2021 Celebrating Poetry Contest

Winning Entries

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

2021 was the second year for the Celebrating Poetry Contest in collaboration with the City of Morganton Cultural Arts Commission and Redhawk Publishing.  The contest was open to all age writers, with both adult and youth categories and prizes for the top three poems in each category.  Added to the prizes for the 1st place adult poet this year was the opportunity to have a chapbook of the poet's work published by Redhawk Publishing.  The theme for this year's contest was Community.  A panel of judges - published poets and writers, community leaders, and educators - 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 - Adult
The Warmth of Neighborhood by Kyra Freedman
On our front porch
I pause to breathe in the warmth of neighborhood.
The Sunday solo of redemption soars from the parking lot as
A little sister holds ribbons while a big sister brushes,
Releasing stray strands of long black hair to the birds.
A football lobbed into six-year-old hands wobbles and bounces around the corner.
That wooden fence I had erected does not obscure the tang of lit charcoal
Or the memory of the neighbor grilling shirtless.
A cat steals outside to lie in wait under parked cars and
My muzzle-blackened dog digs out a flowerbed tennis ball.
The cruiser asleep on a lawn signals that the policeman is off today.
A mother and grown daughters in pink and purple sneakers
Chase each other for another lap around the block as
Lace curtains part across the street.
Pollen speckled water from a lovingly washed truck winds snake-like into our yard.
The warm breeze tags along as the groceries and I head inside.
Sometimes the days of ease give way,
The door is closed against the claws of fear, and
The porch stands empty.
Darkness descends and transforms into those nights
When my purse is stolen from my unlocked car,
When an unknown van slowing by our house makes my husband’s heart race,
When the ambulance flashers’ sudden reflection is magnified in black windows,
When a helicopter and a gunshot echo inside the city limits,
When we do not feel safe enough to shake hands.
Those nights will give rise to morning
And bring walking dogs,
And Wednesday trash cans on the curb,
And Eugene’s mail truck squeaking as it rounds the corner.
We neighbors will wave and stop to chat and reintroduce ourselves.
Someone will mount the steps to leave a gift
On our front porch.

2nd Place Adult
Community in the time of COVID by Kristen Richardson
Community used to be
Pot-luck dinners at church, and
Checking in with the sick or bereaved
With home-cooked food,
And a sitting-spell on the porch.
Community used to be
Family reunions,
With dozens of folks from far and wide,
Hugging and eating, talking and laughing,
Unworried about unwittingly making each other sick.
Community used mean the clatter and clutter and chatter
Found in classrooms across the county,
School busses making regular runs,
Neighbors knowing the place from whence they had come.
Community used to be not just those
With whom you share a zip code or neighborhood or street,
But also those with whom you shared your work and
Oh yes - those days when we could
Sing out loud, in the church-house,
And shout to support our favorite team,
From the stadium, or the bleachers,
Not just our living room couches.
Gathered together as
We are still a community.
Whether on ZOOM or Duo,
Or one of those other fiber-optic-connected
Means of communing across the virtual miles.
Or when we stand six-feet apart,
Masked, muted,
Made to feel like bandits
Who are getting away with something at the bank;
We are still a community.
3rd Place - Adult
At First by Adam Scott
At first I doubted and misunderstood
your motive, as you crunched into my camp,
offering hot soup and that propane lamp,
snow a halo swirling around your hood.
But every time ice crystallized my wood
that winter dark, I’d hear your trusty tramp
crescendo kindly through the frozen damp,
until, in time, I trusted in your good.
As life emerged from death that hopeful spring,
I sensed your kindness sprout in me like seed;
began to risk in love the way you would.
I came upon a family sheltering
beneath a bridge, asked gently what they’d need.
At first they doubted and misunderstood.

Bookseller’s Choice Award - Adult
The Hat Seller by Kristen Lopez
Once, long ago, in a town in the woods,
Where people seldom went,
Lived a seller of sorts who ran a small shop,
A shop of hats to present.
The seller, I’m told, was a gentle old chap,
Who traveled by foot every day,
He’d walk through the town to pick up supplies,
Speaking to all he found on the way.
The seller was so beloved in town,
That everyone knew his name,
Though no one really cared for hats,
They would buy them just the same.
This seller of hats was nine decades young,
And people began to suspect,
That his best days were perhaps far behind,
Which gave them cause to reflect.
One day his small community, 
came together for a bit of a feast,
They wanted to honor this sweet old man,
They wanted to support him at least.
When approaching the house, invite in hand,
The patrons heard a loud cough,
They opened the door to find a house full of dust,
They opened the cabinets to moths.
Quite surprised by the conditions he lived,
The community wanted to assist,
They had thought the seller was doing “just fine”,
Since he always seemed to insist.
The people slowly realized, 
That this man who had run the hat store,
Had given so much of himself to it,
That he hadn’t had anymore.

The community went home and thought to themselves,
Did they ever buy one of his hats?
Did they ever spend any time in the store?
Or had they just left it at that?
Coming together they devised a plan,
To help this poor shop keep,
Suddenly all were buying hats, 
And helping with all the upkeep.
The old man did not have much time,
But I am told that he
Went out in such a glorious way,
That one could ever see.
Sometimes we take for granted,
The smaller things near home,
Smaller shops are suffering,
Or our elderly alone.
If we can pull together,
As one united community,
We can lift each other up,
To where we were all meant to be.
While this is a somewhat happy tale,
This old man did not thrive,
It is not too late to help our towns,
And keep small shops alive. 

1st Place - Youth
Down in the Reserves by Samantha W. 
Down in the reserves
The people come together
The people are united
Although we are hit with mistreatment
We stand tall
We celebrate our lives
Down in the reserves
We are struck with poverty
We are left in the dust
Although our poverty rates are high,we live our lives to the highest peak we can
The bottom 1% lives in shambles
The top 1% clears their fourth plate of gourmet food
Down in the reserves 
Our people go missing
Our voices are silenced
Although our sisters and wives go missing we stay united
We stay united to save another
We paint a red hand onto our face and go out to protest
Down in the reserves
We hope for the best
We dance and sing
Although we are mocked,silenced,and forgotten
The community will stay put
The community will stay strong

2nd Place - Youth
Their Reality by Kenzilyn B. 
They are strong like a rock 
They are powerful like the president 
They have brotherhood like a community 
They are ghetto like gangs 
They resist cops like animals 
They are divided like a math problem 
They are angry like a mob of people 
They are African American 
This nonsense must stop 
We are all human 
We are all just people trying to be our best selves 
It does not matter about our skin color 
People say they are equal 
But when was murder even allowed? 
Oh wait, it’s not it’s only when you’re a white cop 
That is not showing them we are equal 
We need to have sympathy for the people that live in fear 
When we say black lives matter that does not mean just black lives matter 
It means they need help 
We need to have their back 
This is not a dumb trend 
This is their reality

3rd Place - Youth
I Hear My School Singing by Piper N.
I hear my school singing, the sound of paper as our art teacher hands it to us, 
The sound of rhythm as teachers type their keyboards, the sound of expo 
markers as teachers use them to write, the sound of music as our music 
teacher teaches us, the sound of students getting out of their cars, the sound 
of bells ringing, the sound of doors shutting, the sound of students talking, 
the sound of lockers shutting, the sound of teachers teaching, the sound of 
The Pledge of Allegiance. That is how my school can sound like singing!

Bookseller’s Choice Award - Youth
My Life by A. L. 
I fight for my rights
Yet I can’t reach such heights
This hatred is such a fright
My life as dark as night
People want to control me
I just want to flee
My life may be a mess
I can’t control the stress
Stuck in this cluttered closet
Afraid to be myself
Why can’t I be accepted as well
My life is lost in a maze
People say it’s just a phase
I must keep my love sealed
I have to keep up my shield
What is this sight
This light is so bright
I feel approval for who I am
This doesn't seem like a scam
I step out of the void
I feel such joy
My family may fight
Even so they fight for love
They always help me ride above