2014 Teen Poetry Contest Winning Poems

High School Division (Grades 9-12)

1st Place: "We are Here to be Swallowed" by Nysha Chen

Shanghai is the
pulse-pulse-pulse of bright yellow flickers
neon light boulevards pressed up
against crumbling 1930's apartment buildings
saturating the distant landscape,
throbbing the morning sky

its August, sweaty
and sticky children scatter
through unpaved roads, devouring red bean cake
in their small fingers messily smeared

fruit peddlers collide into a rush of pedestrians
down Nanjing road, as night falls
the slumbering sun sleeps, heavy breaths
against clogged air

and yet I realize after
returning home with blackened sandals,
that nothing remains untouched
on the burning streets of Shanghai,
that the old decays into
the cracks and fissures of the
asphalt road and like abandoned newspaper,
we are here to be swallowed




2nd Place: "unanswered phone calls" by Meghedi Tamazian

maybe if we enjoyed the lullaby of empty
dial tones, we would fall asleep somewhere
amidst the clatter of unanswered phone calls.

there is a melancholy to be found in silence.
nothing but the static between our muted voices,
only the sterile hum of knowing you are

watching TV or driving or laughing or fishing
or out with friend or asleep somewhere.
love is not a limb; if it's lost, it will always grow back.

i am discarded bandages and surgical knives.
you are an amputated arm. your phantom limb
haunts whenever i doubt your ghost.

i learned a trick to uncovering the scent of the hospital without
actually going to one. pick a beach on Lake Michigan and swim
to the point on the horizon where the clouds become water.

you will find me there and immediately recognize the smell
of emergency. do not be alarmed; love is no urgent matter.
again, we will hug a hospital bed with no way to pay the bills.

the best way to dance is to a soundless song.
remember: the silence. when i'm restless,
i memorize your all-too-familiar voicemail greeting.

in it, you say your name as if it weren't holy, but just
another word in the dictionary. I correct your pronunciation
over & over until you say it the way i do.

you've never been patient. too often,
your bones rattle from all that rush & shake.

i've always been wistful. too often,
i fall asleep to the sound of your abscense.



3rd Place: "This is Urban Art" by Carmen Crusoe


B- Boys stepping onto the scene

Swagger in each step

Eyes gleaming with confidence

Bodies buzzing and bouncing

Ready to release their energy

Ready for battle

This is urban art

In every windmill, flare, and halo, in the footwork

Is this raw and gritty electricity shocking anyone who witnesses

This urban festivity

The beat reverberating off the walls

There are cat calls of “Yo! Did you see that son?! That ain’t never been done!”

Each fluid movement is unique

Originality is key

Taking this urban art to a new peak

Hip hop is the heart to this art form of soul

The soundtrack to this urban life

Making everything seem alright to those influenced by this culture

Even when the world gives them a cold shoulder

The beats of J. Dilla, Madlib, and Dr. Dre serve as a therapeutic melody

These 90’s kids, with so much to give

Artistically expressing themselves through graffiti

The art of the urban underground

Their tagging style and flair is their personal signature

The brightly hued messages like little stories giving insight into urban life

When we lost someone from this hip hop community, we don’t say Rest in Peace

We say Rest in Power!

Their presence made immortal by each dance we dedicate to them…

“Get up offa that thing! And dance til you feel better! Get up offa that thang! And try to release that pressure!”

James Brown speaking to this young fresh urban generation

Through the underlying beat of the music

Saying dance til you feel alright

Saying dance your burdens away, dance til you feel light

This is urban art

Close to the heart of the people who speak this language so well

Urban art is not just breakdancing and hip hop….it is a way of life

A whole culture

Versatile, ever evolving, and creative in its execution

It is food for the soul

Knowledge for the mind

And life to the body

Urban art is you, urban art is me

Urban art is we

Forever love, forever true, forever real

This is urban art





Honorable Mention: "The Coming of Ages" by Allie Schultz


When Shelter becomes a cavity

-Walls starving to imprint

some words of wanting author

onto anthropologist


A dweller who draws from ticklish paint

Brushes; the skin of stone

simply lives to be and tell

a likeness of the world


But pick and hammer etching

go Shallow Scratching – deep

They understand the sentiment

of Sedimentary