Third Annual National Veterans Poetry Contest

Heroes’ Voices is very proud to announce the Third annual National Veterans Poetry Contest. The theme of the contest is once again The Soldier’s Journey. Last year we received over 300 poems from more than 120 contestants in 37 states. We expect many more entries this year.

We are offering cash prizes for the top four poems selected by our distinguished panel of judges and advisors. The top prize winner will receive $1,000. This year’s panel again includes poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kim Shuck, the poet laureate of San Francisco. This year we also welcome Ann Cahill, director of the John O’Donohue Literary Estate.

We are delighted to continue our partnership with George Mason University and the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Virginia. Heroes’ Voices and George Mason University will present culminating public events. Performances of The Soldier’s Journey will feature the finest poems from the contest, as well as musical works and other poetry reflecting on the lives and challenges of soldiers. We will provide complete details as soon as they are finalized.

Once again, we will produce a limited-edition “chap book” featuring the semi-final and winning veterans’ poems. All the veterans whose poems are featured in the chap book will receive complementary copies.

The National Veteran’s Poetry Contest has received generous sponsorship from the Rotary Club of San Francisco.

Please submit your work if you are a veteran poet. Or if you know any veteran poets, please spread the word! Poetry can be submitted on the Heroes’ Voices web site or via US mail. Please visit our web site for contest rules and information: We also have the winning poetry from last year’s contest on our website.

We begin accepting submissions February 15. We hope to see you at one of our performance events in the coming months.

I. E. D.
by William Glose, US Army
First Place Winner, 2018 National Veterans Poetry Contest

I. Improvised

Like Steve Austin, you said,
new legs will make you
bionic, better than before,
worth six billion after inflation

You taped a photo of Oscar Pistorius
to your bedside wall at Walter Reed.
These were the days before
“Blade Runner” shot his girlfriend.

Before you penguin-waddled
on “shorties,” then ten-inch stilts,
then C-legs hoisting you
to almost-normal heights.

II. Explosive

Long nights when you wish
it hadn’t been just your legs,
you dream of ways to twist
contempt into strings of obscenities

to hurl in daylight without aim,
the only target between handrails
a therapist, her hopeful,
heart-shaped face.

“It’s okay,” she says, patience
reliable as phases of the moon,
every shadow-swallowed crater
destined to one day reappear

III. Device

Buried within titanium joints,
microprocessors control motions
that bend and stretch the knees
and feet, adjusting for impact

of walking, jumping, climbing,
locomotion of daily life.
When red-rubbed hands tire
of pushing wheels, you stand

erect, silver gleaming beneath
your shorts, jostling crowds
breaking like white-capped
water round a stone. Normal

walkers have one foot in the air
forty percent of the time.
Even unborn babies churn
their legs in the womb.

Your gait shuffles and lumbers,
collecting glances scimitared
with pity. But all you can
think of is the Halloween

when you were ten and dressed
as Frankenstein, that revenant
sewn together with borrowed parts,
thankful just to be alive.