2009 Teen Poetry Contest Winners

Each year we celebrate National Poetry Month in April with our Teen Poetry Contest.

Teens in grades 7-12 from Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Westmoreland, are invited to submit up to three originial poems. Out-of-region library cardholders may also enter.

The winners are chosen (anonymously) by University of Mary Washington professor and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Claudia Emerson.

Entries are accepted online between April 1 - 15.
Winners are selected from participants in grades 7-9 and grades 10-12.

Winners are awarded prizes and invited to read work at Teen Poetry Night.

Here are the 2009 winners ...

1st Place, Grades 10-12

Phantom Pains

by Courtney
age 17, grade 12, Stafford

Hanging out clothes on a hot
July evening, my mother told me
Stories. The ones I remembered were

About my great grandmother, the one
With only one leg. They rode in her
Wheelchair while she slept:
The fence of one is the freedom of
Another. She didn’t talk about the
Leg she lost; like a gone family member,
Everyone knew what had happened.

Sometimes, though, she would sit quietly,
When the crickets sang at night and
Everyone else slept under the
Starpricked blanket of sky, and feel the
Swirling fields of pain settle where
There was nothing:

An ankle throbbed, a calf spasmed,
A knee pulsed and twitched as
The pains reached with blind
Fingers, searching for what was lost.
 

2nd Place, Grades 10-12

Sever

by Courtney
age 17, grade 12, Stafford

I've been told to cut out the plates
For later reference files – to take
An x-acto knife, gleaming
Like a newly silvered sword

To the worn pages of Audubon -
(A difficult task, ironically, for one
Who tore books as a child...)
The binding's falling off, I rationalize, the

Pages, the pages are spotted brown with foxing...
Still, I cringe inwardly as the grisly task
Begins. The first cut, a pair
Of goldfinches, is crooked, shallow.

I try again, faster: a Chuck-will's
Widow, a tufted titmouse,
A bluebird pair, sapphire swirls
About a busy nest. There are more, always

In twos. Like Noah, I gather them
Safely away from floods of refuse they'd otherwise find, surely
In the depths of the nearby garbage can. I look
Into the glimmering black eyes of a sun-splashed Carolina

Parakeet: look, slice, set aside, slice again.
I tell myself, in trying to somehow mitigate,
That I am setting them free from the heavy gates of the covers,
Loosing their wings to sail the sky once more.
 

3rd Place, Grades 10-12

In a Craft Store

by Courtney
age 17, grade 12, Stafford

I stroll down the rows
     Of waxy-leaved plastic

Daylilies, stop to smell
     An artificial rose. The centers

Of the daisies are bumpy
     Lizard-skin yellow, the sunflowers

Fake fuzzy-caterpillar brown. I stalk
     The aisles, rimmed above my head

In imitation marsh grasses. A cattail
     Nods in the whir of the fan

Overhead, soaks in
     The fluorescent sun.
 

Honorable Mention, Grades 10-12

Here

by Anna
age 17, grade 11, Spotsylvania

Here lies my body.
it's husky, thick and strong
Here lies my mind
where thoughts pray
where a thousand opinions are housed
with no words to explain them
Here lies my hands
sweaty with the nervous energy
of day
to day.

Here lies my soul
cautionary and overly careful
scared with the aches of past
Here lies my humanity
bleak with corruption
a candle flickering out
into the cold msytery
of night.
Here, I am alive.
Here I beautifully suffer.
 

Gray Jewel

by Anna
age 17, grade 11, Spotsylvania

you're the moment fall ends
the last amber leaf floats down
trees are bare
all is still and strong
you're uncomfortable and cold
a chair of puritan ethic
hard but smooth
and beautiful.
you're the parchment
of Thoreau and Emerson
whose eyes were deep with fear
You're a stream on a bank,
Drying, in its final phase.
you've got the dark world at your feet.
you are indigo.
you are a steady release.
you are a gray jewel.
 

Letting It All Go

by Talitha
age 18, grade 12, Stafford

You helped create me,
but daddy ain't your name,
divorce split us,
I must admit that you still caused me pain.
The rain was my sunny days
compared to the days I spent with you,
my heart screwed,
my mind subdued,
depression plus the stressing upon me grew.
Who knew that you, a man,
is not actually a man
but a playful boy stuck in an adult body,
but not an adult state.
Who tries to put down his seeds just to see them break.
But wait, my sister, me,
we called you daddy for years,
now daddy we don't call you,
but another we do
and I don't cry anymore tears.
I hear you but I'm not listening,
love I couldn't get from you
beggingly so sickening,
now you want to persist it,
oh na I'm dismissing it.
It's crazy isn't it,
now you try kicking it,
your so devoted,
with lies I bet your loaded,
come on now really what's your motive?
Hold it, respect is hard to give,
when I feel I'm not your kid.
Inside I caged myself
this life no more can I live,
get a grip,
why can't you just love me?
Now a days all you wanna do is speak badly of me.
Well now above me,
I have somebody who will,
who wants to see his daughter succeed,
his girl healed.
And yes I said his girl,
he provides more than you could ever give
and you helped bring me in this world!
You know what?
You should've just left,
cause I don't need what you're dishing.
This seed developed into a rose
and you don't know what you're missing.
But in time you will, boxed I came, boxed I was
but you can no longer keep me sealed.
Daddy ain't your name,
I don't think it ever was
blood is thicker than mud right?
Then why are you treating me wrong?
But inspite of all that,
you did help create me…

1st Place, Grades 7-9

Not To Be Seen

by Sarah
age 15, grade 9, Stafford

What happens when you don’t become.
When you disappear out of sight.
You are a total blank,
In a blink of an eye.

A black hole in space,
Never to be seen.
Not in this kind of world,
Invisibility.

What disappears out of sight,
Not to be told,
Never to reveal itself,
Not visible to the world.

What you might think is,
Never happened, you’re mistaken.
Erased from the memory,
History never taken.

Invisibility is a choice,
Not an art to not be seen.
A sea of personality,
Lies within me.
 

2nd Place, Grades 7-9

The Leaf

by Acacia
age 15, grade 9, Stafford

I watched a leaf
fall from the sky
sailing on the wind
It floated from
the highest twig
to dark it did descend

It rested there
upon the ground
under shade so cool
And there it would
have spent its days
till wise became the fool

But spared it from
this timely death
my hand and heart they took
So that now
it lies beneath
the cover of a book

Years since then
do I stand now
upon that rotting tree
And think of how
that tiny leaf
will outlive even me
 

3rd Place, Grades 7-9

Snow

by Ashleigh
age 14, grade 9, Spotsylvania

Snow
Gently touching everything
So quiet
Covering everything

It makes me realize
We are like snow
Touching everything
Leaving traces of who we are

I see
When we are gone
We are gone

Yes people will remember
What we were
And what we could have been

But they will forget
And we will be gone
Without a trace

Just like snow
 

Honorable Mention, Grades 7-9

Relaxing On The Porch

by Mira
age 14, grade 9, Stafford

A breeze blows, soft as
still water on my
bare arms;
chimes shake free a
small song into the air.

One bird cries to another
and a third changes
its call to match,
jealous of
their conversation.

Three hand-made bird
houses hang;
a fourth lies rotting on the ground
in pieces, abandoned long ago;
a fading pink flamingo
sways crookedly above it
on wire legs.

Seashells, gravel,
and rocks picked up
during family vacations
line the patio; a pile of broken
bricks fills the extended fence's corner.
 

Picket-Fence Jungle

by Mira
age 14, grade 9, Stafford

In this jungle,
miniature roses with tiny thorns
weave a botanical mesh.
Pear trees bloom, the pale blossoms
proudly stinking up the air; but
apple trees foretell the thievery
of their fruit, and mourn
by weeping fragrant petals.
Squirrels sprint over
their intertwined bows,
and a war rages between
cardinals and bluejays
over the clusters of irises
that gather between
those shallow roots.

In this jungle
basil breeds with clover;
and oregano,
an aromatic epidemic,
spreads through the grass.
 

Silence

by Emily
age 15, grade 9, Spotsylvania

I sit in silence, my face away
From the hateful and wicked world that took him.
Grabbed by grey, dark death; fast and grim
Everything in my life has turned to grey.
My skin, my hair, the ground where I stay,
All brilliantly colorless, as the silence around me.
Deafeningly soundless, so I make a faint plea:
Please God! Help me through my woed dismay!
And through the thick still, I hear a mourning dove call.
I lift my head slightly and see a vivid flash of gold.
Purple, green, pink, orange; a daisy the center of it all.
My world no longer colorless and grey, but bold.
I stand up and walk towards the beauty, straight and tall.
I no longer sit in silence, for my new dawn is to unfold.