2020 Celebrating Poetry Contest

Winning Entries

* Entries/winning stories shared herein are done so with the written consent of the author. * 

2020 was the inaugural year for the Celebrating Poetry Contest in collaboration with the City of Morganton Main St. Office.  The contest was open to all age writers.  The theme for this year's contest was Nature's Playground.  A panel of judges - published poets and writers - used a scoring rubric to rank top entries, considering how well the poem addressed the theme, the style and flow and mechanics of the poem, and the overall impressions made by the poem.

1st Place - Kristen Richardson, NC

Outside Observation

Birds flit from branch to branch

Like children swinging from monkey bars;

Only the nimblest hang downside-up.

Squirrels scratch around old oaks,

Making horrid chalkboard sounds on wrinkled bark,

Chasing each other in impromptu games of tag.

Nocturnal neighbors: foxes, opossums, raccoons, coyote

Emerge from daytime nap-holes, walking our neighborhoods

Like teenagers on concert Friday nights.

Outlined by Table Rock’s silhouette

And the Catawba’s rock-strewn stream,

Our town invites all creatures to come on out and play!

2nd Place - Kyra Freeman, NC

Buried Treasures

Beyond the coffee maker,

Daylight drips onto the kitchen floor.

The window over the sink is a neon sign flashing: “Outside! Outside!”


The dog’s tail lifts

As he rubs the sleep from his eyes

And shakes his aging joints.

“Let’s go out.”

“We’ll look for treasures.”

He knows that the little slip of woods behind our house

Holds magic.

I get on my boots and bring my coffee cup.

The noise of truck brakes slowing down for the light at the end of Enola Road

Punctuates the birdsong.

The neighbor’s dog barks from his pen.

And we are out, crossing our one-third of an acre

To the back owned by the woods.

What will we find this morning?

I watch for snakes and wild spring flowers with every spongey stride.

There was once a twisted unicycle

Buried under decaying leaves.

A branch emerging from the bank that I had almost cut down

Now erupts in pink flowers.

The neighbors’ daffodil ignored the fence

And snuck into our yard through the trees.

Water leftover from last night’s rain

Exposes arteries of red dirt in the brilliant green of moss.

The dog finds a neat pile of deer droppings,

Then a stick, the perfect size for his mouth.

He parades it in triumph back to me.

A mosaic of old mirror shards lines the bed of the ditch behind the building.

I bend to pick up a piece of glass and cool rust-mud stains my hands.

The dog and I are painted in stripes of sun and shadow as

We inhale the smell of the trees reclaiming their rightful territory.

These woods have unearthed another treasure

Covered by the muck of adulthood.

I remember, yes!

I used to climb trees like ship rigging

And gather milkweed and acorn caps as an offering to the fairies

Out behind the compost pile in the one corner of my yard where my father never mowed.

I had forgotten what some part of me still seeks:

My playground.

3rd Place - Linea Jantz, WA

Parenting Wild

When you parent Wild

In the wild

Let them be wild

You make an all-in, high stakes gamble on Adventure.

Sometimes you roll a screaming toddler football carry, fussy baby strapped to your chest, picking

your way over uneven ground, sweat trickling down your aching back, arms on fire, flailing,

deep breath--Why?


Sometimes you follow a toddler who bravely forays into a forest on fire with autumn, red plastic

rake clutched in one hand, blue shovel in the other. A sweet peach fuzz head nestles into your

collarbone, tiny hand on your heart.

Through your child's eyes and ears an ocean roars gently in the wind sighing through branches

that dance with leaves that




Together you crouch to watch Ladybug on her fern, running away home

Purple, trapped in an old log, needs rescue

Is that mold?

The color of an amethyst geode among the splintered pith

A heart leaf for you, Mama

Chasing a floating shovel down the creek, over little waterfalls

Sunlight on water

Splashing and laughter

Balance on shifting shale and trip on an arching tree root


Spring up unharmed

Because this wood is magic.


When you parent Wild

In the wild

Let them be wild

You will struggle.



You are not alone.

These feet fall on Earth



Strong enough to hold you

And let the Wild Ones play.