Competitive verse

The winners of SN&R’s second annual student poetry contest

Poems that received an honorable mention in this year’s contest can be read online here.

There seems to be some competition for the title of “Poetry Town.” Here at SN&R, we’d have sworn that Sacramento had it all sewn up, but a crew of young poets from the foothills seems determined to take the crown. Students from Union Mine High School swept this year’s competition in the high-school category, bringing glory and laurels to the cities of El Dorado, Placerville, Diamond Springs, Somerset and Camino.

With more than 200 entries, SN&R staff members had a rich field to choose from. We had a number of poems that addressed current issues—particularly the war in Iraq, which seems to be on young folks’ minds these days—and the pursuits of youth: sports, music and romance. And, perhaps reflecting the number of entries from the rural portion of our circulation area, we read many poems about the natural world.

All entries were judged “blind”; judges could not see the names or schools of the entrants. Here are the first-, second- and third-place winners in each of our three categories: middle school, high school and college. This year, the poems receiving honorable mentions will be published on our Web site, so be sure to visit us online for more work from our area’s young poets.

Middle-school winners

First place

entering a poetry contest is a strange thing to do

Is it fiction or faction?
these words are such a

              In my head.

      A sublime rhyme, a seaweed glass bead.
      spun ’round into quivering
      ribbons of anxiety.
                    dancing in my mind.
                      waiting to spill.
                          and fill.
                                the page.

[prevent my distraction.]
include all the action.
don’t miss a single detail. rhythm. or rhyme.
          [if anyone knew things were coming askew.]

the illusion I’m living.
sparked so much confusion.

            sleep deprived. lizard eyes
                darting tongues of flames gone

        two minutes.
        five starbursts.
        eleven record tracks.

i close my spiral-bound notebook and think. [about what I’m getting myself into.]

—Amanda Burke
Seventh grade, James Rutter Middle School

Second place

Romantic Paralysis

                My heart beats madly in my chest.
            I gaze transfixed at the divine being before me.
Terror and apprehension paralyze me like insect venom.
            I stammer and stutter for fear of committing some
                irreparable social blunder.
            Trying to fake a smile, I extricate myself from her
        I try day after day to make my feelings known to the
                      object of my dearest affection.
Loving her from a distance, able only to hold her hand
              and feel her gentle kisses in my dreams.
Wishing that my feelings for her were requited to some
                    minute degree.

—Tristan Trotter
Eighth grade, Camptonville Union School

Third place


Short brown hair
                      Flowery summer top
        Satin white pants
                              In front of the barn door
        Glasses for her exhausted eyes

—Sydnie Whitesel
Sixth grade, Mills Middle School

High-school winners

First place

Jimi’s Sonnet

His fingers soared as if jet planes of sound
Guitar and body in equality
Lyrics and notes so extremely profound
Rosewood board, what musical harmony
The room is engulfed in a purple haze
And the amps send a hush over the crowd
The fans and the artist both reach a daze
Headbands drip acid like a storming cloud
“Come On,” “Stone Free,” “Hey Joe” and “Gypsy Eyes”
“Freedom,” says Jimi, as history’s made
Moon, turn the tides, and Mary, the wind cries
He plucks the next string, an endless crusade
Did not have cancer, was not old or ill
The music stopped with the pop of a pill

—Isaac Mitchell
Tenth grade, Union Mine High School

Second place

Soldier’s Blood

Young man dies over the sea
Fighting a foreign enemy
But for what reason did he fall?
Peace? Liberty? Justice for all?
Overseas, his soul was sold
For a few drums of black gold
He died so the fatcats at Shell
Can laugh to the bank while he rots in hell
This bold young soldier; Name: Smith, Allen
Was sold by his leader for $2.95 a gallon
So fill ’er up, America! Guzzle that oily muck
There’s always a soldier to fill up your truck
Take out your 4x4! Go play in the mud!
It’s not run on gas, but on soldier’s blood

—Ben Drahmann
Tenth grade, Union Mine High School

Third place

Cleaver, Cleaver, Chop Up Beaver

Cleaver, cleaver, chop up beaver
Stir in fresh germs of swamp fever

Chicken butt and rotten slug
Sedation like a heavy drug
Eye of newt and wing of bat
Only half a Florida water rat

The toenail of a comedian
For shits and giggles now and then
One last thing, a mangled hare
To ours, any brew could not compare

Cleaver, cleaver, chop up beaver
Stir in fresh germs of swamp fever

—Jonathan Knapp
Eleventh grade, Union Mine High School

College winners

First place

Suicide, Oh Let Me Count the Ways!

Death is taunting me!
Brain says “I want to commit the ultimate sin against God!

Lather up with unleaded gasoline
Ignite the fire

Soak in bathtub
Plunge in hair dryer
Electric Overload

Pour a wine glass full of Drano
Laugh relentlessly
As it burns your esophagus

Purchase a Beretta
Insert inside mouth upwards And Squeeze

Slit your wrists
Remember along the veins
Not across

I am happa Japanese, Seppuku
                May be the proper way
                Kaishakunin do your daki-kubi boy!

                Crash! Splat!
                        Plastered on that hot red Ferrari’s windshield

Sylvia Plath
Age 30
head in oven

—Nicole Matsutani
California State University, Sacramento

Second place

I Don’t Break Dance in Public

I play my demeanor down,
a drop of decorum
at all times. I break dance
in private, swirl gracefully
over polished floors. Feet
clothed in socks scale wild
full-room swoops. No, I don’t
break dance in public, my kin
taught manners, restraint,
not to over-fill one’s mouth
fumble for truth, or cavort
with prancers.

—Ann Privateer
California State University, Sacramento

Third place

Somatic Realization

I brushed my teeth with razor blades
Turned my gums into spiral-sliced ham
To forget the taste of your kiss

I set my nose hairs aflame
Felt hungry for the taste of sulfur
To forget your wretched scent

I caught a bee in my car
Danced to the rhythmic bottled buzz
To forget the shrill of your voice

I scrubbed myself with a cheese grater
Never felt as clean
To forget the touch of your skin

I rinse my eyes with alcohol
Stand broken in front of the mirror
—To see your face sewn over mine …

—T. Blackmon
Sacramento City College

Poems that received an honorable mention in this year’s contest can be read online here.