We’re proud to announce the winners of the first annual New Jersey Youth Poet Laureate Contest!

The three 2017 New Jersey Youth Poet Laureates are Mel Xiao, a Newark Academy student from Livingston; Eileen Huang, a High Technology High School student from Holmdel; and Nicole Tota, a Cherokee High School student from Marlton. These three winners will represent North, Central, and South Jersey, respectively. Writers Theatre will present them with opportunities to perform and share their work throughout the state and their poems will be published later this year.  Each winner will also receive a Governor’s Award.

 

With this being the first year of the contest, we didn’t expect anywhere near the over 800 submissions we received, so the judging and awards process took longer than anticipated, but we’ve ironed out the kinks and are adjusting the timing for next year’s contest.  We thank you for your patience during the process.

 

The Youth Poet Laureate contest was something Writer’s Theatre Artistic Director John Pietrowski had long been wanting to provide for New Jersey youth poets, alongside the other educational writing opportunities the theatre already provides, like the NJ Young Playwrights Festival. Pietrowski: “This project is part of the National Youth Poet Laureate Program, run by Michael Cirelli of Urban Word in New York City. It has an enormous national presence. The winning writers will each have five of their poems printed in the national anthology, compete for a Northeast Region prize that includes an anthology of the winners work, and finally, have the opportunity to become the National Youth Poet Laureate. Additional performance opportunities will be available both in state and regionally.”

 

Over 165 students submitted 830 poems this year. Each student had to submit a Poem of Place, which literally or metaphorically describes where the poet lives. We asked Kaeley Ipson, a poet from Somerville High School who participated in the contest, how she approached writing her poem of place, “The World Outside My Window.”  She responded, “after hours of scribbling nonsense notes of sheets of paper, an idea emerged in my head. I saw the leaves falling from the tree limbs, lying cracked and calloused on the dry grass. I saw the sun dip below the autumn tree line. I saw how lethargic the tree limbs looked; they hung low in the air as the wind stripped away their leaves. While noticing these things, I realized though I was removed from the environment outside, I still was affected by nature.”

 

“I decided to write a poem about the sheltered life we, as modern humans, live. Though we shelter ourselves from nature, we are not exempt from the effects of nature. Just as summer must turn into fall, we must age and change as well. After I came up with this idea, the entire poem flowed from there. I wrote enthusiastically the rest of the night, editing, tweaking, re-reading, and repeating.”

 

Forty-one poems of place from this year’s competition will be collected and published on the Writers Theatre website and combined with a visual component to create a virtual poetic map of the state of New Jersey, which allows readers to find out about the places those poets are from through their poetry. Additionally, “Judge’s Choice” poems will be published online at www.wtnj.org

 

This year’s NJ Youth Poet Laureate competition was judged by professional poets and writers that include New Jersey State Council on the Arts Poetry Fellows, Pushcart Prize nominees, and more. The judges were Eloise Bruce, Arthur Wilson, Penny Harter, Meghan Privitello, Joseph Rathgeber, David Keller, Claudia Cortese, Gabor Barabas, Peter Murphy, and Nancy Scott. “All of the judges are well-recognized New Jersey-based professional poets,” said Pietrowski. “Our goal was to bring these writers into the rich community that is New Jersey Poetry.”

Congratulations to the winners and to everyone who wrote and submitted poems to this year’s contest!

[A list of Poet Laureates, the “Judge’s Choice,” and Poems of Place winners follows. Students’ schools and hometowns are listed]

 

 

New Jersey Youth Poet Laureates:

Southern NJ (Atlantic, Ocean, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Burlington, Camden)

Nicole Tota from Marlton – a student at Cherokee High School in Marlton, NJ.

Central NJ (Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth)

Eileen Huang from Holmdel – a student at High Technology High School in Lincroft, NJ.

Northern (Sussex, Warren, Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Hudson, Essex, Union)

Mel Xiao from Livingston – a student at Newark Academy in Livingston, NJ.

 

Judge’s Choice Poems

Forty of the highest scoring poems will be published in an online anthology on the WTNJ website. Nineteen students had their poems included in the Judge’s Choice Category (sorted by home town)

Name Municipality School School City
Elizabeth Hanna Bayonne Bayonne High School Bayonne
Jasmine Sharma Franklin Lakes Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Su Min Kim Harrington Park Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Eileen Huang Holmdel High Technology High School Lincroft
Sarah Ryu Leonia Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Alexa Dersovitz Livingston Livingston High school Livingston
Alexandra Franchino Livingston Livingston High School Livingston
Evelyn Ho Livingston Livingston High School Livingston
Mattie Beauford Livingston Livingston High School Livingston
Mel Xiao Livingston Newark Academy Livingston
Young Se Choi Livingston Newark Academy Livingston
Ezra Lebovitz Maplewood Newark Academy Livingston
Miranda Crowley Monroe Township Monroe Township High School Monroe Township
Melissa Cui Oradell Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Jenna Israel Short Hills Millburn High School Millburn
Emma Weiss Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale
Katharine Boyajian Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale
Nicole Yeager Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale
Anika Prakash West Windsor West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South West Windsor

 

Poems of Place

Forty-one poems were selected as part of the special Poems of Place Category, where writers had to submit a poem that had something to do with where they lived. These poems will be published on an interactive map on the NJ Youth Poet Laureate Website at WTNJ.org.  The 41 winners are below (sorted by home town):

 

Name Town School Municipality Poem
Samantha Yaccarino Allendale Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Artificial
Vincent Lam Bayonne Bayonne High School Bayonne Bayonne
Elizabeth Hanna Bayonne Bayonne High School Bayonne Quarters
Ujwal Rajaputhra Belle Mead Montgomery High School Skillman Chaos Unchained
Sean Pergola Blairstown North Warren Regional High School Blairstown Bursting Point
Kaeley Ipson Branchburg Somerville High School Somerville The World Outside My Window
David Tian Edison John P. Stevens High School Edison In Response to Kerry James Marshall
Sophie Weinberg Edison John P. Stevens High School Edison Room
Grace Catalano Egg Harbor Township Egg Harbor Township High School Egg Harbor Township Bridgeton Avenue
Jasmine Sharma Franklin Lakes Bergen County Academies Hackensack Dust
Su Min Kim Harrington Park Bergen County Academies Hackensack Migration
Jacqueline Yang Ho-Ho-Kus Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Garden of the Dead
Ethan Sumner Ho-Ho-Kus Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Home
Eileen Huang Holmdel High Technology High School Lincroft How to Ride the NJ Transit
Jess D’Agostino Holmdel Holmdel High School Holmdel A Hospital Bed (after “And Soul” by Eavan Boland
Nicole Santiago Lake Hopatcong Jefferson Township High School Oak Ridge Garden Lungs and A Harp String Ribcage
Sarah Ryu Leonia Bergen County Academies Hackensack 할머니
Young Se Choi Livingston Newark Academy Livingston Evening in New York
Mel Xiao Livingston Newark Academy Livingston Livingston
Jesica Porcelli Livingston Livingston High School Livingston Fireworks
Mattie Beauford Livingston Livingston High School Livingston Fall
Emily Mayo Mahwah Bergen County Academies Hackensack The House on a Hill
Ezra Lebovitz Maplewood Newark Academy Livingston Love Letter to a City
Aarushi Gupta Marlton Cherokee High School Marlton A Walk in the Woods
Nicole Tota Marlton Cherokee High School Marlton Epiphany of a Morning Commute
Miranda Crowley Monroe Township Monroe Township High School Monroe Township Home is a Loved One
Carly Cananvina Morris Plains Morristown High School Morristown Warm Sugar
Danielle Simon Morristown Morristown High School Morristown Simon Danielle What A World
Brittany Marcucci Newark Kearny High School Kearny Brick City
Melissa Cui Oradell Bergen County Academies Hackensack 1663 Dong Fang Street
Sierra Farrell Parlin Sayreville War Memorial High School Parlin Mailing Address
Neha Komatreddy Princeton Junction Peddie School Hightstown Unsolicited Advice to New Neighbors
Michael Ni Red Bank Middletown HS South Middletown Red Bank
Jenna Israel Short Hills Millburn High School Millburn Dollhouse Town
Emma Weiss Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Welcome Home!
Katharine Boyajian Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale 7 Ridge Roadplace
Lauren Ellis Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Seaside Heights
Taylor Bechtel Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale The Trees That Grew From Sadness
Nicole Yeager Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Carlstadt, NJ
Anika Prakash West Windsor West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South West Windsor Where Did You Come From? How Did You Arrive?
Katy Kim Westfield Newark Academy Livingston Late Note