In the junior high category, winners included (clockwise from left) Elena Christina Kennedy, Reuben Allen, Esteban Alfaro, Savannah Hudson, and Amanda Hensley.

Paul Wellman

In the junior high category, winners included (clockwise from left) Elena Christina Kennedy, Reuben Allen, Esteban Alfaro, Savannah Hudson, and Amanda Hensley.

Our Annual Poetry Contest

The Best of Youth

April is always the coolest month to have a poetry contest, not just because thoughts of Chaucer (see The Canterbury Tales‘ prologue), Shakespeare (the bard’s birthday’s on the 23rd), and T.S. Eliot (viz.: The Wasteland‘s opening line) readily leap to mind, but more because it’s Poetry Month, as declared by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, and celebrated thereafter as if it were an act of Congress. (I mean, they are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, after all.)

The Santa Barbara Independent takes pride teaming with the Santa Barbara Public Library to present the work of students selected from all our middle and high schools to herald spring in a language that understands both ageless truths and the fresh voices of youth: poetry. Tonight, Thursday, April 16 at 6:30pm, the winning poets will read their works at the Faulkner Gallery, located inside the downtown branch of the Santa Barbara Public Library (40 E. Anapamu St.). The event is open and free to the public.

Winners among high school poets were (clockwise from left) Annie Kwong, Nitsa Pomerleau, and Kendall Burke.
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Winners among high school poets were (clockwise from left) Annie Kwong, Nitsa Pomerleau, and Kendall Burke.

First Place, High School

Dead Skin Cells for Leaves

I am the Wood Woman
I stand twenty feet tall
All red bark and slick needles

I am the wood Woman
My hips are mossy and wide
My roots are like killer whales

I am the Wood Woman
I love saplings, sunshine, and soil
Most of all, Water

I am the Wood Woman
The only one left
Just me: verdant and lonely

I’m highly flammable, too
I despise matches and men in hard hats,
But most of all-

I am the Wood Woman
You can touch me
But not with your hands-
I splinter.
Sculpt me, Carve me

I am the Wood Woman
I can be beautiful.

I am the Wood Woman
Seventeen years old,
I breathe oxygen.
No trunk, just two pulpy legs
My leaves: dead skin cells.

I am the Wood Woman
I am burning up.

-Jitsa Panerleau, La Cuesta Middle College

Second Place, High School

Maurice Catches a Break

The clairvoyant sits beneath the awning of a street corner cafe
He laughs five minutes before the flowers spill into the sidewalk
A car crashes into the florist’s stand in the next block,
No one is hurt
Maurice had a dream of giving his wife expensive flowers
Today he picks up damaged goods
Her eyes bloom

-Marley Taylor, La Cuesta Middle College

Third Place, High School

I locked the car and walked in the front door of my house
There was cheese on the table.
The cheese had its circular windows facing the sky
And it smelled bad

-Alexie Phillips, La Cuesta Middle College

Fourth Place, High School


As poison fills the lungs of wretched men,
They gasp for one last gulp of oxygen.
On Auschwitz grounds, their bodies, dead, all lie
For nothing more than their religion-why?
If he, all-knowing and supreme, exists,
Then surely He would put a stop to this.
And since no proof of Him is ever found,
It seems quite clear that he is not around.
Yet on a lonely night I must profess
That I have prayed for His divine caress
To ease the emptiness of human life
And give a reason to resist the knife.
So I choose to believe in Him and feel
That faith, and faith alone, will make hime real.

-Willy Chontzen-Freund, Laguna Blanca

Fifth Place, High School

Air goes stale in a room
Where you won’t
Look at me as I need you to.
I cannot forget my skin
As it changed colors
To complement your mood.

-Kendall Burke, Dos Pueblos High School

Winners of Teen Poetry Contest

  • When: Thursday, April 16, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
  • Where: Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu St. , Santa Barbara, CA
  • Cost: Free
  • Age limit: Not available

Full event details

Honorable Mentions, High School

The Summer I was Sixteen
We wondered and worried about our futures
Lying beneath the hot summer sun, like always
This time with our perspectives shaped by new experiences
But the sun never changed, only flooded our minds with nostalgia
Of the days when summer is endless
Both in time and possibilities.
Now an invisible weight hangs down,
A calendar emblazoned into our minds,
Reminding us with every breath that
Like the magic of summer disappearing in the cold reality of fall
Our wild childhood inhibitions harden into a rigid form
A form not entirely molded by us, but chiseled by the hardships of life.
The sun, if only momentarily, melts us back to our limitless, flexible,
Infinite forms.
Now, we cherish these days because
Unlike the constant summer sun,
This form may not return.

-Alexie Phillips, La Cuesta Middle College


The doctor lied
To me. Maman didn’t die
Today. She didn’t die
Yesterday either. Maman died
Several years ago, the day
She turned to me with innocent
Bewildered eyes, and with expression
Fitting a child having seen bubbles
For the first time pondered
“Do I know you?” Four excruciating
Words heralded the agaonizing day
I was just another face
In the crowd, no longer
Her son: she was no longer
Maman. Maman was dead
To me.
From then, only
Her shell remained. Walking,
Talking, but empty-
Vestigial-the remains
Of something that used to
Matter, but now served
No purpose.
So don’t cry.
Maman didn’t die
Today. She was
Already dead. Now
The hollow corpse
She left behind
So inconsiderately
Has gone to join
At last.

- Willy Chotzen-Freund, Laguna Blanca

First Place, Junior High

Paint Brush

sitting in a
mug with my
fellow brushes.
One day I am
picked up &
dipped in
It is so nice.
But that’s just
the begin-
ning. I hear
the scraping
of the palate
knife, how I
love that sou-
nd. My own-
er picks me
up. I glisten
as I dive into
the deep blue
paint and e-
merge into
the air to me-
et the rough
but gentle
canvas. By
my owner’s
hand I am
guided &
we paint
the sky.

-Carolyn Dorwin, Dunn Middle School

Second Place, Junior High

The Fool

Who am I you might ask
I am the fool
The wandering fool
That fell into the pool of life
That harsh thrashing wonderful pool
That split my mind in two
So next time you see me
Do not ask me my name
For all I say is
I am the fool
That fell into
The pool
Of life.

-Savannah Hudson, La Cumbre Junior High

Third Place, Junior High

When Tears Turn Red

As I sat there on my father’s bed
I remembered that his tears turned red
“Bye,” he told me on his way out
“I’ll be back next March,” and away he went
Now March I believe that he will come.
I sit by the door.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
In came a soldier, not my father,
“Where is father?”
He is in a casket
A white casket with a flag.
Now I hear his story
Now I wait
Wait for his spirit to come.
His tears turned red.
My tears will turn red.
My tears are red
Red with sad blood.

-Amanda Helmsley, La Cumbre Junior High

Fourth Place, Junior High


It all leads to one path
Either you fail it or you pass
Math it’s very hard to grasp!
Some get it some don’t
You need constant reassurance or you won’t
It’s horrible on your nerves
And it takes away your curves!
Leaving you malnourished and bony
The ones who fail it feel lonely::

-Lena Christina Kennedy, La Cumbre Junior High

Fifth Place, Junior High

The iParents

It’s the iParents
New and super nifty
Just sign here
And we’ll send you a couple in a jiffy,
Oh, it’s the iParents,
Much, much better than yours I’m sure,
Just press this button,
And they’ll play Beethoven’s Second Overture,
Oh, it’s the iParents
With them you can surf the Web,
Or IM or snap a pic,
We promise you never have to go to bed.
They let you go out any time of night,
Let you have the last piece of raspberry delight,
They shrink in size to fit in your pocket
When you go jogging, any time you like.
They’re absolutely wonderful, kind and sweet,
Just hand in your parent’s receipt.
Mention this to a friend, and
We’ll throw in a pack of batteries and an iSis for free!

-Naomi Bowe, CAVA K12

Honorable Mentions, Junior High

Ode poem 1

A simple tear
Complex yet clear
Stories, stories, stories
A lover’s joy
A lover’s pain
Stories, stories, stories
A child’s birth
An ancestor’s death
Stories, stories, stories
A small tear,
A small joy,
A small pain
A small story

-Amanda Hensley, La Cumbre Junior High

Bio Poem

Hardworking, funny, friendly
Son of Juan and Norma
Lover of family and friends
Music and football
And supporter of Obama
Who feels loved and happy when the Chargers win!
Very proud of myself when I get straight A’s
And active when I play football.
Who fears getting broken bones,
Dark haunted places
And fears dieing
Who would like to see myself successful
See myself in the NFL one day, and
Someday see something very unexplainable

-Esteban Alfar, La Cumbre Junior High School

You’re Just Paper:.

When you’re closed you’re just paper
But once you open up for me
An enchanted land, a whole new eorld
Just there for all to see

You take me inside your words
I carry you in my heart
Anything is possible in you
Like tasty fruit cream tarts

A brush f pen created you
Yet you live within my mind
Forever there you’ll be
Always inside for me to find

-Annie Kwong , Carpinteria Junior High School

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

School Shooting Threat to Santa Maria Schools Made via Facebook

Further investigation revealed that suspect did not have access to firearms.

Celebration of Life Ceremony Scheduled for Mark “Marky” Meza, Jr.

The 21-year-old former Carpinteria resident was killed in the Borderline shooting.

Jennifer Doudna Talks Gene Editing

She's confident the controversial technology will be used for good.

Phone Scammers Target Businesses

Pretend to have a delivery that just needs some cash or a wire transfer.

Former Ataris Bassist Pleads Guilty to Real Estate Scam

Michael Davenport faces up to 30 years in prison.