Creative Writing

Annual Poetry Contest highlights its winners

By Sarah Ferns  

May 1, 2019

For over a decade Genesee Community College has put on a student poetry contest. Last month, it celebrated its 18th annual contest.

Cindy Hagelberger, reference services librarian at Genesee Community College explained the contest is primarily launched in the spring every year and is open to all Genesee Community College students to participate. “The contest is different every year, with a mixed group of inspired individuals,” she said.

The poems are submitted through a variety of formats including video, audio, and written. Each contestant is allowed three entries. The volunteer judges receive each poem anonymously. Once the judges receive all the poems, they gather at a meeting to narrow down the best five to ten.  

The rubric that the judges use to choose the winners is separated into four different categories: grammar/spelling, creativity/originality, construction, and emotional appeal, taking into account all of the aspects of the poem; each poem is different and unique to its creator.

“All poems are unique and individual,” Hagelberger said. “That’s what makes this task challenging and rewarding; each one affects a judge differently. Judges have guidelines but not rules to follow.” After careful and intricate deliberation of all entries, students will receive an email notifying the winners along with the reveal of their prize.  

At the end of the contest once the winners are revealed, there is a ceremony. This year it was held on April 23rd where all contestants where welcomed to refreshments and to recite their poems.

   Although this library contest is strictly poetry, all students are encouraged to participate. Hagelberger said, “Participants are not always English majors; we get poetry entries from all majors.”

Elizabeth Jarnot, Library clerk, said, “The contest is a great opportunity for everyone to participate in and seeing the talent of the students is really nice.”

Poetry Award winners (L to R): Mack Poorman, Steven Grabowik, Julien Tuast, Joshua Barranco

Steven Grabowik – Body of Work Prize Winner – Student Poetry Contest

Solar Fractal

The twenty-four hour sun is at my back
On the day I ascend Vinson Massif
I glide across cracked glaciers
Braving the shivering winds,
Leaving footprints in the frozen soil,
Treading the land of my forefathers
For a thousand generations
A fractal-heart has beaten

Seething between the cracks in my boots
Is a blood-stained snow
Which paints my feet the color
Of an ancient ancestry,
And suddenly I realize
That I have stood here before
The footprints lie ahead and behind me
They are the same

Beyond the Vanishing Point

Washed upon the shore was the scroll of such fate
And there it was you roamed, with an embellished stride
High above the crimson overcast
Befalling the morning sky
Vexing the colorless waters of the oasis
In the pillars of time

Upon the impossible plane of reality
Came the omniscience unto your eyes
And in so doing, forms and colors dismissed
For deeply woven, were the fibers of the message
With a glint of light did visions of the past reanimate
“I love you”


Gone, I envy
Her eyes, closed to mine
And soul, profiled
Away like fear
Fear, lust
Inside a disintegrating painting

Recording an event
Visible to none but I
Colors fall from the sky
And fry my eyes,
Haranguing a joke
In this nightmare

Mi lenga (in English “my language”)

Julien Tuast – First Prize Winner – Student Poetry Contest

Roll my tongue around my language
Love my people like my siblings
Teach my descendants
Every proverb I know

Teach them that a quickly made soup comes out salty
Take life one step at a time
Don’t let anyone tell you they saw something brown in the pot
Whatever else

This is my tongue
My language
My history
My legend

Passed on from mother to child
Like grandma’s food
Getting a haircut under a tree
Getting your hair done on the porch

Praying in church on Sunday
Sugar on the table
Chabelita stop crying
The mouse is harmless

Playing under the tree
Grandpa with a belt and white shoes
Put his problems aside

A rabid cow
With a long tail
Blow his horn
Listen to its music for a bit

Like my tongue
Nice ringing in your ears
Combination of other languages
This is my language

A History of Heartbreak

Mack Poorman – Second Prize Winner – Student Poetry Contest

And Now You’re Afraid to Love

You were a fussy kid
You were afraid of men
and your shoes had to be tied
a certain way
Or you’d panic and cry and
they’d tell you,
“Nothing works for you. Do it yourself, then.”
but you didn’t know how

Sometimes, you were so, so quiet
that people forgot you were there
and startled when you made a sound.
But there were moments when the
words rushed out of you like a stream
after a thunderstorm
Overflowing, with nowhere to go

You’ll come to find that the words
will start to spill over more
as you start to fear the silence of
a moment
You’ll start to tell people
you want to be alone forever
because you want them to come to you anyway
but you’re finding that more often
than not,
they don’t

You’ll forget to listen, to breathe, to savour-
You’ll fill the silences, even when you shouldn’t
You’ll forget that sometimes, words can’t say it all,
not the way quiet can

You’ll have to teach yourself how to do that again

Teach yourself that you don’t always have to think
or say
Sometimes, it’s good to feel
and carry that feeling
Experience it, and then
Only then

Can you learn to appreciate it.

You were holding her hand
When you told her you didn’t love her anymore

She could only nod and
Stare at your entwined fingers-
You hadn’t let go-
And wonder if you really meant it this time.

And You Won’t Look at Me

I want to gather all that I’ve created
Every brush stroke,
Every word
And pile it together at your feet,
A messy, inconsistent conglomerate
That is shaped like my soul
And tell you to look
To see,
To really see-
Because you never really see
Even though it’s hanging from my sleeve
Written clearly on my face.

Little Sloth

My mama always told me
my biggest sin was that
I’d never accomplish a thing
with how slow I moved
through life.
“Brilliance like yours is wasted
on a body that does nothing.”

Mama always liked to call me a sloth
because it took me
an hour to convince myself
to get out of bed
every morning, without fail
and sometimes I’d stop walking
in the middle of heavy foot-traffic
because my body had to reteach itself
how to breathe.

My mama took me to the zoo, once,
when I was no older than ten.
We trailed past exhibits for
lions, strewn about rocks in a manner
like Kings, proud and aloof;
monkeys, quick and clever in their
disturbing similarity to humans;
bird calls arced over the tops of
metal cages, surrounding everything,
mingling, mixing, mimicking chatter.

My mama dragged my sisters and me along
until we reached the sloth exhibit
and her head turned like the wise owl
she wanted us to believe she was
and her sharp voice carried like a shrill cry
“That is you. A silly little sloth, stuck in a tree
doing nothing.”
And maybe she thought it was funny
because she laughed, and my sisters laughed
and I’m sure I probably smiled but my head was frowning
deeper than any ten year old ought to.

My mama was always right about me
but not in the way she thought.
Sloths are slow because of the food they eat,
metabolisms slowing down,
functions like a fine tuned computer
stuck in stasis mode.

Mama never knew a thing about symbiosis,
how the algae that grew on the backs of sloths
from time spent stagnant
kept it hidden from sight,
camouflaged, safe.
A symptom of their diet,
a product of their environment,
but also a defense mechanism
to keep keen-sighted predators
from tearing it open and
laying it bare.

My mama never knew that
when sloths came down from their perch,
high up in the treetops,
they were making themselves vulnerable
to attack
but even still
when a predator made its way over
the sloth would go down screeching,
scratching, clawing, biting,
in a fierce, relentless bid for their life.
So seemingly uncharacteristic of
an animal that dozes through its lifespan,
that has her so convinced
it wants for nothing at all.

My mama didn’t know her little sloth
with its sad eyes and face
that always seemed
to be smiling
feared one day falling from the safety of its branch
only to have to climb its way back up,
back turned to the dangers below,
the taunting lure of freedom,
the sharpened claw of a mother’s words,
fighting tooth and nail to scramble
back toward security,
the unsteady branch that
her little sloth clung to,
hoping for safety,
hiding from the one thing
it was always supposed to love.

Mother’s Carol

Joshua Barranco – Third Prize Winner – Student Poetry Contest

No matter sin or grace
She loves with warm embrace
She lights the room she enters in
She blends with flowers as if it were skin
I am proud to call this woman kin
She is summer when I am winter
She has wonder deep within her
A wonder like no other
This woman is dearest Mother