The Watchword Prize

About the Contest:

At the Center on Privacy & Technology, we work to protect the privacy rights of all people, and to build the capacity of communities to resist mass surveillance. While we focus on pushing for change through law and policy, we know the power of art to illuminate, transform and move to action. Artists and poets have a deeply-rooted tradition of participation in movements for social change, and we want to help foster and inspire the production of new works of art that evoke and critique experiences and practices of surveillance.

To that end, the Center on Privacy & Technology is launching The Watchword Prize, a poetry contest to provoke new writing on the theme of surveillance. The judge for the inaugural year of our contest will be Carolyn Forché. We encourage poets to interpret the theme broadly, and we welcome poetry in any style and any form, on any aspect of the phenomenon of watching and being watched, in both the intimate and public spheres of our lives.


Submission Information:

The contest is now closed for submissions. We are currently evaluating submissions.

The winning entry will be announced in 2024, as the first event in our 10th anniversary celebration year. The Center will offer a $2,000 prize for the winning entry, feature the poem on our website, and invite the winning poet to give a reading of their poem to open the next Color of Surveillance conference. 

The competition will be open to original, unpublished poems in English. Poets are welcome to submit up to three poems for consideration, for a total of no more than ten manuscript pages. There is no entry fee for submissions. The contest will be judged blind. Please do not put any identifying information on the submission itself, keep your contact information to the form only.


Eligibility Information:

The contest is open to any person 18 years or older except current Georgetown University students, faculty, and staff. Georgetown alumni who are not currently employed by the university are welcome to submit.

If you have any questions about eligibility, please contact


About the Judge:

Carolyn Forché is an American poet, memoirist, translator, editor, teacher and human rights advocate whose work spans five decades, elaborating universal themes of private and collective human struggle for our specific historical moment. She is the author of five poetry collections, including most recently In the Lateness of the World: Poems (Penguin, 2020), and the editor of two anthologies featuring “the poetry of witness,” a term she coined to describe the expressive practice of poets writing about, and from within, extreme social and political conditions such as war, incarceration and enslavement. Her memoir, What You Have Heard Is True (Penguin Random House, 2019), tells the story of her time in El Salvador and the impact of her experiences there on her life and writing. Forché has received numerous awards for her work, including a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture, the Lannan Award in Poetry, and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement. In 2023, Forché was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Forché currently serves as Director of Readings and Talks at the Lannan Center for Poetry and Social Practice and is a University Professor of English at Georgetown University.