Wellington Students Win At Poetry Festival

Susan R. Williamson, director of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and Dr. Blaise Allen, the festival’s director of community outreach, recently announced the winners of the annual Palm Beach County High School Poetry Contest. The 13th annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival was held Jan. 16-21 at Old School Square in Delray Beach.

The $200 first-place prize went to Juliana Romero, a 17-year-old junior at Wellington High School, for her poem, A Moment.

The next four $100 winners are in order of their finish:

• Haleigh McGirt, a 17-year-old senior from Jupiter High School, for her poem, To the Boy in my Fourth Period Debate Class Who, Unprompted, Took it Upon Himself to Proclaim ‘Rape Culture Doesn’t Exist.’

• Aleah Searfoss, a 16-year-old junior at Wellington High School for her poem, The Great Egret.

• Owen Gable, a 17-year-old junior from Spanish River High School in Boca Raton for his poem, Songbird.

• Samantha Marshall, a 17-year-old senior from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach for her poem, Elegy for Evangeline.

“This year the Palm Beach Poetry Festival High School Poetry Contest had a banner year,” Allen said. “Our judges, Lynn University’s Dr. Jeff Morgan and Professor Lorraine Stanchich-Brown from Nova University, had to narrow down to give talented finalists from a highly competitive pool of 448 submissions — 100 more than we received last year.”

Allen thanked local teachers for their support.

“The Poetry Festival has been honored to work with high school teachers throughout Palm Beach County for the past 13 years,” she said. “We have visited hundreds of classrooms to discuss the craft of poetry and encourage students to write original poems, and every year we are amazed by the quality of their submitted work. In fact, many of our past winners have gone to college to become teachers themselves, and we are always hopeful that the festival is nurturing a future Poet Laureate of the United States.”

The five winning high school poets read their poems at the festival’s award ceremony on Monday, Jan. 16, where they had the opportunity to meet and have their pictures taken with nine of America’s most distinguished and award-winning poets, as well as have their winning poems published online on the festival’s official web site at www.palmbeachpoetryfestival.org.

In addition to their cash prize, all five winners received a complimentary subscription to Poets & Writers magazine and a pair of tickets to the Poetry Festival’s Sizzling Spoken Word event.

Special guest poet was Charles Simic, past United States Poet Laureate (2007-08) and 1990 Pulitzer Prize winner. Nine distinguished poets led poetry writing workshops: David Baker, Tina Chang, Lynn Emanuel, Daisy Fried, Terrance Hayes, Dorianne Laux, Thomas Lux, Carl Phillips and Martha Rhodes. Individual conferences were offered by nationally acclaimed poets Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Nickole Brown and Ginger Murchison.

ABOVE: Poetry Festival winners Haleigh McGirt, Aleah Searfoss, Juliana Romero, Owen Gable and Samantha Marshall.