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Polyphony Lit Summer Contest 2024:

Carpe Diem

The theme for this contest is “Carpe Diem.” For more details on the contest prize, see below.

The summer is a season of renewal and growth, a break from the stress, expectations, and conformity of the school year, and a time for self-discovery and exploration. With lengthened daylight and melted time, it is an opportunity to address the unanswered questions, unpursued dreams, unfulfilled relationships, and unexpressed emotions that our lives, especially during our youth, are constantly filled with. Through poetry, prose, and hybrid works, this contest encourages you to conquer the uncharted marshes of your mind and seize every minute under the eternal summer sun. 

What are your dreams, goals, and plans for this summer? Maybe it is finally finishing a reading list you have set aside for months, or maybe it is hitchhiking across countries and cultures. Maybe it is volunteering at your local community's homeless shelter, maybe it is reconnecting with friends from childhood and families across seas, or maybe it is writing the personal statement and bravely taking the next step down your journey to college. Whichever vision you have for yourself, the world is built by those who live in it, and we must constantly challenge the unknown, harnessing our curiosity to learn more about the world and ourselves. And as Robin Williams called for in Dead Poets Society, carpe diem! Seize the day and make your life extraordinary!

The theme is open to your interpretation; be creative and have fun with it!

Looking for examples that Polyphony Lit has published already? Then check out Lesson On Morning After by Sam Luo and To Be Sixteen in the Anthropocene by Rucha Virmani.

Interested in learning how to write poetry with experienced writers and editors from around the the globe? Our poetry workshop, Around the World of Poetry in 80 Days is open for registrations on a rolling basis.

Summer Contest Guidelines

  • Submissions will open on July 1st and will remain open until August 31st or until we reach our submission cap of 200 submissions.
  • Please note that this is a separate submission category from Polyphony Lit Volume 20.​ Submissions that were submitted to Polyphony Lit Volume 20 will receive feedback from the editors, but for the seasonal contests, only the winning submissions will receive feedback from the judge.
  • If you have already submitted your work to the Volume 20 category, then please do not send the same submission to the contest category.
  • If you submit to the contest category first and your work is declined, then you may submit it to the Volume 21 category after the contest is finished.

Writer Qualifications

  • High school students from anywhere in the world are eligible to submit.
  • We do not accept submissions from any editors who currently serve on the staff of Polyphony Lit.
  • Submit a maximum of three pieces.
  • If submitting multiple pieces, please upload as separate submissions. Multiple pieces submitted in a single document will be withdrawn, and you will be asked to resubmit your pieces separately.
  • We accept simultaneous submissions and work that has been published elsewhere. If submitting previously published work, please send a message in Submittable noting where and when your work has been published, and if it is eligible for republication. If it is accepted for publication elsewhere after submitting to Polyphony Lit, please notify us immediately but do not withdraw your submission if you are still interested in publication at Polyphony Lit. If we accept a previously published submission for publication, we will acknowledge the place of the original publication.
  • Previously published pieces are not eligible for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards


  • Poetry must be 80 lines or less.
  • Fiction and creative nonfiction must be 1,800 words or less.


  • Do not put your name on the piece, as all work is blind juried.
  • We accept submission in .doc, .docx or .rtf formats.
  • We prefer common conventions:
    • Color: Black & white
    • Font Size: 12 pt throughout, including titles
    • Font Type: Times or Times New Roman
    • Margins: 1-inch at the top and bottom, and 1.25 inch at the left and right. One space after periods. There should be no extra returns after paragraphs unless you have a meaningful reason for the extra space.

Using Submittable

  • Please upload submissions through Submittable. We do not accept email submissions or hard copies via mail.
  • Upload only one piece per submission file; to submit more than one piece, make more than one submission file.
  • Submissions for this contest are free.
  • There is a submission cap of 200 submissions, so we may close submissions for the contest before the deadline if we receive 200 submissions. We recommend submitting early, to ensure that you do not miss the deadline.


There will be one winner and two finalists. The winners/finalists will receive:

  • Publication in Polyphony Lit Volume 20
  • Eligibility for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards (if work is previously unpublished)
  • Editorial feedback from the Contest Judge
  • Social media posts announcing the winners
  • An honorary emblem next to the published work on the website
  • A full scholarship for Polyphony Lit’s "How to be a Literary Editor" course. Upon completion of the course, students will be eligible to join the editorial staff of Polyphony Lit!
  • Please note that only the three winners will receive feedback from the Judge.​

Additional Guidelines for Creative Nonfiction​

  • At Polyphony Lit, we look for creative nonfiction pieces that are written in the style of short personal memoirs. We are looking for pieces that are informal, flexible in form, and most importantly, personal. Personal discovery is the keystone of a personal essay. Self-revelation, human experiences, humor, and flexibility of form are all aspects that we look for in pieces we publish as creative non-fiction.
  • We do not look for op-ed pieces, critical analyses, research papers, or academic essays.
  • We would advise reading some samples of our work, in order to understand the material that we publish. Here are some samples of creative nonfiction that we have published:
  • Memories of the Boy I Didn't Know
  • responses to love
  • Holiday in a Burning City
We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.