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Arts Focus: Moving Words 2023 competition puts poems on public transit

This column is sponsored by Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

From theater and dance, to galleries, the arts are everywhere in Arlington… even on the bus!

Poets from around the Beltway are encouraged to enter the 24th Annual Moving Words Poetry Competition that takes their poetry on the go. Seven winners will have their poems displayed aboard ART buses traversing Arlington County from March through September, 2023.

Call for Submissions 

Submissions of poems of 10 lines or less will be accepted through February 15, 2023. The seven winning poems will be displayed inside ART buses between March and September 2023. Selected by juror Holly Karapetkova, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, the winning poems will be printed on colorful placards and displayed prominently, enlivening the ride for thousands of commuters. Each winner will also receive a $250 honorarium. Winning poems will also be posted on and will be archived on the Arlington County website.

Eligible poets will live within the D.C. Metro transit area (the Northern Virginia counties Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun, and the cities Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church; the District of Columbia; and the Maryland counties Montgomery and Prince George’s), and must be over 18 years old. There is no fee to enter.

The Moving Words Program was launched in 1999 during National Poetry Month. It was conceived by award-winning poet and literary historian Kim Roberts (founder of Beltway Poetry Quarterly), the then Literary Program Coordinator for Arlington Cultural Affairs. The goal of Moving Words is to promote the work of local writers and make poetry a part of daily life for commuters in Northern Virginia. Originally held in partnership with Metro, Moving Words launched a new partnership with ART in 2016. This move complements another ongoing Arlington Arts’ program, Art on the ART Bus, which places original artwork by area artists inside select ART Buses.

Currently on display aboard the ARTbuses are the winners of the annual Moving Words competition for youth poets. A separate showcase designed for Arlington Public School students, the Student competition is a partnership between Arlington Cultural Affairs and the Arlington Public Schools Humanities Project’s Pick a Poet project, with support from Arlington Transit.

About Juror Holly Karapetkova:

Holly Karapetkova is the author of two award-winning books of poetry, Towline, winner of the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize from Cloudbank Books, and Words We Might One Day Say, winner of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Prize for Poetry. Her poetry, prose, and translations have appeared recently in The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Blackbird, Poetry Northwest, and many other places. She is a professor in the Department of Literature and Languages at Marymount University in Arlington where she lives with her husband and two children.

Submission Form

Interested poets may enter their work by completing the submission form by February 15, 2023. For additional details and eligibility information, click this link, or visit

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