The 2021 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest

Drawing by Jay Ramseyer

2021’s theme: Reconciliation

Increased Top Poetry Prizes: 1st place – $450, 2nd place – $225, 3rd place – $110.


Life is a battlefield. Skirmishes, slights, insurrections, and wars take on many shapes and sizes in our lives, but all tend to deepen the creases in our faces. These trials whether self-immolating, interpersonal, or systemic make us question our own humanity, if we can even muster the strength to question anymore.

But these challenges are not the theme of this year’s poetry contest. Reconciliation – the journey back from the brink, the difficult work of peace, the reflective words after war is the theme of the 2021 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest.

At my mother’s dark pine roll top desk, she taught me to reconcile my checkbook every month when I was a teen. I wonder how many people even do that anymore, sit down, take stock of income, expenditures, check the math, find mistakes, admit their existence, fix them and continue. After a year where so many looked at ledgers flashing red, negative balances that could afford neither rent, electricity, heat, food, nor hope, I wonder who will succumb to the bankruptcy of despair, fall prey to the charlatans fomenting then monetizing hate.

To win this 2021 poetry contest you must be the resistance to cynicism, demagoguery, and mendacity because they are the allies of zero-sum thinking that poses and preens to alienate us from one another, pretends destruction is progress, plans to only enrich itself.

You must craft the antidote, tell a simple story of great complexity in poetry. Your verse must move the soul in a memorable and accessible way. Say something profound, connecting, restorative.

Good luck.

Ways to find the inspiration to win:
1. Call your estranged loved one.

2. Vaccinate.

3. Balance your bank ledger.

4. Face a grievous transgressor.

5. Read a war novel, a love story, a family saga.

6. Look in a mirror and forgive the person staring back.

7. Walk contemplatively through nature.

8. Hold your spouse’s hand.

9. Buy a copy of Sunbeams: The Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest Anthology.

10. Think of your own way to approach reconciliation and use it as your inspiration to write a poem of depth, hope and optimism.

11. Click to read last year’s winners 2020 Winners (Theme – Community & Activism).

12. Click to read the 2019 JRMPC Winners – Joy


If you have the goodwill to keep Joan’s name alive, create a Submittable account (free and easy) to enter this contest. If you would like to see your poetry win a cash prize, enter this contest. If you would like your poem published online, enter. If you have the chops to risk rejection and still emerge a better person, enter. If my words have not been enough to convince you, try the words and experience of previous years’ Sunbeams.

Contest Testimonials

– From Rae Theodore – 2020 Community and Activism Contest – 1st Prize

The 2020 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest not only allowed me to showcase my work as a novice poet but to share it with a broad audience of individuals interested in the contest’s themes of community and activism. If you ask me, the world can use more poetry, especially as we battle climate change, racial injustice and other critical issues. I applaud JRMPC for cultivating a poetry collection that not only shines a light on these issues but calls on people to take an active role in making the world a better place. I’m honored to represent JRMPC as the 2020 winner and continue the legacy of Joan Ramseyer.

– From Michael Lehman – 2020 Community and Activism Contest – 3rd Prize

If you are looking for a place to publish your poetry, please take a look at the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest. This is a great place to submit your work for publication in a very nice yearly volume published by Brett Ramseyer, Joan’s son, who follows in her footsteps as a fine English educator and published author. Poems are submitted via the internet and are judged anonymously at the end of the summer. Poets from all over the world have shared their poetry.

After the due date for submissions, poems are judged and winners of first, second and third place poems are given a monetary prize, and finalists area all published in “Sunbeams,” a paperback volume that showcases the work of the final selections for the book. Brett has taken on a huge task putting this all together and is very professional and adept at it. I have been involved for a few years, being a finalist and a place winner. Brett is an outstanding host for this event, and along with establishing a wonderful memorial for his mother, has given poets one more place to speak.

From Virginia Watts – 2019 Joy Contest – 1st Prize

I was surprised and deeply honored when I received a handwritten, heartfelt note from Brett Ramseyer, congratulating me with an exclamation point as the winner of the 2019 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest. Reading how my poem struck him with real emotion brought me to tears. It is these connections made through the arts that bring people together, fostering humanity at its best.

Brett is a wonderful, professional editor, a writer himself, and the resulting anthology is a beautifully rendered book in an age when online publication is trending strong. There remains something special about holding a real book in your hands with stunning, original cover art, with pages to turn, and turn again.

 I was drawn to the idea of a contest where an artist is remembered through the generation of new work created in her honor, in this case, Brett’s mother. I was particularly drawn to the 2019 theme of JOY, such a tiny word, such a big longing in many a heart. In a world where there is so much sadness and suffering, here is a collection of poems to remind us where we may still look for and discover the feeling of joy. I was thrilled to be a part of this collection with so many amazing poets. Thank you, Brett Ramseyer, for providing a poetry contest that exists for all of the right reasons and thank you too, Joan Ramseyer, whose legacy will continue to inspire.

– From Susan Pryor Hooks – 2019 Contest – Finalist

The JRMPC was a pleasure to participate in.  The expectations and rules for the contest were clear.  The sponsor quickly responded to all communication.  And I feel that the contest was very fairly administered.

The quality of the anthology was extremely professional, and the winning poets seemed to include authors who had works in numerous publications, as well as previously unpublished poets.  I would encourage anyone with a passion for poetry to enter this contest.

Dana K. Leahy – 2019 Cover Art Contest Winner

Upon a friend’s recommendation, I entered the cover design contest for the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest. I was impressed not only with the ease of entry but also with the breadth of conceptual information I was provided to formulate my cover ideas. In addition, all design parameters and rules of participation were clearly and professionally outlined. What inspired me most and clinched my decision to enter the contest was Brett’s genuine and ongoing commitment to honor the memory of his mother as well as the art of poetry. It was a pleasure and privilege to have my design selected to represent this beautiful body of work in 2019, and I’m delighted and honored to be working with Brett to create this year’s cover design.

– From Shelly Reed Thieman – 2018 Contest – 1st Prize

What a delight it was to receive a personal e-mail from Brett Ramseyer last September notifying me that I had received first prize in the 2018 Inaugural Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest! It was particularly meaningful to me as my poem was written in memory of my own mother, Alice Reed McClain. Brett was a pleasure to work with. He made personal contact with me more than once before my poem was chosen as the winner. He offered to continue supporting my work post-contest by offering to add news of other poems I have had published. This is so rare and refreshing in the poetry contest world! The contest anthology is beautiful and professionally done. It was a really an honor to be represented in Sunbeams!

– From Jo Barbara Taylor – 2018 Sunbeams Finalist

Thanks to Brett Ramseyer for the honor he pays to his mother and her memory with the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest. I was appreciative of the opportunity to submit to the contest in 2018, have my poem recognized and published in Sunbeams, a beautiful anthology both visually and for the poetry chosen. Working with an editor, a guiding influence, who has a vested interest in the vision and purpose of his project creates a comfortable experience for the poet. 

– From Erica Steinweg – 2018 Sunbeams Finalist

I appreciated two things about this poetry contest very much. One, that the inspiration behind it had to do with Brett honoring his mother by nurturing and supporting an art form that she loved. And, two, that the theme of the contest had to do with accessibility. To me that means working with language that is clear, deep, and meaningful–the kind that invites in all sorts of readers and doesn’t leave anybody behind. It’s about language that connects people to a moment and to each other. We need that kind of language now more than ever. Thank you so much, Brett.

– From David A. Porter Editor-at-Large of Stereo Embers Magazine

I’m delighted to have been part of the first Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest. I was in contact with Brett Ramseyer via email and Twitter after I submitted my work, and he was warm, accessible and organized – I found out within a month that he had selected my poem for inclusion in Sunbeams, The 2018 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest Anthology. The magazine is beautiful, and I’m proud to have one of my poems in its pages, particularly one I wrote about my son. Brett put the entire contest together in honor of his mother, and his admiration for her, as a person, a parent and an artist, came through in his selections and, ultimately, in the anthology.

Brett is a writer himself, and I think he approached the entire process with the sensitivity of someone who sends his work out to contests and magazines. I hope the contest continues to grow, both in stature and submissions, and I will happily alert all of my friends who write poetry about Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest whenever Brett announces submissions are open.

David A. Porter Skype ID – porter1306 Twitter –

– From Ailish NicPhaidin – 2018 Contest – 3rd Place winner

I began writing poetry in the dark of night to elaborate to my heart a feeling that made me uncomfortable.  That first poem, albeit not public consumption worthy, gave me the impetus to write more.  Suddenly, I found my “calling” to relieve internal symptoms of helplessness surrounding issues that hurt my soul.  Writing became my passion; however, my lack of confidence to share my work was overwhelming.

I found the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest by accident and mentioned it to my daughter.  She encouraged me to enter.  So great was my fear that I almost entered under a pseudonym.  That was then, this is now. Winning 3rd place in the inaugural competition gave me such joy that when I learned of the award I danced alone around the kitchen for thirty minutes.  The staggering realization that my poems could possibly be worthy of publication left me reeling — and jigging.  I humbly thank the contest administrators who deemed my poem worthy.  You gave me the greatest gift of all – the gift of believing in myself.  Thank you so very much.

– From Julia McGuinness – 2018 Sunbeams Published Poet

I came across this contest in a Submissions newsletter and was immediately drawn to participate, partly because of the loss of my own mother two years earlier, and partly because my own work involves helping others explore how personal writing can support wellbeing and enhance creativity. My entry was one of several poems written around my own mother’s decline, death and my subsequent grieving.
I was delighted to make it through into the Sunbeams anthology. Brett engaged with me as an entrant with efficiency, energy and warmth. It is a wonderful idea to perpetuate the memory of a loved one by fostering a new vitality and creativity of poems shared and enjoyed. Joan Ramseyer, through her son Brett’s inspiration, leaves an ongoing legacy of the poetic process that so sustained her personally through her life’s final, significant season.

Donate: If you wish to help defray the yearly costs of this contest you may click on the Submittable link to contribute any denomination you wish to cover website costs, increase prize money or simply to remember the spirit of generosity with which Joan lived.  Or you may send a check made out to The Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest, 756 N 100th Ave., Hart, MI 49420.

submitClick to donate.

Follow @BARamseyer for prize money and contest updates.

Poetry Contest Deadline – August 6, 2021 11:59 PM EST

Poetry Contest Prize Money
1. Prizes: 1st – $450, 2nd – $225, 3rd – $110.

2. Prize money awarded will increase if more than 100 submissions received, so encourage friends, family, classes and writing circles to submit.

3. Only 100 submissions can be made per month so submit early in any month to guarantee a spot.

4. Submissions will be read blind and will be selected on technical merit, profundity, adherence to the theme of joy and aesthetics.  The judge(s) will not discriminate on age, gender, race, religion, or sexual-orientation.

Poetry Contest Winner and Anthology Publication Information:
1. Up to, but no more than three poems may be selected as 1st, 2nd, & 3rd prize winners.
2. By submitting to this form writers agree to grant first online serial rights of their own original poem, permanent archival of the poem, the use of the poem for promotional materials, and permission to publish in a print anthology in perpetuity to the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Contest administrators if so decided in the future. Winners and poems accepted for publication please refrain from posting or publishing the poem online until January 1, 2022. All writers if you wish to include the poem in your own collection after January 1, 2022 whether in print or online please acknowledge the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest website or the JRMPC anthology, Sunbeams, as its site of first publication.
3. Winning poems will be published online at on September 23, 2021.
4. The contest judge(s) reserve(s) the right to award one, all or none of the prizes if submissions do not reach a caliber that honors the memory of Joan Ramseyer.

Poetry Submission Guidelines: Failure to follow any of these will disqualify an entry.

1. Submit a single poem that fits on one page with a minimum of 1” margins.
2. Times New Roman Font – 14 pt
3. Single spaced – double spaced between stanzas if necessary
4. Send a .doc or .docx file only.
5. No name or identifying information is allowed on the submission.
6. Theme of poem entered must center around reconciliation.
7. Style – read “Ways to find inspiration to win” above.
8. The poem cannot be previously published online or print in any form and you must currently own all the rights to the work. This means no plagiarism.
9. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but withdraw immediately if accepted elsewhere. Submission fees cannot be refunded.
10. Pay $12 submission fee.
11. Multiple submissions are fine, but each requires a separate $12 fee.
12. All submissions must be received before August 6, 2021 – 11:59 PM EST.

13. All new and past entrants are welcome to submit work again whether winners, finalists, accepted for publication, or declined.



Add yours →

  1. Hi, Brett:

    Upon the recommendation of my friend, Shelly Reed Thieman, I’ve created a watercolor design I’m planning to submit to your cover art contest. However, I’m not sure if an entry fee is required or not. On the specs page I noticed at the top of the page, beside the deadline date, “$5.00 USD,” which begs the question, is there a $5.00 entry fee? If you could clarify that for me, I’d appreciate it. In addition, if I submit three variations of the same design, would those be considered as three separate entries or one? I thank you, in advance, for your reply and look forward to hearing from you and to submitting my design to the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Anthology Cover Design Contest.

    Blessings, Dana K. Leahy


    • Dana Leahy –

      Thank you for your interest in the cover art contest and I really appreciate Shelly seeking your involvement. Yes, there is a $5 entry fee per design. Your name is not attached to the design so that the creative work speaks for itself. If the fee per design is too much of a burden let me know. You could submit one design (your favorite or most representative of the 3). Then if I chose your design as the winner I could ask to see the other two and we could decide together what the best fit for the potential anthology might be once I have a sense of the poems submitted. I’m hoping to meld the visual and the literary in an organic way. By the way, my mother loved water color.

      I know you would like to win, but I also hope you can spread the word about the contest to other artists, graphic designers, and/or photographers. I don’t have many contacts in that field and all I can garner would be most helpful.

      I appreciate your questions and interest. I hope we have a chance to work together. If there is anything else you need to know don’t hesitate to ask.

      Brett Ramseyer
      JRMPC Administrator


      • Thanks, Brett, for your reply and advisement regarding the cover art contest. The entry fee of $5.00 per design is no problem for me, and will force me to choose my favorite two treatments of the design, and to submit accordingly. I trust that if the design speaks to you and it’s “meant to be” the universe will ensure that we connect again and work together to honor your beloved mother. Thanks, again, for the information and opportunity to visually interpret the concept of JOY! I hope our paths cross in the future, but regardless of whether they do or not, I wish you continued joy and inspiration as you memorialize your mother through poetry and art.

        Cheers, Dana


  2. What a lovely tribute. I am inspired to go and find some joy and see I can capture the spirit. In fact, I shared this to my blog (


  3. Chariotry I hope you spread the word with your inspiration about the contest – welcome.


  4. JeanMarie I appreciate the post and interest. I’m wondering if you could make two minor edits on our names. My Mother was Mrs. Ramseyer and I am Brett Ramseyer. Other than that your post is spot on. Thank you so much.


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