The 2019 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest

Drawing by Jay Ramseyer

Celebrating a new theme: Joy

The 2019 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest opened January 1, 2019. Through last year’s submissions and donations the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd prize money for 2019 has increased. This year also includes a cover-art graphic design contest paying $100 for the winning entry for a smaller entry fee.

Top Poetry Prize $300

Cover-Art Contest Prize $100

In the last year of her life my mother, Joan Ramseyer, turned to verse to express the heat of ideas percolating in her mind, like bubbles in a teapot escaping into steam. Often the poems ruminated over her experiences, but also asked new questions in a time that she was mentally quite restless. She would scribble in bedside journals, that sometimes would transform to word processor polishing, but most she abandoned to revisit at a later time that never arrived. They kept her from boiling over.

After last year’s success culminating in Sunbeams, the contest anthology, I would again like to reward poetic excellence in my mother’s honor and style around the theme of joy.

The winning poem(s) must move the soul in a memorable and accessible way. Say something beautiful, important, joyful.

Ways to find the inspiration to win:
1. Listen to a brook cascading over a log.

2. Look up at the sky with your fingers laced behind your head, your back in the grass

3. Invite friends for tea you have not seen in years.

4. Sit with a child in the glow of a table lamp.

5. Read deeply at 2:00 AM.

6. Donate your time at the local library.

7. Walk a blustery shoreline in the chill of winter.

8. Tell a beautiful story.

9. Think of your own way to experience life, kindness, community and use it as your inspiration to write a poem of depth, hope and optimism.

10. Click to read last year’s winners 2018 Winners. (Remember their theme was not joy).

11. Read the poetry of Joan Ramseyer below.

Bikes Down

by Joan Ramseyer

Wheels still spinning

Bikes thrown down in a rush

to get to the house

Screen door slamming

and two blonde headed children

pushing each other out of

the way into the kitchen

Cookies cooling on the breadboard

Noses like dogs had made them

come peddling hard

Grandpa pulling the last pan

out of the oven

Cold milk, warm cookies

no time to put the standers down

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 last year’s Sunbeams.

Contest Testimonials

– 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.


Two Contests – One Deadline August 9, 2019 11:59 PM EST

Poetry Contest Prize Money
1. Prizes: 1st – $300, 2nd – $150, 3rd – $75.

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.

Cover-Art Contest Prize Money

1. One Prize of $100.

2. Read the full cover-art contest guidelines here they are different than they poetry prize.

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, 2020. All writers if you wish to include the poem in your own collection after January 1, 2020 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, 2019 at 6:00 PM EST.
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 – 12 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 joy.
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.
9. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but withdraw immediately if accepted elsewhere. Submission fees cannot be refunded.
10. Pay $10 submission fee.
11. Multiple submissions are fine, but each requires a separate $10 fee.
12. All submissions must be received before August 9, 2019 – 11:59 PM EST.

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


Click to submit a poem, cover-art, or donation.


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