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Thursday, October 22, 2009



First Place (tie)
Sarah Brady

Holly Springs High School (now attending UNC-CH)

Vocabulary Words

The oak tree outside my window is changing colors
in a kind of passive acquiescence it seems, the green fading and
shocks of crimson and burgundy cropping up each afternoon,
effervescent in the dappled sunlight.

Last year my eager classroom learned
chlorophyll, pigment, carotenoid.
These words we committed to memory meant no more to us
than the faded shots of far-off guns in far-off lands
or the true meaning of the white flower in Frankenstein
or the piece of paper encased in glass, guaranteeing life liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re maybe learning
all the wrong things in our cubes of classrooms.
Present tenses and past participles, the War of 1812,
the quadratic formula crowd around my ears and sure
I can recite the Pledge of Allegiance in two languages
but it doesn’t mean that I understand the meaning.
Patriotism. Warfare. Peace. Loyalty.

It’s all as distant to me as the struggle for color in a single autumn leaf.
War is that something in the headlines, peace the brass ring forever
reached for. Honor has been recycled into respect, love deemed too idealistic,
ethics murdered in the second-floor stairwell.
And in the end, I am lost,
stuck between textbook precision and real-life passion,
a choice that I will not make.

(Sarah Brady)

Erin Walklet

Cardinal Gibbons High School, Raleigh

A??π? (agape)

It echoes in my mind.
Eternally, slowly.
Resounding with nothing
Our ears could perceive.
It reverberates in my heart.
Aching. Clenching. Rugged.
I can’t forget as I
Just dream.
Wisplike strands catch between my lips.
The whisper of fingers brushing,
And the concentration of your gaze is
Enveloping like the
Clouds rotating in heavenly
Hesitant as they paint the sky
Columns of sour orange and lingering pink,
Pausing as they turn towards the sun.
As I wait here,
Wait for the time to turn round,
Please remember even
When the night is a deep vacuum,
Locking your hands into empty shells
And the stars are shattered and blank,
Remember it crashes within me
As well.
It’s your choice I hold onto,
Your voice in the darkness that
I wait for. To the quiet I tell:
Stay when only the silence remains,
And company is the space between your thoughts.
Hold onto the hope that someday
From the hole something eternal will form.
Think instead of the way
Sea melts into sky and
The blueness begins to burn
Onto your eyelids.
The way that skin and sand and salt could
Comfort in an ironic way.
Two palms back to back,
And sideways smiles
We made up our own words,
Counting the waves of spiraling light that surged and fell,
Dispersing on faces upturned, exuberant, and
It was enough.

(Erin Walklet)

Second Place: (3-way tie)

Courtney Duckworth

R. L. Patton High School
(Morganton, NC)

ode to karen dalton

pucker for me, babe:
break loose twelve bars fluttering solo
thru bent notes and fish-lip
pentatonics. i want glissando,
the electric meow of sirens, a junkyard
angel's catcall singular as gospel truth.
lay your banjo screeching pizzicato
into my palm, soften twelve-string ballads
with your teeth, malleable like gold leaf.
you could make chocolate melt
with that syntax, could erect
a bonfire seance for your cherokee
ancestors. belt trying again. sing it like
sculpting a dove out of butter,
like throwing a corn husk doll into
the wide open prairie, searching for it
barefoot, skirts hitched. i know
you're from oklahoma, babe, but
i don't think you're a hillbilly. you can
borrow my clothes, i promise;
you can sing love notes on the porch
when our feet are lying together (wife
& wife), folded upwards like casual
prayer to the sky. i'll tell you who
loves you the best, but i won't tell you
it's me.

(Karen Dalton, folk and blues singer/musician)

Chelsea Hansen

Penn-Griffin School for the Arts
High Point

Met Death

Met death on the street today
shook his hand
felt like my own

Met death on the street today
No scythe or black robe
just a brown cap and a briefcase
Hair was falling out like autumn trees

Met death on the street today
gravity pulls him down further than most
He slugs around like he’s running through water

Met death on the street today
His mouth was a chimney
smelled like a house set afire

Met death on the street today
I tasted his breath
He’s had a pack or two

Met death on the street today
Met his gaze
looking in the reflection on the water
like shards of glass

Maria Evans
Leesville Road High School, Raleigh (Now at UNC-CH)

A Breath
The smell of gasoline wafts past
in the wake of a faded blue Toyota.
Choking on fume-filled air,
a middle-aged man glances up
from his novel, his inhalation of
words having been interrupted.
In the wind are
precious pages of another world,
the scent of knowledge.
Another seat down, a woman glares,
popping echoes in her head—
this evening’s meal.
Chopping carrots, mashing
requires consideration
as well, but first
here is the bus.
Sliding along metal rails
guiding hands more coarse
than sandpaper, more gentle
than a fawn. Catching the
sun, a gold watch
glitters from the delicate wrist
of an elegant woman running
from life.

Maria Evans

Honorable Mentions:

Allison Kupatt

Enloe High School, Raleigh

Cult Classics

Once Upon a Time, I walked with a zombie
And the spirits thought to leave me alone.
Ah, dreams and nightmares, they scare me equally:
All the secret meanings I want to avoid, lead up to
What I remember in the early morning.
I wish I could avoid the dead-fish stares
Of plastic stars and bleached smiles,
While the ghosts of the celluloid past glare through
The iron fences. I’m left with all those nightmares,
Flitting like memories while I stroll down boulevards.
Walking in the waking world is like
A bit part in a cult classic, only for me, the
Zombies and voodoo ceremonies are real—
They just take place at the subway platforms and coffee shops,
This has always been true, I just didn’t open my eyes.
Oh, I miss the Good Old Days, when
Zombies didn’t make house calls, and
I could relax amidst my toy box and cartoon reels.
There’s something to say for Ignorance and Bliss,
But still, those memories are all bittersweet.
I walked with a zombie one morning,
And it changed my ways, my knowledge for the world.
The spirits left me alone with the black-and-white ghosts.
I mediate the battle between dreams and nightmares,
And learn to be less afraid.

People dressed as Zombies for Halloween (Wikipedia)

Amanda Honey
Carrboro High School


Hot air rises from the concrete
in swift, promising ringlets.
The noon sun bearing down on
unsuspecting townsmen.
Runners take their ritual jog,
stealing through each trail in all their
paled, sweated, short-shorted glory.
Soft claps of conversation left in their wake,
only spoken between soles and dry Carolina clay.
Moistened breaths quickened and whispered,
living to quiet the air.
Slight ups-and-downs of chests
oxidizes blood cells and
gives the Earth reason to revolve once again.
Maybe if there was one skipped step
the world would cease to move.
And we would be sent tumbling
into the blazing sun,
bones incinerated into the body's
last action of that day.
But the jaunt is not slowed,
the step not skipped,
and these runners never still.

Rachel Thompson

Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, High Point

Aqua, Terra, and Zephyr

When a mothers’ child is abused by another, would the mother want revenge?

Aqua: I smiled when they sailed across me
Splashing their faces with the sea water
Gladly providing them with the molecule for life; the universal solvent.
But they dumped their trash in me
Leaving a scar twice the size of Texas in the center of my back.
Then blamed me when tsunamis crushed their factories
And when hurricanes plumaged their cities.

Terra: Initially, I didn’t mind when they cut off my limbs.
I was happy to give them firewood.
But they wouldn’t give be a break;
Kept on chopping off my arms and legs
Wired their own electric system through me.
Then blamed me when my blood boiled over
Destroying their precious wooden houses.
And when infertile soil wouldn’t grow the trees that they’d just cut down.

Zephyr: I gently moved their bonfire smoke
And brought the rains to dampen their factory smoke
But I started coughing after a while.
I got sick, and bringing the winds took longer.
Their cars and planes didn’t help either;
They started to tear a hole in my cloak, my armor, their armor.
Then blamed me when I rained their pollutants back at them
And when tornadoes tore their material things away from them.

Earth Seen from Apollo 17

Megan Przybyla
Leesville Road High School, Raleigh


Late July:
Sunshine grates
On parched skin,
Scraping until red faces
Cower in the shade.
Humid air winds
Around languid limbs,
As sticky
And smothering
As plastic wrap
Around a squashed
Peanut butter
And grape jelly
Flies zip by
With the buzz
Of an electric razor
At 6 AM
As angels
Crack their knuckles
With resonating
From behind stone-gray
The world smells like hope.

Song of the Angels by Bouguereau, 1825–1905.

About Our Poets

(All poets were invited to send biographical information.)
This year our Middle School poets were outstanding. Christopher J. Murphy (CJ) is fifteen years old. He was born and raised in Lincoln County. He has attended Lincoln County Schools since kindergarten. His hobbies include riding four-wheelers, hunting, fishing, and hiking with his friends. A member of the class of 2013, he says he is very proud that his poem won this award. He plans to go into construction upon graduation: anything but roofing! Falecia Metcalf lives in Weaverville, where she is an 8th grader at North Buncombe Middle School. She says, “I love to read and write. As for writing poems I really got kicked off this year when we started our poetry unit. Then from there I have kept on writing and actually couldn't stop! The poems come to me quicker than I can write them down sometimes. Mrs. Young, my 7th grade Language Arts Teacher at North Buncombe Middle School and sponsor for the NC Student Poet Laureate Contest, really encouraged me to write, along with my family.” Allie Sekulich has been devoted to writing over the years, and in 2007 & 2008, with the help of a great teacher, she entered numerous writing contests. In addition to winning second in a NC State Fair Essay contest, she entered and won The Raleigh News and Observer’s Character Education Essay Contest, receiving a pair of tickets to see a basketball game for that greatest of Universities, North Carolina State! Besides reading and writing, Allie plays piano and has a passion for figure skating. She is starting her 7th grade year at Neuse Charter Middle School in Smithfield.

Several of our high school winners recently entered college. Sarah Brady, a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, is considering majoring in Journalism or English. She was a semifinalist for the Morehead-Cain Scholarship and the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship. She was named the News and Observer female scholar athlete of the year. At UNC, she hopes to write for The Daily Tarheel. Some of her favorite activities are reading, writing in her journal, backpacking, and running. Maria Evans, having graduated from Leesville Road High school, also is a freshman at UNC, where she attends as a Teaching Fellow. Writing will no doubt be an important part of her life as a teacher. Allison Kupatt writes poetry, short stories, and comics. She too is currently attending UNC-CH.

Rachel Thompson and Chelsea Hansen are musicians as well as writers. Both attend Penn-Griffin School for the arts in High Poet. Chelsea, the daughter of Scott and Tazmen Hansen, is a junior and a guitar student at Penn-Griffin. In ninth grade, she fell in love with writing. She has received an honorable mention in the haiku contest sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society. Rachel, the daughter of Gary and Lynda Thompson, is a junior and an orchestra student, a violinist,. She wants to write a novel one day. Her poetry has won honorable mentions in contests sponsored by the Phoenix Festival and N. C. Poetry Society, as well as a second prize from Muse on Greensboro, a contest sponsored by the Greensboro Public Library. . Amanda Honey, from Chapel Hill, attends Carrboro High School. Courtney Duckworth lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge mountains. She is 16 years old and a senior at Patten High School in Morganton. Her English teacher is Mr. John Zimmerman. This summer she attended Governor's School East in Raleigh, studying Poetry with instructor Chuck Sullivan. Megan Przybyla is a junior at Leesville Road High School. She is a voracious reader and loves the sticky sweetness of summertime. She is excited to be included in this booklet, which is her first publication. Erin Walklet is a junior at Cardinal Gibbons High School, a member of the Lancer Club and National Honors Society. She plays club soccer with CRSC in Raleigh. She would like to keep writing and is considering a degree in that field.

NCETA Student Laureate Poetry Contest
The contest is open to all North Carolina Students in Grades 6-8 and 9-12.
Each winner (Middle and High School) will receive $250.00 and a framed copy of his or her winning poem printed on a broadside. Each Second Place winner (Middle and High School) will receive $50.00. All winners will be recognized by North Carolina’s poet laureate at NCETA’s annual conference and have their winning poems published on the NCETA and the NC Arts Council Websites. If no poems qualify for the title of NC Student Poet Laureate, no award will be given and the reigning student laureate will maintain the title for another year.

Updated requirements for the 2010 contest will be posted on the NCETA site ( and made available through other sources of information. The deadline is April 15.

Namesake and History
In 2007, Kathryn Stripliing Byer, North Carolina's Poet Laureate, and her family established the North Carolina Student Poet Laureate Awards in memory of her father, C.M. Stripling. Kathryn Byer has lived in western North Carolina since 1968, when she received her MFA degree from UNC-G. Her father, a farmer, became one of Georgia’s most respected spokesmen for agriculture and conservation. The love of language, literature, and teaching runs in the family. Her grandmother and great-grandmother were teachers, and her husband, James Byer, served as Head of the English Department at WCU. Their daughter Corinna was a 1996 Amy Charles and NCETA Writing Award winner.

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