2017 Teen Poetry Contest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Claudia Emerson Teen Poetry Contest!

Many thanks to our contest judges: University of Mary Washington faculty members Amanda Rutstein, adjunct English instructor, and Laura Bylenok, assistant professor of English.

Grades 9-12: 1st Place | 2nd Place | 3rd Place | Honorable Mention

Grades 6-8: 1st Place | 2nd Place | 3rd Place | Honorable Mention

First Place, Grades 9-12:

Thank God for Teenage Girls
by Claire C.

Eve stumbles
blazing out of heaven, one hand
in Adam’s needy tight grasp, the other
holding a lit match.
She’s too bright to look at head on
but if you turn your head sideways and look through your lashes,
she’s still licking the taste of apples off her
teeth.
We watch her come down,
shading our eyes, this brilliant robber, this thief
who dared to steal from God. Close up she’s bleeding
through her ripped-up jeans and her neck bears a red patch
that will bruise, it’s her first hickey.
Pulls out her phone, reapplies her lipstick
in the camera while Adam stands awkward and waiting,
hands shoved in his pockets. He wishes he had something
better to do. Eve smiles
at her own reflection, purses her lips, then takes the match
and slides it into her mouth.
Swallows the flame whole.
She doesn’t even wince.


Second Place, Grades 9-12:

Spaghetti
by Jazsmine J.

They say life is short , yet it's the longest thing you'll ever have to do.
the longest mile you'll ever run , the longest journey you'll take.

I grab the ocean at the shoreline as my blanket and lay it across my body
in the morning I cook the sun , sunny side up and I bake the clouds into bread rolls , when I wake I feast
I've got the world on my plate & I plan to eat ..

I've been exiled to Purgatory 
the limbs on my divine body become stolid in the mist of it all ..
Welcome to the deceased soul of a black child

Skin burned at the stake , I've got charcoal for teeth
How immense  fire spits when I speak..

In due time we'll all be maggot food and wasting space 6ft deep into the ground , 20 years from now we'll look back on our today & ask why we thought that was cool?
why did we think those pair of shoes meant style?  
why that hair cut meant so much ?
& you won't know the answer.

In the evening I grasp the moon to lay my fro upon , I gather the stars into a bin and mop them lightly on the floor to illuminate my room , creating an artificial night how the creases of my walls become the moon.

Archetypal to the many lands I roam , very potent to the manifested night I've now owned.
did I mention I was afraid of darkness ..

Funny how we fear the things we are

They say do on to others as you would have them do on to you.

the same lips that commit adultery
The same tongue that's snuck down the throat of others while in wed lock.
This world is contradicting ,  
Sadly contradictory is trending .

This paper knows more about me than my own flesh and blood
this pen has cried for me more than I've cried physically

I've became a mime to society.
my words silenced but my heart speaks truth as if I've got duck tape for lips and a juke box that fits into my chest
if only people knew the right song to press.

In the noon at 4:20
I sprinkle willow trees onto my spread of beetles I've manifested by pure attraction , I inhale the Atmosphere one puff at a time, accidentally choking on pollution
I don't have the solution , bamboozled by time it's as if life is an institution & we're all patients of the matrix.
Or should I say Maze Tricks.

I exhale cheat codes to life .. Funny,  cause these cheat codes only work if your fair skin with blue eyes.

I'm tired of pleasing everyone , I'm tired of being ask to give this & give that
Im a sensitive soul, but don't take advantage of my kindness , don't let my words be misunderstood..
Yet you all did. You Nina Simone'd it .

I'm not always bad and I'm not always an angel.
they say make money don't let money make you ..
Well, money in this world comes from the crevasses between a woman's thighs , how men rule the world and its okay when they dawg a woman out ..

I don't deserve the amount of agony men bring too me , too bad I don't like bosoms & thick hips .

I guess that's what I get for not being optimistic enough
I guess that's what I get for being taught old school values and actually internalizing them.

Life is just spaghetti, one big pot of individuals thrown in with the same sauce . Same taste , and then it smothers everything it touches.

I replace the sun with me , have all the planets rotate to the rhythm of my heart beat ..


Third Place, Grades 9-12:

Pecan 75
by Niaja B

Her skin is like honey,
Smooth to the touch,

Brown like cinnamon,
Warm as such.

Her curves are soft,
Voluptuous and thick,

She's hot as fire,
Spicy with a kick.

Her eyes are melted chocolate,
Deep seas of mystery,

Story built on strength,
Knowledge of her history.

Confident in her steps,
Hips sashay with class,

Silhouette of fierceness,
Brick-built with sass.

Beautiful black woman,
Magnificence, her strive,

Woman like no other,
Pecan 75.


Honorable Mentions, Grades 9-12:

Tovah B.
Rachel H.
Mira D.
Claire C.
Grace F.
Olivia S.


First Place, Grades 6-8:

I'm ok
by Victoria B.

I could have wrote a love poem but I've never loved someone outside of my family. Did you know that? I'm ok. Freak show that's what they call me but I'm a fantastic freak. Emo that's what they call me for writing poems but my poems are fantastic. Students they're cruel, students sit in silence staring at my flaws and mistakes but they're only fools, right?

To them I'm just a toothpick split in half, I'm just the short kid. I'm ok. It's easy to fake a smile when you've been doing it for a long time. I'm ok. To you I'm just a window, you think you see through me because it's too much work for you to take the book off the shelf and pass my cover to be brought to my introduction. I'm ok. You say you know me but you don't know me, you know my face that matches my name and the body that I own it's my body so why do you get to label it? You don't know my story. If you knew me you would know I've almost lost my mother to this tumor raging in my mother's body causing poison to flow through her. Stage 4, it's been a part of my life since I was six, my mother's not supposed to be here. Did you know that? I'm ok. In the month of February for two weeks straight I went to the library after dismissal and pulled out my phone and asked students if I could take a photo of you, I like taking photos of things I find beautiful but kids haven't been told they're beautiful because your mirror gets a grin and points out the flaws. Get a better mirror, you're ok. I may sit in class and do what I'm told but I have a voice and it's louder than a bomb, it's sad to have to have a seventh grader bring you back into reality. I reach out and try to grab you but you slip away. Tick tick tick faster and faster it's my anxiety my expressions left in the bomb Tick tick. Anxiety this empty space that makes me feel like I'm alone, empty, forgotten, hated, depression these ropes tying me down and the ropes were knotted by his good friend anxiety. I try to come across you to tell you to stop you don't know the story you haven't read it yet, but how can I help I'm just average 7th grade cookie cutter right?


Second Place, Grades 6-8:

The Ocean
by Nella B.

Constant billows of cool colors,
curbed by the fine full moon.
The forenoon tide
is "in one's element"
to the crabs and starfish,
Unafraid of the presumptuous waves.
Contrary to the shallow tide
Is the dark and mysterious deep.
Lurking in the gloom of the brine
Are rare and anonymous creatures,
The rulers of the twilight zone.
The grand lonely offing,
A mere clean sheet of navy blue
And steel grey,
Stands as a battlefield
For predator and prey.
The offing is likewise the center of peace,
A site of meditation for otters,
Relaxing on the flux.
The majestic ocean:
The source of aquamarine, navy, and steel.
The source of gentle shallow,
Gloomy deep.
The source of war and peace.


Third Place, Grades 6-8:

Shared Solitude
by Justin P.

Humans have made,
Such great advances;
Building societies,
Under many circumstances;

We’ve reached up to the stars,
And down to the atom;
How this is,
I cannot fathom;

But still we remain,
All alone;
Living inside,
Our personal domes;

Always feigning,
Comprehension;
Always practicing,
False pretension,

Always hiding,
Any mention:
Of any perceived,
Apprehension;

Always averting,
Our attention;
Away from any,
Detected tension;

Always living,
In suspension;
For someone might find,
Our lack of retention;

But we should know,
Some time will come;
When we must unite,
Or else succumb;

If nothing else, we must change,
Our hurtful attitude;
Lest we live our lives out,
In shared solitude.


Honorable Mentions, Grades 6-8:

Alyssa R.
Charlotte S.
Katherine N.
Angelie N.
Parker S.