VOYA’s Teen Poetry Contest 2012

poetry picNinety-one qualifying poems were entered into VOYA’s annual teen poetry contest in 2012. It is never an easy job for the judges to narrow our selections down to only five winners. The winners have captured moments that everyone has experience with, but they do what we often do not take the time to do—look at ordinary things in unique ways. These poets take the time to think about and examine these ordinary-made-extraordinary moments closely for us. We send congratulations and hopes for continued writing to our winning poets.






Catch the Wind

On breezy days when the wind is out to play,

I run outside into the arms of the breeze.

I close my eyes and spread out my wings,

And wait for the wind to pick me up.


And when it comes,

It arrives with a gentle kiss on my nose,

And a playful blow at my hair.

I greet it with a friendly smile,

And I take off,





My hair billows out behind me,

And I raise my face to the breeze.

I close my eyes and let the wind tickle my lashes.

I am a piece of the wind, the sky, the universe.


And when it settles,

I float slowly down to the ground,

Left with a longing for more.


So I close my eyes and spread out my wings again,

And wait for a chance,

To catch the wind.

Jisoo Choi, age 12

Sponsored by Teen Curriculum Coordinator, Howard County Library System, Columbia, MD



Sitting down at the table feels like
Being wrapped in a warm blanket.
The familiarity of the food, of my grandmother’s place at the table,
Of the same toasts over and over – “to health! To America!” –
Is unusual. Everything else changes.
My brother and I silently compete over scoops of salad Olivier,
And his daughter is my guinea pig;
I coax her to eat just a little bit of red, salty, exploding caviar on buttered bread.
She says no.
She grows and vaguely rings a bell for me and my resistance
To speak Russian. To go to Russian school. To eat Russian food. Why Russian food, again?
Can’t we eat some pasta or something besides borscht and meat kotleti and thick potatoes?
(I hold my tongue about the saffron rice–fluffy, yellow, favorite.)
The transition was gradual:
Now, I pester parents about gathering.
The freezer is a lacking friend at dinnertime; I want hot, delicious tradition
With no regard for calories. Smear on the butter and serve the cake and tea.
I even have my old teacher’s phone number, written in my grandfather’s hand.
When she sees my grandparents, she says, “She is always welcome back.”
I will call her soon; two weeks, three weeks.
Do they call this regression? The need to regain routine as I stand on the brink of leaving?
Regression. Regrussian. Russian. Remembrance.

Daniela Lapidous, age 18

Sponsored by Adult and Teen Services Librarian Michèle Huie, Santa Clara County Library, Saratoga, CA


That Old Chair

 I stare at that old chair

in the corner

where the shadows collect.

Its worn red leather with the stitches

ribboned down the sides

 are wrinkles holding memories

through my life.


But it is more than just a chair

to me

it is my imaginations jungle

where all of my thoughts can be wild

and run free.

It’s stitches are not just pieces of string

 they hold the room together

and keep the memories in place.

The cushions, once a golden chariot

decorated to my liking

every detail vivid

in my imagination.


Today it serves a different purpose

and next year it will, too.

What would happen to this chair

if the chariot would crash

if the fine stitches

that hold the room together

 would untangle themselves from the old leather

and drift away

 into their own corners

 where the shadows collect?

Would it tear?

Would the memories slowly drain from the wood

 and spill on the floor?

It would only take one small mistake

 to make this chair tear

then it would be nothing

 but that old chair

 just sitting there.


Ellie Oberink, age 13

Sponsored by Language Arts Teacher Steve Simonton, Frank H. Harrison Middle School, Yarmouth, ME




I fell into a pattern of isolation after I fell out of love.

Tied the past to my head, and lost connection with the present.

Discounted healthy progression, resolution was invisible.


It is challenging to balance between mistakes and the unknown-

To keep distance from self-destructive spirals.

Rub your eyes, clear your head.

Take a nap, spin a record.

Smile in the mirror, it’s not too bad.

Hug your father, thank your mother.

Yeah, this is going to be okay.


I picked myself up after I rode my bike.

Folded the notes, put the pictures in a box.

Put thirteen months in my pocket, and ate some breakfast.


Joseph Rosen, age 17

Sponsored by English Teacher Barbara Park, Ledyard High School, Ledyard, CT


 Wild Days: Backyard Edition


Reading my plastic Winnie the Pooh book

and snuggling with my blanket,

I hear a whisper.


“Hey, Noelle, wanna come on a safari with me?”

“Will there be any wild animals?” I ask.

“Yes, but it’s a once in a lifetime chance!”


I agree to go, abandon the book and the blanket,

hop into the wheel barrow,

and prepare myself for a wild ride.


We graze along a field with imaginary antelopes,

pass by  hungry, hungry hippos,

and finally get to the trees.


The six backyard trees are the best place for safaris.

We spot six wild tigers

and I climb up the tree so they won’t eat me.


I like going on safaris with Nick.

We have fun, with me bumping along in the wheel barrow,

and him being the best big brother in the whole, wide, wild world.


Noelle Timberlake, age 13

Sponsored by English Teacher Nancie Atwell, Center for Teaching and Learning, Edgecomb, ME


Contest Judges

Jayne Honnold is enjoying retirement after thirty years of teaching English at Chillicothe (OH) High School. Honnold is now an adjunct professor at Ohio University-Chillicothe. In addition to devoting time to her family, she enjoys traveling, leading poetry workshops, reading, and quilting. Honnold recently co-authored Images of America: Greenfield (Arcadia, 2012) for the Greenfield Historical Society.

RoseMary Honnold hosted yearly poetry events at the Coshocton Public Library (OH), including slams, contests, readings, publications, and poetry games, while serving as the young adult services coordinator. Honnold is the editor-in-chief of VOYA magazine and VOYA Press, and author of several books on library services for teens.

How to Submit Poems for VOYA’s Teen Poetry Contest 2013

Librarians, teachers, and other professionals working with youth aged twelve to eighteen are invited to sponsor teens in our annual poetry contest. Each of the five winners will receive a $20 cash prize and a copy of the April 2014 issue of VOYA.

Please Note: We DO NOT accept entries submitted directly from teens.

Submission Guidelines:

  1. Contest submissions may be poems of up to thirty lines on any topic.
  2. Type poem in a Word document. Include poet’s name, age, town, and state and the sponsor’s name, title, organization/school/library, address, and e-mail address.
  3. Name the document file with the poet’s last name. Ex: Smith.doc
  4. Attach the document to an e-mail with “VOYA Teen Poetry Contest” in the subject line and send to rhonnold@gmail.com.
  5. Submit one poem per teen.
  6. Contest deadline is December 31, 2013.





  1. Kendra says:

    Do you accept entries from Canada?

  2. Yes, entries from Canadian teens with adult sponsors are welcome!


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