winners of the 2023 poetry competition

35th Annual Poetry Contest & Awards

Whether it’s a lyric, sonnet, limerick, haiku or free verse, our poets put on their creative writing hats to submit poems following the contest rules for this year’s 35th Annual Poetry Contest.

Congratulations to our winners!


Contest rules

Poems must be original, previously unpublished and no more than two pages. Contestants may enter only one poem, and teachers may submit poems on behalf of students. Writers must live within 200 miles of Carl Sandburg College District 518 or have attended Sandburg. The winner's banquet will be held on Nov. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in the Sandburg library on the Galesburg campus.  


Fall 2023 contest winners

Elementary 1st-5th
  • First place
    Flowers by Anna Rozny

  • Second place
    The Magic of Opal by Opal Ponce-Little

  • Third place
    Long Division Cinquain by James Rozny

  • Honorable Mention
    • Love by Maria Rosa Ponce-Little
    • An Ode to My Cat by Grayson Hannam
Junior 6th-8th
  • First place
    The Traveling Boy by Erik Dockins

  • Second place
    The Never Ending Staircase by Rylan Doyle

  • Third place
    I am More Than Just Hair by Lexie Anderson

  • Honorable Mention
    • Alaska by Max J.T. Johnson
    • Nature by Kylie McClellan
Intermediate 9th-12th
  • First place
    Clay Vessel by Emma Racke

  • Second place
    In Between by Emily Katelynn Bredemeier

  • Third place
    Sold My Soul Waiting In Line At Hot Topic by Madelyn Sackett

  • Honorable Mention
    • What do you mean it was fake? by Alleah Rickard-Stone
    • One Door Opens by Grace Manning
  • First place
    story left by a coffee cup in the wee hours of the morning by Gary M. Armstrong

  • Second place
    Afternoon Heavy with the Closeness of Rain by Brooks Carver

  • Third place
    Songs for Former Gifted Kids by Melanie Delbridge

  • Honorable Mention
    • The Essence of You by Dorothy Dobson
    • I am the Sky by Amos Kipkemoi

Spring 2023 contest winners

Elementary 1st-5th

1st    Jay... by Lillian Edwards (King School)
2nd   Superstitions by Wesley Anderson (United West Elementary)
3rd   Red by Tristin Williams (ROWVA Elementary)


Honorable Mention

  • Looking Around by Marcus McBride (United West Elementary)
  • I Once Met a Guy by James Rozny (Homeschool)
Junior 6th-8th

1st    Friends by Jaylie Garrison (La Harpe School District #409)

2nd   A World of Light by Veronica Sanchez (Costa Catholic Academy)

3rd   I am by Abreanna Stevens (Williamsfield Schools)


Honorable Mentions

  • Deadly Dancer by Apolonia “Pola” McClure (Costa Catholic Academy)
  • Until I Met You by Elizabeth J. Martin (Costa Catholic Academy)
Intermediate 9th-12th

1st    The Mind's Murder by Julia Evans (Knoxville High School)

2nd   The Hill I Died On by Tenley Houzenga (Knoxville High School)

3rd    Awareness by Mitchell Parrish (Knoxville High School)


Honorable Mention

  • Hypocrisy by Samuel Kirk Watson (Galesburg High School)
  • The Soldier by Rachel Leary (United High School)

1st   but today...I do by Gary M Armstrong

2nd  Last Day by Marie Smysor Watson

3rd  To Me This Is Home by Sarah Amschler (La Harpe Staff)


Honorable Mentions

  • A Petal of Inception by Heather Bjoin
  • The Lamppost In The Ocean by Karisa Warren (CSC Alum)

2021 contest winners

Elementary Division
Tie for first place:
  • Orange and Pink Clouds by Karin Septima McCarthy Foubert
  • Friday, January 8, 2021 by Andre Regiacorte
Junior Division
1st place: Sun and Moon, Day and Night by Jorgiana Donald
2nd place: BOOM! CLAP! by Sophia Kisler
3rd place: Mars by Marcelo Diaz
Junior Division, Honorable Mention
Fire and Water by Michael Booth
The Backyard Squirrel by Sandra Williams
After years of zooming like a race car by Myoki Jordan
Toxic Waste in the Waters by Lincoln Wynes
Dear Women of the Future by Holly Blake
Intermediate Division
1st place: Prayer for Mountainous Face by Lindsay Dun
2nd place: The Day it Rained in Neverland by Scarlett Rose Binder
3rd place: her by Lilyan Jane McNally
Intermediate, Honorable Mention
I Died When I Was Thirteen by Owen Bouchard
Grandfather by Camryn Davis
Love, Freedom, and Humanity by Caleb Oxley
Adult Division
1st place: A Drink of Ink by Paul H. Maitland Jr.
2nd place: Early autumn god by Gary M. Armstrong
3rd place: The Shore by Ivy Lovell
Adult Division, Honorable Mention
The Gardens of Our Mind by James J. Sandegren
A Crazy Quilt World by Helen L. Burgess
A Winter Walk by Robert Sevin
barbershop comfort and trust by George Tanner

2020 contest winners

Elementary Division

First Place

Emerson Ponce (Oneida)


grass in the breeze
summer leaves on an old tree
my Christmas tree
carolers on Christmas day
the crunch of leaves when you step on them
people running on a trail
sour apples on a tree
mint cookie cake on a cold holiday
mom’s cooking
fear of my parents and brother when they scare me
happy when I am home with my family
I feel like I am turning green when I am sick.
Green, it’s a bunch of things not just the color of life it is what you make it. 

Second Place

Max Nichols (Oneida)

What Colors Are to Me

Black is my cat.
Brown is my dad’s old baseball bat.

Gold is one of my grandma's cattle.
Red is my apple.

Green is my sister’s coat.
Grey is my grandpa’s boat.

Blue is my grandma’s truck.
Tan is my cousin's buck.

Pink is my sister’s bike.
Purple is my mike’n’ike’s

That is what colors are to me.

Third Place

Cooper B. (Avon)  

The Different Soul

What do you see

when you look into my eyes? 

Something different

if you do not like that difference if you must lock me away,
lock my soul away, in that small
to rot and rot away.

Honorable Mentions

R. Darst (Avon) 

My Papa

Papa papa In the woods at night. Trying to kill a deer tonight
he is trying to beat cancer at the same time.
He didn't beat it but he tried.


Bella Putman (Avon) 

Inspired by Walter Dean Myers

Love that grandpa like a teacher loves to read
I said I love that grandpa like a teacher loves to read
I love to see him in the morning
I love to see him at night


Matthias Anderson (Galesburg)


The thoughts of a scary creature watching me leaves my face blank white
Or hanging my feet off of the bed makes me retreat instantly
And I curl up in the comfort of my bed.
Even though the sounds I hear in the blackened night
Shouldn't be there
Even when waking up in the morning
I can't seem to have these scary thoughts
Fade away from my mind
They haunt me especially at night in the
dark where whatever there is,
is unknown 


Molly Tomeo (Dahinda)


In the Colorado mountains
Snowboarding with my Dad
I see a lot of snow, trees, other people going up and down the mountain
I hear the wind brushing against the trees, snow on the boards,
The noisy lift as it goes up and down
I smell the pine trees, yummy food in the restaurants, the sweat as I work hard
I feel cold snow in the fresh, crisp air
My favorite thing about my perfect place
Is being close to my dad and having some daddy-daughter time
I wish for stronger rails to block me from falling
I believe that would make the mountains so much better
I love snowboarding with my dad

Junior Division

First Place

Clarissa Clark (Galesburg)

Life is a Book

Life is a book
Each day you live your life the book gets bigger
When you die, it will last forever
As long as clues of your life remain
If you walk down the street
You see different “books” everywhere
Some seem to be coated in gold, and encased safely Some are torn up, barely hanging on to life
And others are just your average book
Most of the time, they all have at least a tear
But looking underneath their appearance
They are all books 

Second Place

Toby Reynolds (Galesburg)

The Artisan's Craft

Oh the Artisan’s craft
Oh how wonderful it is
He works with chiseled stone
And broken bones
To see his buyer amazed
Oh how beautiful his craft is
Oh how perfect it is
With a sculpture’s face 

A buyer’s pain is taken all away
With how outstanding it is 

Third Place

Tristan Boynton (Wataga)


Schools out,
Kids all shout,
It’s time for summer again.
It's that time to hang with your friends,
 And all the time wasted that you spend.
Staying up til 4,
 Snore, snore, snore
Sleeping in til 1,
 Fun, fun, fun.
I can't wait to go swim,
On the water I will trim.
Lots of bike rides I will go,
And little blades of grass I will mow.
Doing lots of chores and getting lots of money,
Spending it on things that are kind of pointless and funny.
Fireworks all blasting,
And ashes all casting.
Realizing its almost school time again,
 I'm asking God just one more day, Amen.
It's finally time to go back to that dredged place,
As I say goodbye and there's disappointment on my face. 

Honorable Mentions

Devan Carroll (Galesburg)

The wind roughly brushes my face

The wind roughly brushes my face as I step outside to hear a raging tornado The town is caught by surprise
Houses are being ripped apart, families are losing their houses
The houses they grew up in, debris flying near the tornado leaving no mercy

Once the raging storm was over all you could see is all the Townspeople viewing the mess all over the town


Kaitlyn Esters (Galesburg) 

The Flashback

The small boy went out to play
As he was approaching
He felt the warm sun's ray
Then he kept going
Seeing the sun made him smile
It was the first of spring
And it was worth all the while
He met a girl
And gave her a gift
 A lollipop with a swirl
 She gave a sweet laugh
But she then began to drift
 The boy’s heart split in half
 The boy cried for her
To come back
But she had gone to far
Then ended the flashback
All alone in despair
The now grown man sits
Wishing she was still there
He just cannot get out of these pits
 She never did care
Why can’t he realize
She was just using him
Now motionless he lies
Oh How things have gotten so grim

Intermediate Division

First Place

Maren Wilder (Knoxville)  


The feel of your old jeans, worn to softness
The sound of a little brother running up to your room
The smell of a homemade lasagna that your mother made
The taste of a perfect danish sold by the cafe uptown
The sight of the stars, late at night, when you glide through the quiet empty street

The expanse of a simple life
The vacancy of a small town

Knowing that it's all yours, that this is where your comfort lies
Familiarity opens the gates to euphoria
For it's there all the while, waiting for your return

Second Place

Joseph Sandoval (Knoxville)

Thunder Heavy Rain

The world is bustling with energy
The songbirds chirping atop the willows
The gobbling tom headed back to roost for the night
The orange sun burning down to the west
The long March day approaching an end

A swift wind picks up from the west
The burning sun now engulfed by an oncoming ocean of gray
Nature seems to silence itself as the storm nears
No animal dares to make a noise
As the heavy rain edges closer

The wind halts to a stop
The leaves of the Oak yield there shuffling
The blue sky taken over by the storm front
The creek seems to flow slow and smooth
Its as if the world has stood still

The first sound to emerge is that of loud thunder
The first droplet of rain falls from the menacing sky
The creek begins to rush rapid and without a stopping moment
With no end of the storm in sight
The thunder heavy rain steals the night 

Third Place

Aaliyah Lynch (Knoxville)  

Patience of the Dead

I watched as she went from stone to stone
An odd, almost playful, dance of its own
Through her eyes did not twinkle or shine
Her expression showing no hint of merriment
Like it usually did

I did not know how long she'd been coming here
before I happened upon her the first time
Nor did I know who--or what--she had been waiting for
If anything at all
But I could be certain it was not me at that time

This time, though, it is me she waits for
And just like every other time,
My curiosity would soon get the better of me
Pushing me out of the cover of thick tree trunks
Forward on feet that crushed leaves much louder than hers ever did

Her back was to me when I approached her
I always had questions for her
Who she was, how she happened upon this place
So well hidden beyond the trees on my father’s property
If she was mourning someone

She would turn to me, usually, and joke
As far as I knew, she was only avoiding the question
But maybe she was sharing knowledge, disguised as something lighter
It had gone from weeks, to months
I still did not know her name

It was only today though, that I chose not to ask her anything
Her expression was different, not unfriendly, but no longer playful
She appeared to be filled with a determination that seemed shaky at best
She finally acknowledged me, with something I never thought I would receive;
An Answer

She told me she was only here to mourn someone she knew
And gestured to a stone before her, leaning precariously to the side
Soon she would leave, with no intentions of returning
As she grew weaker, and more tired
Weary of a world that she no longer belonged to

These were words that only caused my confusion to grow
As I turned my attention to the stone
Taking a few moments to make out the now ancient letters etched into it
Her wording had certainly implied
That different, more recent dates would be there

My attention now back on the mysterious girl, I asked
If she meant that this person was a relative, maybe an ancestor of hers
She insisted that she had known this girl, better than she knew herself
I then told her that there was no way this could be possible, willing to argue
for hours if it would get me a comprehensible answer

She interrupted me then, telling me she had to leave
And she thanked me for visiting her and her friend
She could not stay here like this any longer
But she hoped that I would still visit her
Because the ground was cold, and she was even colder 

Honorable Mentions

Chloe Myers (Gilson)


All she's ever known has been something she never knew
She looks in the mirror but she doesn't know who she sees
Who did she get her thick dark hair from?
Who did she get her round hooded eyes from?
When she laughs, who does she resemble?
When she sings, who does she sound like?
She dwells on the fact that she doesn't know
The puzzle piece that is missing in her identity keeps her awake at night
Questions of ambiguity fill her thoughts
Jealousy and disappointment give her a sense of loneliness
She doesn't know who she is

When I look in the mirror, I see my heritage but I don't see doubt
When I smile, I think of my mother assuring me that I am beautiful
When I laugh, I am reminded of the times my father has told me to enjoy life
When I am strong, I remember my parents sharing the idea of perseverance in my head

My family is my world and I don 't need blood to determine love
I don 't question my self-image
My life is not a lie
I am confident with myself
I know who I am 


Nicholas McDaneld (Gilson) 

Tattered and Torn

Tattered and torn I return home From the war that was seemingly endless

Tattered and torn my family sees me With cheers and happy faces gleaming

Tattered and torn I'm seen weeping
With tears of joy we are greeting

Lily Stockton (Knoxville)

The House That Was  

It was years ago now,

The leaves were turning colors Mid October was the time. Charlie Brown was the movie All of a sudden there was a Pop!
Soon began the most terrifying night of my life

The sky lit up in flames the height of trees

Before I knew it the entire house surrendered to the fire Next came the fire trucks and police

From four counties they traveled All night the house engulfed in flames
The morning concluded the most terrifying night of my life


Evan Rossell (Knoxville)

The Beginning of it All

In a small little town in the middle of nowhere,
Are a boy and a girl who do not know where they are going.
Two separate paths and two separate dreams
But these paths may join without them knowing.

The paths began to get closer and closer,
Then finally the paths became one.
The boy and the girl continued on this path
Then the boy messed up and the path was done.

The girl was hurt and despised the boy,
Everything the boy said the girl could not hear;
Her path continued on to bigger and better things
However, the boy's path remained unclear.

Few years later the girl came back from college.
During this time the boy had devised the perfect plan.
The girl returned expecting to see the boy
But what she found was a man.

Their paths joined together for the last time
And their future seemed so clear.
The love between them grew so strong.
Then their daughter was born, 1998 was the year.

Their love continued to grow strong
Every season whether it was winter, summer, spring or fall.
Then on November 26th, 2002 another boy joined their path
And this arrival was the beginning of it all.

Adult Division

First Place

Randy Seals (Monmouth)


The summer of 61 was a great year
for baseball in Festus, Missouri
it was hot and humid and buggy
and Mantle was chasing Maris or vice versa
Sandy Koufax was mowing ‘em down and
number 6 was still playing first for the Cards
I was pitching and playing first base
in little league for our Triple A Cardinals team
a junk throwing lefty with no bat
but like The Man a great glove on first base

Every night or late afternoon on game day
the boys would start to arrive
and soon a pile of bikes would stack up
behind the bleachers at Ed Pusateri field
Larry Alan May, my catcher
and Tommy White who played third
Mike Montgomery was our shortstop and
Russell Parks always played second
Randy Thomure always showed up but hardly ever played
he was afraid of the ball and scared to bat
we all understood anyway because
he was the only kid who rode an English Racer
but we still liked him and rooted him on
lots of kids took turns in the outfield but always
it was the McIntire twins Filbert and Gilbert in center and right
they had two younger brothers Wilbert and Dilbert
but they were too young for our team
all of us white boys waiting for Jimmy Montgomery
to ride up pumping Lee Otis Evans on the handlebars

They were colored kids but we didn’t care
or notice because they were our friends
and Jimmy was the fastest pitcher in the league
and Lee Otis was faster than Cool Papa Bell
at least that is what his daddy told him
we were a great team and I never understood
why Jimmy and Lee Otis would never
go get Ice Cream with us after the games when we won
or why we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes
in the part of town where they lived
or why, after we won the championship
and Jimmy and I were walking around with
our arms over each other’s shoulders like boys do
my dad told me never to do that again 

Second Place

Paul H. Maitland Jr. (Peoria)

"The Closing Rose" after Emily Dickinson’s “Crisis is sweet and yet the Heart”

The sooner days’ dusks fall the sooner you inquire
what day first frost might fling its sheet of
chill to bite and bruise the branch   brown the
leaves   lick the chlorophyll from her   to start closing
autumn’s lid upon your hold-out Rose

the hope she holds in facing   now   the pain which
shakes courageous faith   is scenes of Rapture
 of sprout and leaf and even thorns she
did accept as fibrous life   though not preferred

yet worth the cost of consciousness   and
bees abuzz for entry to her heart   she
chose but one she wanted   let his gentle will
be hers a pleasure   blushing now to tell
since you alone remain to listen   tells you
tales of joy of life   of love   of hope   sighing
in recall how warm the summer sun soothed   and the
bloom felt all aglow   and sensed time’s transport
forever   sees nights as providential signs of
dawn   opening new raptures soon after the
closing   when she again will feel herself the Bud . . .

Third Place

Gary M. Armstrong (Galesburg) 

"forever engraved
on the present"

Visitor, there are many names here.
But rather than a silent roll call,
       I ask you to touch the feelings laid to rest
In each creviced-letter vault.

Feel the quickened pulse of others before you,
Rummaging through old memories,
Sojourning at a single marbled place
Or the watershed rise between two such souls,
And weltering in rheumy-eyed reflection.

Sense the darker undercurrents as well,
Coursing with unheard sentiments
Silently shouting from shady-nook bowers,
Merging into a single tingling with that insensible
Clairvoyant that you are, who yet still feels.

But, visitor, pay close heed! Empathy
Can be like a reservoir overfilled with emotion.
And a catastrophic breach always a threat
When compassion exceeds its capacity.

But today is nearly done.
And the chiseling of it on the mind begun,
These stonecutters having done their work.

And as you saunter away,
In both distance and time,
You may become aware of yet another feeling...

That the past is like a name
Forever engraved on the present.

Honorable Mentions

Brooks Carver (Canton)

"Our Lives Are Measured In Good-byes"

Open your paint box
Squeeze paint onto your palette
Use the brightest primary colors

On a large brush loaded
With swirling brilliance
Let it flow freely
Don’t stay in the lines

Only you will see the finished product
Only you will know when it is final
Only you understand when it is
Truly good-bye

But it is still there on your canvas
Living in that personal place
Where good-byes dwell

Now tuck your painting away
Into the loving scrapbook
Of private masterpieces
Carefully saved 


Rebecca A. Logue (Chillicothe)  


Under fast-moving dark clouds,
precursor to late summer thunderstorms,
through shifting early morning mist,
mallards bank toward the water and
set down in the reservoir.

I put my book on the cherry red
cushion of the window seat, and watch.
I wonder what made them stop here.
I've never seen mallards here before.
But, really, would I have noticed?

This early in the morning, and if their
stay was short? With drab summer feathers?
Doubtful. In their spring colors? Oh, yes.
I imagine their glossy green heads in the
light and dark of a day like today.

In the lane, red and sugar maples, black
walnut trees, oaks and pines drip from their
thick canopy into the undergrowth.
Deeper in, a dead maple lifts broken
limbs to sketch charcoal lines on the sky.

If I always had spring, trees budding, wild
violets popping up all over my lawn,
or fall, brazenly setting my lane on fire,
I'd miss: smell of coming storm; gray and plum sky;
dark beauty; the urgent magnetic pull of now. 


James J. Sandegren (Keokuk, Iowa)

"Truth to Love"

When truth becomes joy and joy becomes love,
And passion a flower and they seek the flower.
When hearts come together and love makes the flower,
They will see their creation for hour on hour.

When love brings the passion and passion the flower
They cherish each other for hour on hour
And never be sad as the dark clouds may shower
The life-giving goodness, and never turn sour.

One flower is beauty the other is power
Which looks on the beauty for hour on hour
And strength does not notice the thorns of the flower.
For never is offered, the thorns to the power.

The power and beauty are cleaving together
And out of their cleaving comes forth a bright flower.
Which they are creating from joy they are sharing
With never the power to darken their hour.

Behold the new flower as it laughs in the Sun
It looks and it wonders for hour on hour.
It looks on the world it has come to possess.
The beauty and power brought forth a new flower.

And now the new flower sees beauty and strength
As it looks on the world it must now understand.
It will gaze at the beauty and then at the strength
As they gaze at each other for hour on hour.


George Tanner (Yates City)

"momma robin"

last stop, on the deadend limb of my route
parking beside a sad semi cab, it nested
on four flat tires, there her nest woven
round and secure in the web of a sidemirror brace
a sound foundation but absent a leafy roof,
where she stately sat, judging me no threat
duty posed, warming and protecting her family line

that was yesterday and last night it rained
a May shower but with a March chill
tonight again, without shelter, she’ll feather
             away a cold rain
while I, in a warm room, poetry book
             and teacup, my mind nested
within artistic lines, ‘til mid-page
memory and conscience lift me, and worry
takes me on a thought out into the night,
its wish that I could do more, to offer her
             a canopy and a blanket.