Art Works Blog

Introducing the Poetry Ourselves Winners!

This year, in honor of the NEA's 50th anniversary, Poetry Out Loud gave state champions the opportunity to showcase their creative writing skills. State champions were invited to submit their own written or spoken word poems, which were judged separately from Wednesday's recitation contest by Patricia Smith, a poetry slam champion and National Book Award finalist. We are thrilled to announce that Rose Horowitz, a senior at Mt. Ararat High School in Harpswell, Maine, and Maddie Lukomski, a junior at Sioux Falls Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, were named our winners in the written and spoken categories, respectively. We're honored to share their creativity with you today—enjoy!

Here's Maddie's poem, "My Sleeves":

And here's Rose's poem, "Mythomania - Compulsive Lies":

"Mythomania - Compulsive Lies" by Rose Horowitz

In the Spring, before the winter meltwater came raging down from the mountains, she built a dam out of pencils and torn book pages, mortar ground from watermelon seeds and feather down, fortifying her heart against the river of words,

so when swelled and bloated with Spring, clawing, writhing from its rocky resting place like a wild beast, crazed, seeking warmth, the flood might be stopped by her nest of childhood memories and future hopes.

Curled in the corner of a crystal library, flashlight in one hand, journal in the other, she wrote secrets dripping down the sharp point of a quill, in spiraling, wandering text squeezed from lemon juice, so only she would know they were there.

Yet day after day, year after year, the diary was filled with words, slicing through the paper like knives, until the fine strokes overflowed and escaped on the wind––on feather down they drifted away: downstream, or skyward.

Weakened, the dam was bent and broken by the mountain animals, with terrible ease.

Gravity won, such is the way of erosion, and more words, and more water, wished to follow with that same, crippling confidence.

Rotten pages, weeded from gardens of goldfish; gold leaf, flaked away from the library ceiling; lemon juice, fresh-squeezed into long curling lines of type; absentmindedly forgotten, melted on the heater; all converging in the tumble down the mountain.

So she stood still, frozen, shocked––gasping, mouth opening and closing silently, a gutted goldfish––as words were torn from her throat: uncontrollably, unstoppably, in an acrid burning steam, as the water embraced her earth in its gaping maw.

Sinking deep in the frigid water, birds long gone as the islands faded from sight, tears bubbling and frothing around her, she searched for the shore of a never-ending sea. The stars rose, pinwheeling up in reverse snowfall as the pale sky dip dyed itself black, wet silk into spilt oil.

She turned her face skyward, gazed at the stars, and felt the surge and ebb of tides; promises dancing behind closed lips; eyes meeting in a split second of connection, if not understanding; as the water rose around her, in undulating waves––fearless, without hesitation.

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