LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Cotter Cup originally started in 1913 by Professor Joseph Cotter, who was a renowned poet, local educator and activist. It was a storytelling contest for the youth. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Cotter Cup storytelling contest was originally started in 1913 by Professor Joseph Cotter at Louisville Western Library

  • In 2021, Louisville Western Library re-imagined The Cotter Cup contest as a poetry writing contest for youth

  • The contest is open to all Louisville students grades K-12

  • Entries are due by March 14

“After attending Storytime, [the children] would come and recite them. And if they could recite them, well, they won the cup based off of whatever judging and things like that that they had at the time,” said Western Library Branch Manager Natalie Woods.

Woods says bringing back the contest has always been on her to-do list.

“Revisit the things that we used to do in the past and bring them back and put a new fresh twist on them and bring them back to the public,” Woods said of the idea behind it.

And in 2021, they re-imagined it as a poetry writing contest. Louisville Free Public Library’s Communications Director Paul Burns says he thinks Cotter would be honored that they’ve brought back the contest and named it after him.

“He was an educator. Teaching kids how to read and encouraging them to tell stories and improving literacy was really important to him. And that legacy definitely lives on here at the Western Library and with this contest,” said Burns.

He says the contest has grown in the last few years and is open to all Louisville students, grades K-12.

“The people that participate love participating in it, having that opportunity for kids to express themselves through poetry, to also win prizes for writing and just to honor them, in general. I mean, they really seem to love it, and we love doing that,” Burns shared.

Both Burns and Woods say poetry is a way to express yourself and the purpose of the contest is to keep that creativity alive.

“They’re expressing themselves about what they’ve been through in their life or what they aspire to be or some of the things that they witnessed, you know, maybe family members or somebody else go through. And it’s just all about expression, it’s self-expression. And being able to release that,” said Woods.

Woods encourages students to take a chance at winning the Cotter Cup, even if they’ve never submitted before. The Western Library has partnered with the University of Louisville Writing Center to provide in-person tutoring sessions on Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. until the end of the contest. Entries can be submitted online and are due by March 14.