The Winners of Our 5th Annual High School Poetry Competition

Congratulations to Jessi Bowser (1st Place), Jenna Wang (2nd Place), and Katie Peterson (3rd Place) for winning our 2013 High School Poetry Competition! We had over 250 poems submitted from high schoolers across Michigan, and the winners will read their selections on November 13 at 7 pm in the RCAH Theater in conjunction with a poetry reading by visiting poet Barbara Presnell.

1st Place: Jessi Bowser
High School: West Bloomfield High School
Year in School: Junior
Sponsoring Teacher: Jennifer McQuillian


when i was 11 i wore basketball shorts and a wife beater every day.
to my friends it was funny, to adults it was cute
i was just confused on what little girls should wear

im 17 now and i no longer dress like a little boy
but i still do not dress like my friends.
i despise ruffles and i refuse dresses
and they do not laugh anymore, adults no longer think it is cute

there is a stigma in this society that women are fragile
we are taught this from a young age; girls are petite
and girls are thin and they are soft, and they are not made to withstand hard times

i wonder if society has realized that we are not what we eat
we are what we wear

we are the ruffled shirts that easily rip, we are frequently stained white skirts
and we are the heels that were never made to be run in

you wore your heels the night he chased what was designed to be caught
and you ripped with the shirt he tore off you, a shirt manufactured to be torn
and your soul is still stained by the bruises that he left the night he decided that you were his to take,
constricted in the compression top you wore instead of a wife beater
a minnow trapped in the fishnets that you wore for him

so i wear jeans and they are so tight that i have to cut them off at the end of each day
and i wear tshirts that go up to my neck, and i do not wear clothes that tear
and i do not wear shoes i cannot run in, and i do not let myself get caught in a net of expectations
and i do not consider myself delicate, or fragile, or feminine

i am the same girl who is afraid of dressing like one

Second Place: Jenna Wang
High School: International Academy Central
Year In School: Junior
Sponsoring Teacher: Kayla McCabe

Missing In Action

In sixth grade my grammar teacher told me
a comma indicates a temporary pause between two sentences.
I drew a small round dot in my notebook
and said nothing when she said my name

In fifth grade my art teacher said
shadows must be painted with overtones of purple
deepest plum, frostbitten lilac,
because that way you can see the darkness is multidimensional

I watched you bend over the sink
under the harsh tungsten light of the bathroom,
a hand cupped around your nose
while gleaming red rivulets ran between your raw knuckles.
You said nothing when I screamed your name

In fourth grade my history teacher told me
many brave men were killed in the Great War.
Some of them had even left home to fight
long before they walked out of the front door

The worn photograph of a soldier
still lays on your desk where you left it three years ago
I see you in it now, limping from snowbank to snowbank,
only temporarily late between two jobs
one foot a smear of purple on this world
and the other already in the next.

Third Place: Katie Peterson
School: Brighton High School
Year in School: Senior
Sponsoring Teacher: Kelly Armstrong


It is sometimes surprising,
The value of childhood keepsakes.
I carefully slide the drawstring bag open
And tip its contents onto my hand.
One jack, five jacks, ten!
It is worn and faded and smells the way warm sweaters smell.

Out tumble the jacks,
Bright pointed plastic things
Clacking against one another.
One jack, five jacks, ten!
I never knew how to play jacks,
I would just stare and finger the starry trinkets in my hand.

I sprawl across
The warmed pink carpeting,
Soaked by the afternoon sun.
One jack, five jacks, ten!
My brother laughs,
We delicately arrange the piked figures as they scatter across the floor.

Now the bag is crumpled,
The velvet worn, the threads frayed.
But sometimes I slide the drawstring open
One jack, five jacks, ten!
I peer into its depths
And smell warm sweaters and sun-splashed carpets and think of home.


Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: (517) 884-1932

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