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Hear the winners of WPSU's Student Poetry Writing Contest read their poems

 WPSU's 2024 Poetry Writing Contest Winners seen from top left to right: Remington Aileo, Alaina Smith, Nina Woldt, Maya Dombroskie.
Emily Reddy
WPSU's 2024 Poetry Writing Contest Winners seen from top left to right: Remington Aileo, Alaina Smith, Nina Woldt, Maya Dombroskie.

I’m Marjorie Maddox. For National Poetry Month, we’re delighted to host the winners of our 2nd annual contest, open to students in K-12th grades. WPSU received over 293 submissions across fifteen counties.

So here’s to young authors and their poetic visions! And here’s to the teachers, parents, and volunteers who led the way to such imaginative explorations!

The winner for the K-2 category is second grader Remington Aileo of State College. In his narrative poem “The Invisible Dragon,” Remington uses rhyme, a boy, a dragon, and an unexpected meeting to contemplate friendship and courage.

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Here’s “The Invisible Dragon” by Remington Aileo

Deep inside an old dark cave.
Lives a friendly invisible dragon.
This unusual dragon named Clave
Doesn't know his invisible situation.

One day a little boy came in to hide.
The boy had no idea what waited inside.
When Clave got closer and started to speak,
The little boy looked and let out a squeak.

He asked out loud who was there.
Clave wondered why he couldn't see
How is it possible, a big dragon like me!"
Clave roared, moved and touched his hair.

The boy was courageous and reached it's scales
He told Clave "You're as invisible as can be!"
"Am I? That explains everything!" Clayve yells.
From now on, they are friends for eternity.

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The winner for third to fifth graders is third grader Alaina Smith of State College. Full of joy, motion, and mystery, the poem “Alysia’s Dance” underscores a mystical connection with nature.

Here’s “Alysia’s Dance” by Alaina Smith.

Dryads humming secret songs of enchantment
She joins them, dancing and twirling
The willows listen, branches swaying, moaning and creaking
Dawn breaks, the moon fades
She shimmers

- - -

The winner for sixth to eighth graders is sixth grader Nina Woldt of Warren. Nina’s winning poem, “Beautiful Things,” is a villanelle, a nineteen-line poem that employs repetition. Listen as the poet ponders the intersection of beauty and simplicity—while also employing the villanelle form.

Here's “Beautiful Things” by Nina Woldt.

There's always beauty-no matter where you look.
Golden sunlight streaming through an open window shade.
The most gorgeous things are the simplest ones.

Swaying leaves switching outfits, a painter's magical dream,
A fire dancing and crackling in an ancient stone hearth,
There is always beauty-no matter where you look.

Saltwater waves delicately licking your bare feet,
Memories past framed and drowsing on a wooden mantel piece,
The most gorgeous things are the simplest ones.

Sitting atop a pine swing soaring high up into the sky,
Jack Frost’s frigid paintings left on the frosty windowpanes,
There is always beauty-no matter where you look.

Finding a neglected fountain, moss loved and scarcely gurgling,
Hanging shimmering adornments on a light-weaved Christmas tree.
The most gorgeous things are the simplest ones.

Opening a handcrafted card from a sibling, one that's replete with love,
A butterfly delicately landing on your hand while paddling on a mist coated lake.
There's always beauty-no matter where you look.
The most gorgeous things are the simplest ones.

- - -

The winner for ninth to twelfth graders is eleventh grader Maya Dombroskie of Boalsburg. Poets strive to present universal truths in fresh and engaging ways. In “Glitter,” Maya gets at the hard truths of grief by using images we will not soon forget.

Here’s “Glitter” by Maya Dombroskie.

Grief rains
like glitter at a party,
Making a god-awful mess,
But in the moment,
Feeling right.

Refusing to be swept away,
One brush and a body,
Scrubbed raw, will shimmer,
With memories plastered
To skin, tangled in hair.

Reflecting sunlight and pain
On an unsuspecting Sunday,
Revealing a mirror ball,
Where there was skin,
Projecting memories
Onto familiar walls,
Before we drop and shatter.

Long after the party is over
In those million, messy pieces
Grief remains.

From wherever you are listening, please clap for the winning poems, as read by the authors themselves. You may view the top three entries in each category at the WPSU Poetry Contest webpage:

May we continue to encourage creativity wherever we find it, but especially in the young.

For Poetry Moment, I’m Marjorie Maddox.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.
Kristine Allen is Program Director of WPSU-FM. She also files feature stories for WPSU on the arts, culture, science, and more. When she's not at WPSU, Kris enjoys playing folk fiddle, acting, singing and portrait-sketching. She is also a self-confessed "science geek." Kris started working in public radio in college, at age 17, and says she "just couldn't stop."