Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition

About the Annual Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition

The Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition was started in 1968 by poet James Allen at the urging of John Hunting, the founder of the Dyer-Ives Foundation, to encourage excellence in writing and to provide recognition for local work of high quality. The annual contest is open to poets ages 5 through adult who reside in Kent County. Submissions are accepted every February and winners are selected in the spring. Winners selected in three age categories have their poems published in Voices, receive a cash award, and participate in a reading during the Festival of the Arts in June, held at the Main Library.

Funded by:

2018 National Judge Azizi Jasper


Author, community organizer, and cultural advocate, Azizi Jasper is a dynamic performer and a passionate advocate for social justice. He has shared the stage along-side a who’s who of influencers including rapper/actor Common, the great poet Gil Scott Heron, Grammy winner Marvin Sapp, Detroit super-group Slum Village, renowned poet Saul Williams, and Min. Louis Farrakhan to name a few. His presentations are lively, powerful, and thought provoking. Jasper gave the keynote at the Grand Rapids Rosa Parks statue dedication, as well as recently dedicating a poem to Detroit Superproducer J-Dilla’s mother during the 5th annual Dilla Day at The Filmore.

Jasper has been featured alongside former Grand Rapids poet laureates in the acclaimed compilation Song of the Owashtanong. He is the founder of several open mic’s in his native Grand Rapids, including the longest running spoken word open mic in West Michigan, Smokin Spoken Word. Jasper is one of the founding members of the poetry collective The Diatribe. He was one of the hosts of the largest weekly open mic set in Detroit (The Retort), and also curates a Thursday night show that showcases worldwide talent in his adopted home of Detroit at the world famous Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe.

During the day, Azizi also works in Detroit as a social worker for Wayne County’s Right Track Program helping teens 13-17 navigate through troubling circumstances. He is also a  political organizer having assisted on more than 30 regional campaigns, and is the curator of over 50 community-based. “I enjoy writing about the troubles of my generation” said Jasper, “but not nearly as much as I like working to change them”.

2018 Winners

First Division – Kindergarten through Eighth Grade

1st Place: Natalie Mouw,  Darkness as a Canvas

2nd Place: Nora Standish,  Autism Spectrum Gift

3rd Place: Alayna Williams, I can write a poem with

Honorable Mention: Eve Orban, Song of the Rain

Honorable Mention: Emma Martin-Sharples,  Ladders

Second Division – High School through Undergraduate

1st Place: Daryl Esese, The Heart of a Country

2nd Place: Kristy Nikolajuk, They Say

3rd Place: Spencer W. Miller,  Bigger, Bitter Hunger

Honorable Mention: Adrianna Overton, Self Harm Poem

Honorable Mention: Anne Livingston, I don’t know why vinyl works

Third Division – Graduate Student through Adult

1st Place: Lamont Arrington, Niggas in Paradise

2nd Place: Melissa Wray, Iris

3rd Place: Garrett Stack, The Heart Failure Fan Club

Honorable Mention: Lisa McAllister, Last Night

Honorable Mention: Shelley Townsend-Hudson, Red Thread

Voices Publication

Voices is published annually to highlight the winners of the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition.



If you have questions about the competition, email us or call 616.988.5400.