“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 connect into networks, analog and digital, microscopic and macro-engineered. From the cells in our bodies to the smart phones in our hands, networks fill our lives with meaning, richness and beauty. Chain letters and congregations share secrets; the weave of textiles can bear witness to the tapestries of our families. Show us the truths of fractals, find the hidden meanings of street maps, trace the untold stories of spiderwebs. 


Submissions are open to anyone. Thirty winners will be selected for publication in the Common Language Project 2023 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 13th, 2023.

  • 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 2023 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 13th, 2023

The words of The Common Language Project: Networks































2023 Judges

Melissa Ginsburg

Melissa Ginsburg is the author of the poetry collections Doll Apollo and Dear Weather Ghost, the novels The House Uptown and Sunset City, and three poetry chapbooks, ArborDouble Blind, and Apollo. Her poems have appeared in the New YorkerImageGuernicaKenyon ReviewFenceSouthwest Review, and other magazines. Originally from Houston, Texas, Melissa studied poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Mississippi, and serves as Associate Editor of Tupelo Quarterly. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Photo Apr 25, 7 53 50 PM 2
Ann Howells

Ann Howells edited Illya’s Honey for eighteen years. Recent books are: So Long As We Speak Their Names (Kelsay Books, 2019) and Painting the Pinwheel Sky (Assure Press, 2020). Chapbooks include: Black Crow in Flight, Editor’s Choice in Main Street Rag’s 2007 competition and Softly Beating Wings, 2017 William D. Barney Chapbook Competition winner (Blackbead Books). In 2001, Ann was named a “Distinguished Poet of Dallas” by the Dallas Public Library; she is also an eight-time Pushcart nominee. Her work appears in many small press and university publications including Borderlands, Jenny, and Santa Fe Literary Review.

Ann at Dr J - 10-2-22 - 003
Joaquín Zihuatanejo

Joaquín Zihuatanejo was born and raised in Old East Dallas. In 2022, he was named Dallas’ first Poet Laureate. In 2008, he was named Individual World Poetry Slam Champion His works include the Anhinga-Robert Dana Prize winning Arsonist (2018), Fight Or Flight (CoolSpeak Publishing Company, 2015), Family Tree (2012), Barrio Songs (2011), and of Fire and Rain (BookBaby, 2007). He is a graduate of the University of North Texas.


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

Discover All Common Language Projects Below

Be a Part of the Writer's Garret