“No one sleeps in this room without

the dream of a common language”


The Premise

Born of a desire to bring the many members of the North Texas poetry community into conversation with each other, The Common Language Project places participants in the same room and turns them loose to dream. United by a list of shared words and confined only by the space of a page, the poems of the project illuminate a collection of radically divergent experiences that sing, simmer and singe. Together, these poems give us a place to come together, somewhere from which we can start, from which we can thrive.

This year, we invite you to the ascent. Harrowing or halcyon, up the stairs or to the stars, scaling a mountain or soaring in your soul, humans have sought to rise, physically and metaphorically, since we first drew breath. Float into new levels of consciousness, climb a pyramid, or rocket beyond the safety of the atmosphere, then share your journey with us–the risks you brave, the horizons you’ve crossed, the view as it’s unfolding before you.


Submissions are open to anyone. Thirty winners will be selected for publication in the Common Language Project 2024 anthology, which will be available for free download. Hard copies will be available for purchase. Winners will also be invited to share their work at the Common Language Project reading during the Dallas Is Lit! literary festival, held May 19th, 2024.

  • All thirty keywords must be used.
  • The keywords may be used in any order but without changes in tense or form (for example, using "lustrous" instead of "luster" or "smile" instead of "smiling" would not count toward the thirty keywords). Changes in capitalization are fine.
  • The poem must be no more than thirty lines of text in length (excludes title).
  • Submissions will be presented to our judges anonymously. Please do not include your name anywhere in the text of your submission document.
  • The Common Language Project is open to all ages, and we hope all ages of readers and writers will participate in the contest and read the anthology. Work with extreme language, violence or adult content will not be considered.
  • No multiple submissions. Only the first submission will be accepted.
  • You may not re-submit without invitation.

Submission Formatting

In a contest where restrictions are part of the pleasure of the work, we're setting formatting guidelines this year to help make sure that if your poem is chosen for publication, there is minimal disturbance to how it appears on the page as a result of formatting. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

  • Poems should be submitted in Times New Roman font, 11 point.
  • Page margins should be set to 2-inches on the left and right, and 1-inch top and bottom. If you're working in Microsoft Word, this is the "Wide" margin setting (under the "Layout" menu); if you're working in Google Docs, you can change the settings under "Page Setup."

30 Winners Receive

  • Publication in the Common Language Project 2024 anthology, and 2 contributor copies
  • $100 cash prize
  • Invitation to read their work at the Common Language Project reading during the Dallas Is Lit! literary festival, held May 19th, 2024

The words of The Common Language Project: Ascent

This year's words will be revealed on March 1st, 2024.

2024 Judges

Lauren Brazeal Garza

Lauren Brazeal Garza is the author of three short books of poetry and fiction in addition to her memoir-in-verse, Gutter (YesYes Books, 2018), which chronicles her homelessness as a teenager. Her most recent project, a literary horror novel, is currently in circulation and was inspired by her experiences as a queer woman living in poverty after she aged out of the foster system. She earned her M.F.A. in creative writing from Bennington College, and is a Ph.D. candidate and teaching associate in Literature at the University of Texas at Dallas with a specialty in literature from marginalized voices. She teaches literature and creative writing at UT Dallas and Writing Workshops (partnered with Electric Lit). She has happily called Texas home for the past ten years.


M. H. Clay

M.H. Clay is a poet, playwright, musician, actor and raconteur living in Dallas. Since 2009, he has been Poetry Editor of MadSwirl.com, and is co-host of Mad Swirl’s monthly Open Mic, held every first Wednesday of the month in Dallas. His publication credits include ANGST (Mad Swirl Press 2016); sonoffred (Rebel Poetry Ireland, 2015) and Perhaps This Rain and other precipitations (2007). His play Nighthawks was adapted for screen in 2017 by Praxedis Pictures. He has been an active member of the Dallas literary community for over two decades, including serving as a former President of the board of trustees at The Writer’s Garret.


Melania Luisa Marte

Melania Luisa Marte is a writer, poet, and musician from New York living between the Dominican Republic and Texas. Her viral poem “Afro-Latina” was featured by Instagram on their IG TV for National Poetry Month and has garnered over nine million views. Marte´s debut collection of poetry, PLANTAINS AND OUR BECOMING was published by Tiny Reparations, an imprint of Plume and Penguin Random House in 2023. You can follow her journey on social media: @MelaTocaTierra.


The Common Language Project is made possible by the Moody Fund for the Arts.

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