The call for entries for the 2023 Balocating Undergraduate Prize for Poetry is now open with entries due March 13. The final judge is Raquel Salas Rivera, who will announce the winner at his April 20 RCAH Center for Poetry reading with CAConrad.

General guidelines for the Balocating Undergraduate Prize for Poetry:

  • Open to MSU undergraduate students in any major
  • Prize of $500 awarded for a single poem
  • Submit up to three poems that fit this year's theme of Breathe in Experience, Breathe out Poetry
  • Provide a separate cover sheet including: your name, email, and phone number
  • Poems must not identify you as the writer
  • Cover sheet and poems may be combined into one pdf
  • Email entry to
  • Deadline for entry is Monday, March 13.

This year's theme is Breathe in Experience, Breathe out Poetry, consistent with the 2023 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize theme.

Muriel Rukeyser, poet and political activist (1913 – 1980), was remarkable in many ways, not least for her poetry’s ability to convey ordinary activities and occurrences of daily life while simultaneously responding to issues of national and international importance. Championing the causes of individuals and movements ranging from the Spanish Loyalists and the Scottsboro Boys to Korean poet and activist Kim Chi-Ha, Rukeyser was deeply concerned with civil rights, women’s liberation, peace, labor justice, respect for the environment, and the power of language, pursuing an activist poetics that insists on honoring both the personal dimensions of human experience and the political forces that shape them. 

Rukeyser’s groundbreaking cycle of poems “The Book of the Dead” (originally published in U.S. 1, 1938), which investigates the silicosis-related deaths of hundreds of tunnel workers in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, has inspired generations of documentary and investigative poets with its high stakes, formal versatility and innovation, and continuing social significance. 

In The Life of Poetry (1974), Rukeyser writes of “experience taken into the body, breathed-in, so that reality is the completion of experience, and poetry is what is produced. And life is what is produced.” It is an echo of an earlier expression in “Poem Out of Childhood,” originally published in Theory of Flight (1935), which begins, "Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.”  

Housed in Michigan State University's Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH), a living-learning community devoted to using the arts and humanities to make positive change in the world, we at the RCAH Center for Poetry embrace the spirit of Rukeyser's practice every day. In conjunction with RCAH's 2022-2023 arts programming theme, Just Breathe, we see poems that "breathe in experience, breathe out poetry," in any of the myriad ways that may be.

We pay homage to Annie Balocating and her passion for poetry, community service, and social justice.


About the judge: 

Black and white image of person with short dark hair dressed in black looking intently at the camera.Raquel Salas Rivera es un poeta, traductor y editor puertorriqueño. Sus reconocimientos incluyen el nombramiento como Poeta Laureado de la ciudad de Filadelfia, el Premio Nuevas Voces, el Premio Literario Lambda, el Premio Ambroggio, 2023 Sundial Literary Translation Award y el Premio Juan Felipe Herrera. Sus seis poemarios que han sido semifinalistas y finalistas para premios tales como el National Book Award y el Pen America Open Book Award. En el 2022, el Whitney Museum of American Art utilizó uno de sus versos para el título de la exhibición no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria. Vive, enseña y escribe en Puerto Rico, donde también es el investigador y el supervisor del equipo de traducción para El proyecto de la literatura puertorriqueña (PRLP), un portal digital bilingüe y de libre acceso que usuarios pueden utilizar para conocer y enseñar la poesía puertorriqueña.

Raquel Salas Rivera is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and editor. His honors include being named Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, the New Voices Award from the Festival de la Palabra, the Lambda Literary Award, the Ambroggio Prize, 2023 Sundial Literary Translation Award, and the Juan Felipe Herrera Award. His six poetry books have been longlisted and shortlisted for the National Book Award and the Pen America Open Book Award, among others. In 2022, one of his verses became the title of the exhibition no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He lives, teaches, and writes in Puerto Rico, where he also works as investigator and head of the translation team for The Puerto Rican Literature Project (PRLP), a free, bilingual, user-friendly, and open access digital portal that anyone can use to learn about and teach Puerto Rican poetry.