, a poem about Black children marching in Birmingham in the 1960s written by Dudley Randall. Rachael Farr reflects on Muscogee Creek writer Joy Harjo’s poem Remember. Walter Givhan looks at There are Things I Tell to No One, by Galway Kinnell. Amber Moore explores the power of Audre Lorde’s A Litany for Survival. Each essayist reads their chosen poem and shares the meaning it has for them.

“Ewa’s film is more than a celebration of poetry. It’s a keen insight into the power of words to move and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds. Much of it is filmed outdoors and re- veals the beauty of our state along the way,” says APT programming director Mike McKenzie.

Alabama is the fourth state to be featured in the series Poetry Unites America, following New York, Kansas and Kentucky. Poetry Unites America is a non-profit organization dedicated to uniting people using the harmonizing power of poetry while promoting reading and writing. The Poetry Unites program was developed and produced by Ewa Zadrzynska for the Evens Foundation in Europe. It was inspired by the Favorite Poem project created by the U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky. The project is supported by the Alabama Humanities Alliance and Alabama Arts Council media grants to the Capri Community Film Society, Inc., and a grant from the Alabama Power Foundation.

Other members of the jury included Ashley M. Jones, Alabama State Poet Laureate, 2022- 2026; Alexus Cumbie, poet, founder of Literary Vibes; Edward Hirsch, Poet and President of the Guggenheim Foundation; Roy Hoffman, journalist and novelist; and filmmaker Zadrzynska.

Find more information on Poetry Unites America. 


  • Christian Crawford, essay on Ballad of Birmingham, by Dudley Randall
  • Debbie Esslinger, essay on Daybreak in Alabama, by Langston Hughes
  • Rachael Farr, essay on Remember by Joy Harjo
  • Walter Givhan, essay on There are Things I Tell To No One, by Galway Kinnell
  • Isabella Jones, essay on Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Ramona Hyman, essay on Christ In Alabama, by Langston Hughes
  • Amber Moore, essay on A Litany For Survival, by Audre Lorde
  • Kathryn Seawell, essay on Ghost Confederacy by Larry Levis
  • Jacqueline Allen Trimble, essay on “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton


Novelist, journalist, and essayist, is author of the novels “The Promise of the Pelican” (Spring 2022), “Come Landfall,” “Chicken Dreaming Corn,” and “Almost Family.” He’s written two nonfiction books: “Alabama Afternoons,” and “Back Home.” A native of Mobile, Ala. and Tulane graduate, he spent 20 years in New York before returning south to Fairhope, Ala. He’s done stints as a speechwriter and reporter, and contributed essays and reviews to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Roy is on the low-residency MFA faculty of Spalding University’s School of Writing.


A Polish-born writer and filmmaker, Ewa is the author of numerous essays, short stories and children's books. 

In 2006, in collaboration with the Belgium-based Evens Foundation, she created the series Poetry Unites, bringing everyday people together through poetry. She lives in New York City.