Congratulations to this year's winners! 2021

Join us to celebrate the winning poems in this year’s Third Annual Poetry Derby on April 21, 7-8:30 p.m., for a virtual reading.

One of the things 2020 demanded of all of us was, “Hold your horses!” For many, much of the year felt like living inside a pause—waiting. In a season of reimagining, a year of making do with what we have, a period of resourcefulness, the Third Annual Poetry Derby’s challenge centers on revitalizing idioms, those shared turns-of-phrase we use in conversation as a kind of shorthand and a method of connection: touchstones in language. The idioms we’ll be playing with—should you choose to accept the challenge—are horse-themed: the aforementioned “hold your horses,” along with, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” “a horse of a different color,” “eat like a horse,” “get off your high horse,” “one-horse town,” and “chomp (or champ) at the bit.”

If you want to learn more about these idioms, check out this article:

The rules:
Use one of the horse-related idioms as your title
At some point in the poem, reimagine or enliven the turn-of-phrase that appears in the title. For instance, imagine what you might see if you were to look a gift horse in the mouth. I guess it depends on whether the horse has an ocean inside it or National History Museum dioramas, each tooth a display case for a bygone era. We’d love to see some world-making in these poems and some play (horse- or otherwise).

Want some inspiration? Here’s a Charles Bernstein poem that plays with idiomatic language:

Our Derby Poetry Partners are The Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society, the Kentucky Derby Museum, the Creative Writing Program & Department of English at the University of Louisville, and Louisville Literary Arts.

Thanks to the following Kentucky poets who facilitated writing sessions and helped with judging: Makalani Bandele, Kristina Erny, and Kristi Maxwell.

Runners-up (alphabetized by last name):

Eleanor Ferguson, “Hold Your Horses”

Eli Hughes, “Lead a horse”

Anna Lauren Jacobs, “Hold Your Horses”

Martha Rose, “A Horse of a Different Color”

Megan Token, “Hold Your Horses”


For last year's winning poetry: