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2023 Annual Poetry Contest Winners

Age 8-12

First Place: Jaxon Whelpley, River

Second Place: Ari Boulette , Football

Third Place: Auri Waite, Delilah


Age 13-17 

First Place: Carley Austin, Nana’s Child


Age 18+

First Place: Jessica Kalfaian, The Way Home

Second Place: Muriel Schleider, V

Third Place: Claire Levesque,  Fan Out


Students of Literacy Volunteers

First Place: Anna Crocket, Picture A Poem

Second Place: Elizabeth Beaudette, My Heart Wasn’t Ready

Third Place: Lacey Ann Elder, BBQ


   2023 Winning Poems


Judge's Comments

"One of the most beautiful aspects of this contest is the ability to see what is moving through a collective mind and moving through the community—after all, it is a community project! There are often shared values and images. As a whole, the group of poems often creates its own life, as though each poem is the fruiting body of a larger network of underground mycelia.

In the 8-12 category, each poem seemed like a small window into another life, featuring the magic of daily moments, pets, foods, and family. The first-place poem, River, holds the reader still in a precious moment where the sudden absence of sound makes us appreciate all signs of life. Football is a vibrant, active poem that stirs the blood of the reader and brings a sense of community right off the page. Delilah weaves personal experience with the beauty of the natural world and includes vivid sensory details.

The winner of the 13-17 category, Nana’s Child, is earnest and moving, allowing the reader to climb right into the metaphor and feel the life that lives on when we’ve lost someone. The language is fresh and bright— a tender, honoring, lively poem.

The 26+ category showed such diversity of experience. The Way Home asks eternal questions in a fresh and specific way, centering those questions in personal experience. Real vulnerability comes in the last stanza of the poem, where the reader is left both with the emotional impression of both the dog waiting at the door and the strange but relatable impulse to write “water” repeatedly in the sand of the desert. V is a lilting, playful, musical poem, asking us to experience first-hand the moment described with the sensuality that language can bring.  Fan Out takes a moment and extends it, asking the reader to stay in a complex emotion which is described so well through images of both the internal body and the external world—showing us what ripples a life can have. 

The Literacy Volunteers student category contained poems that described tender moments, asked hard questions, and played with language in the most sparkling way. Picture a Poem uses language to describe a sensation and experience that defies language, and yet still creates a space for the reader to experience it—a spectacular feat. My Heart Wasn’t Ready is raw, vulnerable, and emotionally honest, with a strong and distinct voice. BBQ is a poem that can be heard, smelled, and felt, giving the reader a moment to experience the unity of family as well as life’s sensory pleasures.

All in all, the poems this year were tremendous—often relational, introspective, and very sensory. I noticed themes of growth and rebirth and new life, and many poems ask us to consider difficult questions and stay in vulnerable moments. How fortunate we are to get to read them!" 

Laine Kuehn







Contest Prizes: Gift Certificates

First: $25 at Devaney Doak & Garrett  Booksellers

Second: $15 at Twice Sold Tales Bookstore

Third: $10 at Java Joe's Coffee

Biography of Poetry Contest Judge;

Laine Kuehn 

Laine is a wandering-footed poet who tries to nurture curiosity as much as they can. They’re a graduate of Denver School of the Arts and the University of Maine at Farmington, were an intern editor at the Beloit Poetry Journal, and co-created an online literature and arts magazine.

They enjoy creating poetic spaces wherever they go and currently serve on the steering committee for the Belfast Poetry Festival and as a convener for an annual conference on the mythopoetic. Otherwise, they’re workshopping poems in a weekly writing group, getting their hands dirty in the garden, marveling at worms, and walking with the cat in Brooks, Maine.

Lacy Ann Elder,
a thrilled prize winner

for poetry contest sponsorship
is expressed to
Western Mountain Financial Services
and Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation


Wendy Morrill, 2021 prize winner
"We Are All Millionaires."




2022 Winning poems in alphabetical order by title


2021 Winning Poems