Ragan Poetry Contest

The Ragan Poetry Contest was established in 1995 through a generous gift from Dr. James Ragan, a 1966 graduate of Saint Vincent College, who was the Director of the University of Southern California’s Graduate Professional Writing Program. The $250.00 cash award honors Dr. Ragan’s parents, John and Theresa Ragan, and is intended to encourage interest in poetry among Saint Vincent students.


Our 2014 Ragan Poetry Contest judge is Karen Dietrich. Dietrich grew up in the 1980s in a small factory town fifty-seven miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. ​Her first full-length book, THE GIRL FACTORY: A MEMOIR, (skirt/Globe Pequot) was published October 1, 2013. She is the author of three chapbooks from small presses:  Understory (dancing girl press, 2013), Girl Years (Matter Press, 2012) and Anchor Glass (Finishing Line Press, 2011). ​Karen lives in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  She is an adjunct writing instructor at Westmoreland County Community College and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.  She recently joined the faculty of the online creative writing MFA program at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.


The poet’s Webpage

Congratulations to our 2014 Ragan Contest Winners!

  • First Place: Chloe Wertz, “raise windows head home”
  • Second Place: Kathryn Ordiway, “Suppresible”
  • Third Place: Tyler Friend, “The Printed Girl”


Our 2013 Ragan Poetry Contest judge is Carmen Giménez Smith. Giménez Smith is the author of a memoir, Bring Down the Little Birds (University of Arizona, 2010), three poetry collections—Goodbye, Flicker (University of Massachusetts, 2012), The City She Was (Center for Literary Publishing, 2011) and Odalisque in Pieces (University of Arizona, 2009)—and three poetry chapbooks—Reason’s Monsters (Dusie Kollectiv, 2011), Can We Talk Here (Belladonna Books, 2011) and Glitch (Dusie Kollectiv, 2009). She has also co-edited a fiction anthology, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (Penguin, 2010). She is the recipient of a 2011 American Book Award, the 2011 Juniper Prize for Poetry, and a 2011-2012 fellowship in creative nonfiction from the Howard Foundation. Formerly a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she now teaches in the creative writing programs at New Mexico State University and Ashland University, while serving as the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Puerto del Sol and the publisher of Noemi Press. She lives with her husband, the writer Evan Lavender-Smith, and their two children in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

A poem, “Dèjá Vu,” found on the Poetry Foundation
Listen to Giménez Smith read a poem, “The Day Disco Died,” on NPR

Congratulations to our 2013 Ragan Contest Winners!

  • First Place: Kaitlyn Hlebechuk, “Wanting to Level the Scales”
  • Second Place: Brittany Banks, “Hail Holy Ovary”
  • Third Place: Josh Flynn, “This Painting is about Falling In Love”


Our 2012 Ragan Poetry Contest judge is Kevin Pilkington. Pilkington is a member of the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). His poetry has appeared in many anthologies including: Birthday Poems: A Celebration, Western Wind, and Contemporary Poetry of New England. His poems and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines including: Poetry, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Boston Review, Yankee, Hayden’s Ferry, Columbia, North American Review, and others. A novel entitled Summer Shares is just out from Arche Books. 

Selected Poetry from Valparaiso Poetry Review
A poem posted on the Verse Daily 

Congratulations to our 2012 Ragan Contest Winners!

  • First Place: Angela Delfine, “You Live”
  • Second Place: Angela Gartner, “Red Stained Horse”
  • Third Place: Tucker Perkins, “Bacon”


In 2011, Joy Katz served as the judge.  Joy Katz is the author of The Garden Room (Tupelo Press) and Fabulae (Southern Illinois University Press). She holds a B.S. in industrial design from The Ohio State University and an M.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. Her awards include a 2011 NEA fellowship, a Stegner fellowship, and the Nadya Aisenberg fellowship at the MacDowell Colony. Her work is anthologized in The Best American Poetry; recent poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Notre Dame Review, Ploughshares, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere.  She teaches in the graduate writing program at the University of Pittsburgh and at Chatham University and lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and young son.

Selected Poetry from The Garden Room
An Interview with Joy
Essay on Robert Hass’s “The Nineteenth Century as a Song”

Congratulations to our
 2011 Ragan Contest Winners!



This 2010, the contest was judged by Sarah O’Brien. A graduate of Brown University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Sarah O’Brien grew up on a small farm in Ohio and has lived in Cape Town, Paris, and various places in the United States. She is the translator of Ryoko Sekiguchi’s Heliotropes, and her book Catch Light was selected by David Shapiro for the National Poetry Series. But not only is she a writer, she is also a fabulous cook and photographer.

READ HER WORK: http://www.versedaily.org/2010/teleidoscope.shtml
VISIT HER BAKESHOP: http://www.littletartatl.com/

Congratulations to our
 2011 Ragan Contest Winners!


Sarah writes of Tackett’s poem:

Both small & monumental
“Make it new!” Ezra Pound exclaimed, and every student of poetry ever since (and long before for that matter) has been trying to do just that. It sounds easy. It isn’t. Only the good poets make it seem exceedingly simple. In “A small, monumental bead,” Zach Tackett seems to effortlessly guide us into his written world for a closer look.As soon as I started to read this poem, I was taken in. I wanted to know where I was, suddenly surrounded by such sensuous description. The inside of a plant? The rough edge of a limb? Did I even care? Admittedly not really – I am happiest when a poem’s language is the first thing that intrigues. No phoneme here is left unconsidered, and the pull between such duos as small and monumental, blood and bone, amalgamate and whirlpools, and ash and collapse kept me returning for the reverberations. Tackett knows the distance a little alliterative tension can take us toward feeling the poem from the inside, toward really getting into its skin. “A small, monumental bead” is about showing the world to be as strange and wonderful as it really is, about taking what might normally seem familiar and holding up to the glare. Is it really so usual? Is there really nothing to remark? No, resolutely no. In Tackett’s poem we are “surrounded in an ocean,” where “shadows are hooked / by accident.” This is a world I’d like to stay in. I can’t wait to see what else Tackett writes.