Comments from Laine Kuehn, Poetry Contest Judge 4/11/2022
Age Category 8-12:
First Place: “Beauty to Ash” offers up understated rhyme right alongside unusual and vibrant sensory images. This poem reminds us of the world that is teeming with life around us! I love how this poem zooms in and out—it gives the reader a feeling of flying slowly above the earth, paying close attention to each detail.
Second Place: “Reflection” is a short poem that takes meaningful risks, making very real a feeling that so many of us never speak out loud. It is a sparse poem—only a moment— but the images used are very effective. I especially love the double-meaning of the title.
Third Place: “Pine Silence” is a bold and vulnerable narrative poem that tells a complex and difficult story through orienting us to the poet’s feelings. The trees themselves feel like the container for those feelings.
Age Category 13-17:
First Place: “Found” is a quiet, still poem that feels like a collective poem from a grieving community. The people written about feel as though they are of one single, broken heart as they navigate the tragedy. I am moved by this unusual approach.
Second Place:“Ode to Spring” is a true ode, creating a sense of wonder and anticipation. There is a lot of movement in this little poem—the final line makes me want to kiss the wet ground that the poet has brought us to.
Third Place: ”The Changes of Life” is a compelling poem that zooms out and moves the reader through a large expanse of time, always with a focus on the details of human activity. This humbling perspective creates a sense of curiosity and connectedness even within grief-- quite a feat for a small poem!
First Place: “Genesis” is, to borrow a word from the poet, a “kaleidoscopic” poem with compelling and unusual images that strike right at the heart. The poem both abstracts the subject and looks directly at it, which results in a disorienting, but emotionally moving, poem of moments.
Second Place: “Friday, January 20th, 2017, 11:41 am” has an incredibly strong narrative voice, quick wit, and a sharp tongue. It reads, simultaneously, as powerful ancestral love letter and important political commentary.
Third Place: “The Walk” is a poem of pure movement, effectively carrying the reader along a terrifying and perilous roadside, into the exalted beauty of the natural world, into the tired body, and finally into the din of “the corporate nightmare of noise and nonsense.” It is an incredibly vivid & embodied poem with a unique voice and perspective.
Literacy Volunteers Adult Learners:
First Place: “Pregnancy After Loss is not Easy” is an incredibly vulnerable poem that I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to read— the poet’s honesty and tenderness is very present here, and I love how the poet takes us through individual and specific emotionally complex moments and images.
Second Place: “Who I Share Things With” is an intimate window into the important relationships of the poet. The center stanza, which references COVID-19, reminds the reader of the preciousness of those connections.
Third Place: “The Gift” offers the reader a passionate ode with vivid images and interesting rhyme-- this poem has a lot of energy!