Excellence In Poetry Award Winners

This special state award honors the Power of Poetry. Regional poetry winners compose new poems on a state level prompt, these pieces are evaluated by the State Tournament Poet Laureate, and a winner is chosen.

2023 Winner

Shaliz Bazldjoo,

“ode to vandalizing robert e. lee statues,”

Laurel School


he chewed cigarette ash
in his cleanest
white uniform
and surrendered
with battles
still lodged in his fingernails.
the april sun plastered itself to the grass at his feet,
american bodies watering american dirt (this
is what they say for soft hands meeting,
splattering their signatures onto pages
to chords of gunpowder agony) and
the old world shriveled, coiling
into a grave close enough
to smell from the surface and

she’s smiling.
light eclipses the midnight
of her hair.

yesterday they stacked their weapons
and let wives suck trigger bruises
off their fingers, and everybody
was safe but not really, and everybody
was everybody but not really. today,

colors drip down
a dead man’s throne.
spray-painted words entangle on the plaque
beneath his horse’s feet. lime greens kiss reds,
blues sob into yellow carvings.

tomorrow, they’ll scrape
all the colors off the gray,
paint painters
as terrorists. but
right now she’s still smiling,
her teeth a purer white, and
there are enough flowers
across the ground
to fill a battlefield.

2022 Winner

Annie Johnson,

Dublin Coffman High School


The Question: 

If lightning never strikes
twice in the same place
then how am I supposed
to live again? I’ve been
chasing this fire in my
tendons since August.
My muse’s name is
Narcissus and he
hates me. It’s a bit
of a paradox in all
honesty. He died in
the water and I will die
in the rain dressed in
tinfoil, mouth open,
waiting for inspiration
or drowning or both.

The Answer: 

You never believe me
when I tell you that
everything stays. You
don’t need that second
bolt of electricity, the
first one is enough. It’s
still inside you, you know.
I can feel it humming
through your veins. It sounds
like the fluorescent lights
you always shied away
from beneath cold palms.
Thunder does not travel
with lightning, it takes its time.
The boom and crash, the
echo of things forgotten.
Even flashbulbs long gone still
leaves traces. Stop screaming
for the sky to blind you and
How does that old saying go?
Any port in a storm?

2021 State Winner

Amelia Campbell, Maimi Valley School

2020 State Winner

Rachel deHaan, Independence High School