The month of April is known as National Poetry Month. To mark the occasion, we invited our students to submit poems they wrote to our first annual poetry contest.
The response from our students overwhelmed us. Not only did we receive nearly 200 entries, but the quality of poems submitted was more than we could have hoped for.
When selecting the winning poems, our judges focused on the theme, diction, the use of imagery, rhythm, and musicality.
Featured below are first place, second place, and several "honorable mention" poems. These poems stood out among the numerous promising entries. We hope you appreciate the works of some brilliant aspiring poets.
First Place - My great aunt and Alzheimer’s disease by Zoe F.
Second Place - A Poem by Naomi Z.
Honorable Mention - Student's Ode to Now by Sofia B.
Honorable Mention - The Chains by William A.
Honorable Mention - The Trail of Despair by Blake S.
Honorable Mention - The Mysterious They by Megan G.
Honorable Mention - You by Madison B.
Honorable Mention - Rome Was Not Built in a Day by Zoe U.
Remember that one cloudy December when I forced open the door
and a bucket of snow crashed soundlessly on my feet?
Ice cubes formed around each individual toe,
the blood in my veins froze like a thin dribble of lava
hardening to a cool pumice, rock solid as
your smoky, burned bread. The ice melted when
Laughter oiled your vocal cords. Remember when
we celebrated America’s insurgence against Britain,
flipping down the tailgate and yelling
“victory” to the skies? Dark debris, like brown-powdered sugar,
littered your hair that night. You couldn’t stop scratching your scalp.
Beads of crimson blood dried under your nails but
Never dried up your humor like the stream
In our backyard, now a crevice full of smooth, round gray stones.
I watch your eyes crinkle at the corners when you look at me,
I know you love me just as you loved spongy, sweet vanilla cake only
two years ago. But I just wish I could penetrate your skull to know
if you remember who I am.
that is written
like a poem.
In the beginning,
there was a girl.
The girl was awkward,
She talked to no one,
and no one talked to her.
She only loved animals.
By the girl's house,
there was a pond.
By the pond,
there was a family of ducks.
The girl loved the ducks,
and the ducks loved her.
She fed them grains
all sorts of animals
gathered by the pond,
and the girl
fed them all.
They loved her,
and she loved them.
One day, a murder of crows
gathered by her house.
didn't like the crows.
They were loud
and looked like evil.
The girl ignored them
as she traveled to the pond,
but the crows would flock around her
and move when she moved,
cawed when she spoke,
and settled on her head and shoulders.
The girl didn't like this.
She tried to shake them off,
but the crows
men in uniforms
with guns and yelling
charged into her town.
They made everyone get up
and go outside.
They ransacked the houses,
collected the treasures,
and killed the livestock.
The girl cried as they shot
all the ducks that didn't fly away,
and the animals that hadn't escaped.
As the girl and her people
left with the men,
she noticed that the only animals left
were the crows.
The men separated the girl
from her family.
She cried some more.
They told her to stop crying.
so they hit her,
She cried even more
as she felt the blood
trickle down her back.
They gave her
a dirty black smock
and told her to change.
So she did.
The next day,
as she stepped into the sunlight,
she saw the crows.
They flew up to her,
and settled on her head and shoulders.
The girl didn't like it
and shook them off.
Many weeks later,
the girl was hungry,
Nobody in the camp talked to her,
and she didn't talk to them.
The crows hadn't come to her in weeks.
They watched her
many yards away.
They watched her
as the men yelled at her
and hit her.
They watched her
when she cried softly at night,
when she complained about the cold,
when she listened to her roaring stomach.
as she became sick
from all those sleepless nights
and cold winds
that wrapped their freezing embrace
around her body.
as the men lined up the campers
for the daily routine of finding
the sick, old, and weak.
The crows inched closer
when the girl was chosen.
Crows, Once More
The men tossed her
and many other
sick, old, and weak people
into a vehicle.
The girl climbed over rotting bodies
and saw the crows,
once again within inches of her.
They flapped their wings
and flew around,
and they settled on her head and shoulders.
the girl didn't shake them off.
finding one crow is bad luck,
two meant good luck,
three meant health,
four meant wealth,
but five signified approaching sickness,
and six meant that death was nearby.
This may explain
why the girl had a crow perched on each shoulder,
one on her head,
and three moving when she moved.
Six crows flocking her,
as she dug a giant pit
with dozens of other campers.
Six crows flying away,
when the men opened fire
and killed the people.
They tell me I'm young and I should enjoy it
But the next day I'm "growing up too fast" and "not making the right choices."
I want to find adventure in my day;
In the sun streaming through the redwoods,
In the wind running through my hair.
I want to find peace within myself and happiness with another
But I'm stressed and I'm yearning for a day when I won't be.
Instead of living someone else's life
I'm going to do what's best for me.
Swim in the ocean,
Eat on the pier,
Laugh on the boardwalk,
And be in the now.
We are bound by the chains of oppression
They say hands behind your back or I'll pop a cap in yo ass
Every day I step out of my house, I'm afraid they might arrest me
I'm afraid I'll see those flashing red and blue lights come just to mess with me
But no, this isn't wrong, not in their eyes
If I wear my hood up, or I reach slowly in my pocket for my phone
They can shoot me without a second thought, oh no the'll just mow
When they see me, they don't see another innocent man,
They see someone they can stereotype
And in their police report, they might just mistype
Rodney was the archetype
Trayvon had to lose his life
We gotta work together to end this convolution
But we cannot hate and harm them, we must give them absolution
Many died to spark this revolution
In their name, we must find a solution
We are bound by the chains of oppression
Oh lord send us a blessing
The trail with blistering heat and lost souls,
Wandering with no food nor spirit,
Dying of hunger and no blankets to warm our cold bones,
The wind is dancing like our ancestors,
We were whipped and tortured,
Wagons is where we slept,
Splinters insert our backs,
Our wounds turn black and blue,
Many don't make it,
We are just empty vessels on this trail,
We left our souls back home,
Driven away from a place we once called home,
We could fight we would all die,
We were dragged out without shoes,
Nor our children,
Our spirits lost to this trail,
This unknown detrain with light green grass,
The sun with its radiant heat,
The cold with winds to make bones turn blue and skin turn black,
We drink from brown murky water,
Flies fly around our dead brothers and sisters we don't bury,
We only have time to move along through the dangerous detrain,
Many of us was being executed for an unknown reason,
Some escape just to hide in a pitch black cave,
Were we punished by our gods,
Did we deserve this,
For our vessels to roam this trail,
Or our souls to be trapped in our village,
Or is this meant to be.
I met the Mysterious They today.
At a bus stop was I, when
a mysterious stranger sat down beside me
and gave me a friendly hello.
"Dear Sir," said I," I fear we have not met
And if we have I do not remember our meeting.
I do not even know thy name."
Mysterious They only smiled perplexedly.
"How is it so that you do not remember? We spend so much time together.''
My confusion must have shown for They continued,
"Dear child, sweet lady, My name is The Mysterious They.
I am the They up in corporate,
the They who have answers,
the They who are wrong and go about spreading lies like wildfires.
I am the They who screwed up everything,
the They who are poor and They who are rich,
the They who are there but yet you don't see or touch."
They smiled expectantly.
"But Good Sir," said I," you have answered everything but my question
Pray tell, who are you?"
They patiently explained once more.
"I am the background to your painting,
the white noise to your soundtrack.
I am the silent ones in the noise.
I am crowds of blank faces of
everyone you don't know,
the background extras in the world.
A mere statistic and a number on a page.
Just another empty name."
Again, I replied," I know you not!
Kind Sir, if it is as you say, then how should I know you?"
Mysterious They leaned forward and whispered,
"Indeed, I am you to everyone else
for we are all somebody else to everyone else."
I had a dream last night
I came to your house
And it smelled like fresh rain
When I look at you
I gulp in the fresh air
That my lungs have been dying for
Of your smile
The one that makes my heart melt
I talk to you
And my chest opens
Revealing my damaged heart
That I have no qualms about sharing
Your calloused fingers
Wrap around mine
As we share inside jokes
That never really make sense
I laugh with you
And all is right
When you left
I knew I would see you again
Why does everything
That makes me feel okay
Have to go?
I was soft
And then ripped raw
When you come back
I will be soft again
I will still tingle
At the sight of your smile
At the sound of your laugh
At the feeling
Of your calloused fingers
Wrapped around my calloused heart
I hope I dream again tonight
Sunday waltzes into the room,
white chiffon dress cascading just below her knees,
bowed in the back,
pressed to perfection,
three books tucked neatly beneath her arm.
She greets all she sees with a small wave of the fingers
as the corners of her mouth turn upwards to the heavens.
Her heart sings of shortcomings but her lips stay poised.
Monday missed his 7:40 bus
and half of homeroom.
Does it count as late if you don’t show up at all?
Thermos holds black coffee,
He looks down for a second too long
And his rounded specs slide down the bridge of his nose.
“Monday? Are you with us?”
He answers as if on queue.
Tuesday sits in the back of the lecture hall
because the only left handed desk is already taken.
He drops his books on the way up the stairs,
notes losing their order,
Tuesday losing his patience.
The class turns momentarily,
burning holes into the back of his combed hair
searching for where he came from.
We know we saw him somewhere, but it wasn’t in our physics class.
Wednesday is average.
Made the soccer team, but often sits bench.
Maintains a 3.0, but nothing more.
Had a boyfriend… once.
She goes home to her mom and dad and brother committed to UPenn.
Maybe if she just studied a little harder,
Practiced a little longer,
Dressed a little nicer.
It must feel odd being a supporting character in your own story.
Thursday is satin and lace and breaths of almost.
Chestnut hair tied up in a navy ribbon,
never leaves the house without her moleskine,
probably writes poetry but no one would ever know.
Her laugh fills rooms to the brim
and saturates people with the type of joy only ever hoped for.
Storybooks, she says, are why we know how to love.
She’s never experienced this, of course.
Just a guess. Only a thought.
Friday takes the longest of his friends to get ready
because he can’t get his hair to lay flat,
but everyone says he’s worth the wait.
He steps into the room and the mood shifts.
Their eyes shift.
How does it feel to be in his shadow?
When Friday comes,
keg in hand,
he is a bad decision waiting to happen.
Saturday is the girl who helps Friday recover.
She’s the mom of the group,
heart of gold,
always wants to see the best in others,
but some people make it oh so hard.
Saturday is made for things forgotten,
But she spends her time cleaning up after others’ messes.
Spare moments of hers are spent in solitude,
alone but never lonely.