Calling all closet poets: York City wants you to submit your work for the second annual "Jawstruck!" competition on Friday, June 7.

Even if you don't know the difference between a foot and a meter, the city wants to hear your voice, said Carla Christopher, York's poet laureate and host of the free event.

"Our favorite people to get up on stage are the closet poets and beginners," she said.

Last year, most of the performers were amateurs, and about 40 entries were submitted. Christopher, who is in her third year as poet laureate, hopes more people send in their work this time around.

About 80 people attended the first annual event last year, she said.

'A sensory experience': Christopher said she wanted to set up an event that would appeal to the entire community - something that would be hip but still accessible to those outside of the artsy crowd.

"What I wanted to do was something that would be a cool, fun poetry event for people who aren't poetry fans," she said.

She said the city's government, commerce and art community are supporting each other and coming together to appreciate the arts.

"All three groups are working together to make a cultural destination of our city," she said. "It's worth coming downtown; it's worth coming out."

In addition to the entrants' performances, the judges, spotlight guests and Christopher herself will read their work.


The competition's title comes from a play on words, she said. As it is "a sensory experience," Christopher said attendees will be awestruck, and the performances will "knock you off your feet."

"Your jaw's going to be hanging slack-open," she said.

The competition: The event, which will run from 7 to 9:30 p.m., will be hosted by The York Emporium, a used book and curiosity shop, at 343 W. Market St. Light refreshments will be provided.

Judges are accepting submissions for both the youth competition, ages 12-17, and the adult competition for artists 18 and older until May 15.

They're looking for engaging, thoughtful submissions that touch the average person, Christopher said.

"Basically, what we're looking for is something that when it's performed, the audience is going to have a response to it," she said. "It's poetry that makes you want to talk back to the poet."

Most poems will be free verse, and poets will be judged on creativity and originality, performance and technical skill.

The top five entrants from each category will be selected to perform two pieces for final judging during June's First Friday celebration. The judges, representing Baltimore, Harrisburg, Lancaster and York, will rate the performances and announce the winners that night.

Winners and runners-up will receive a prize package that will include books and gift certificates.

To enter the competition, send a sample poem, YouTube video or webclip to by May 15. Be sure to enclose your name, your performance name if you have one and your category (either youth or adult). Judges will contact the top five poets by May 20.

To enter, poets must be available to perform at the June 7 show. Poems do not have to be memorized but must not be derogatory, violent or contain harsh curse words. Christopher said the winning poems will all have positive, affirming messages that are accessible and relevant to everyone.

- Reach Mollie Durkin at