21/22 Poetry & Music Project

Call for Submissions

Students in grades K-12 from Nebraska and Iowa are invited to submit works of poetry on the theme Exploring Natural Beauty. Selected poems will be set to music and premiered during a public concert in May 2022.

From the pool of submissions, composers will select poems to set to music. This is not a contest, as the composers will select poems based on what inspires them. The selected poets will have the opportunity to participate with the composer in a workshop to further develop the piece with the composer and musicians, participating in the behind-the-scenes process. The completed works will be performed in concert by local artists including Opera Omaha’s Holland Community Opera Fellows.

This year’s themes are inspired by artist Adam Larsen’s immersive installation piece Nebraska Flatwater which explores the natural beauty of Nebraska from a different perspective. Nebraska Flatwater will be installed at Gallery 1516 in Spring 2022, and selected songs will be included in a special performance at the gallery.

Opera Omaha’s Poetry & Music Project is produced in partnership with Nebraska Writers Collective.

Download Call for Submissions

Themes for Poetry Submissions

Passage of Time

Suggested Writing Prompts

Passage of Time

How time changes us all.
A blade of grass has a life span around 40 days while a Sequoia tree can live more than 3,000 years. Write a poem in which you live the life cycle of some element of nature, maybe you are a frog or a tree or a piece of fruit or a mountain. Describe all the things you see, how the seasons effect your view, how things shift and shape over time.

For inspiration, consider this poem by John Mark Green:
“Rebellious leaves
going out
in a blaze of glory,
setting trees aflame
in riotous color.
Reluctant surrender
to rumors
of coming winter.”


The beauty of openness in nature.
Read this poem "Flying Inside Your Own Body" by Margaret Atwood.

Imagine you could fly, how would you do it? Where would you go? What would you see? Now write a poem in which you are a gust of wind. Show us what things you decide to move (leaves in a tree, a flag, a child’s kite) and tell us the places you would roam if you were bound by nothing.


The things we do, and build, will last for a time but nature will last forever.

In several abandoned places, nature has taken back over. Buildings have been covered in greenery and animals have made homes out of places people have left. Write a poem about human vs nature interactions, about the process of disturbing nature to build things only to leave them when they no longer serve a purpose, think about this process and examine the way that “nature always wins”.
For more inspiration check out: “Nature Will Reclaim” by Trina Johnson.

Alternately, peruse this poem, “this beginning may have always meant this end” by Camille T. Dungy.
Think about the destructive aspects of nature and how these acts are, in essence, nature cleansing itself. Consider the rebirth that happens after a forest fire or the mountains that have been built by earthquakes over the millennia. Write a poem in which you are a phoenix rising from the ashes of destruction done by a natural phenomenon and how there is a form of beauty there.


Finding a sense of peace that only the outdoors can provide.
May Sarton wrote: “Loneliness is the poverty of self, Solitude is the richness of self”

Being alone doesn’t always mean being lonely. Write a poem in which your companions aren’t people but the things you find when you are alone outside. What do you talk about with them? How do they comfort you? What do you learn from being in their presence? How are you better/worse for spending time with these things you find in nature?


Realizing that we are part of a larger ecosystem than ourselves.
Joy Harjo brilliantly explains how we all come from the same earth in this poem “Remember.”

Write a poem in which you are a leaf on a tree. Tell us who are the other leaves, who are the branches that hold you up and how do they do so? What is the trunk that forms the backbone of your existence? Explore how your tree is part of a larger orchard or forest and how each tree depends on one another.

Alternatively, take a look at “Celebrating Differences” by Uma Nair.
Write a poem that explores the differences that make nature great, there are hundreds of thousands of different kinds of flowers with no one being better or worse just all evolving differently based on time and place. Look at how plants all depend on the same things, but they all see the world from different angles. Have fun with the diversity that makes nature great.

Writing Workshops

Opera Omaha and Nebraska Writers Collective offer writing workshops focused on writing for music. Facilitated by Nebraska Writers Collective Teaching Artists, these workshops are approximately 1 hour in length but can be adjusted to fit within a class period. Workshops will also be adapted to student grade level.
Workshops are offered virtually, or in-person for schools within a 40-minute driving radius of Omaha or Lincoln.
There will also be a virtual writing workshop open to any student- date and registration to be announced.

workshop registration

Poetry Book

All submitted poems will be printed in the Poetry & Music Project book which will be distributed to all poets, teachers, concert audience, and available online.

Project Timeline

September 2021 - Submissions Open
October & November 2021 - Writing Workshops
November 2021 - Submission Deadline
December 2021- Composers Select Poems
January 2022 - Poets of Selected Pieces Notified, Composers Writing Time
March 2022- Music Workshop with Composers and Poets of the Selected Pieces
April 2022- Composers Submit Final Pieces
May 2022- Poetry & Music Project Concert Performance

Submission Guidelines

  • Open to All K-12 Students in Nebraska and Iowa
  • Poems should be on the themes, but do not need to use suggested prompts
  • Students may submit up to 2 poems
  • All work must be original
  • Poems should be in PDF or Word file format
  • Poems may be in any structure, but should be no more than 1 page in length
  • Poems must be submitted with signed submission form

Submission Instructions

Email Poem(s) and completed signed submission form to poetry@operaomaha.org
Submission Deadline: Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Download Submission Form

Project Partner

Poetry & Music Project is supported by

Past Years


For More Information
Contact: Lauren Medici | Opera Omaha Director of Engagement Programs
Lmedici@operaomaha.org | 402-346-7372