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Poetry Without Paper Winners 2017



On behalf of the Gloucester Lyceum and the Sawyer Free Library, I want to welcome you to the Awards Ceremony for the fourteenth annual Poetry Without Paper competition. As usual, we received some very strong entries, and my task in judging them — in sifting through the poems, re-reading the best of them, drawing fine distinctions, and eventually choosing the winners — was rewarding but also unusually challenging. This was, in fact, the hardest group of poems I have ever had to judge. To a degree beyond anything I’ve experienced in my ten years with PWP, I was impressed by the range and depth of so many of the entries. For many of the poems that received an award or Honorable Mention, there were others on a similar level of excellence, and thus it was especially difficult to select the winners. I hope the knowledge that so many came so close to winning an award will encourage even more students to participate in next year’s contest.


In a number of these program booklets over the years, we have sampled some well-known poets’ definitions of poetry — nothing you’d find in a dictionary, but rather something pithy or quirky, like Carl Sandburg’s “Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” This time I’d like to share a description I discovered recently from an author famous for his essays and journals, Walden in particular, but not so much for his poetry, though he wrote a good deal of it — Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau calls poetry “the mysticism of mankind” and continues: “The expressions of the poet cannot be analyzed. His sentence is one word, whose syllables are words. There are indeed no words quite worthy to be set to his music. But what matter if we do not hear the words always, if we hear the music?”


This description, though a little more expansive than the clever one-liners we’ve shared in the past, still brings a fancy of its own in describing a genre of writing that can be elusive — hard to get a grip on, or to explain. Yet, as Thoreau suggests — much more eloquently — we know a good poem when we encounter it. And even in poems written by students of elementary, middle, or high school age, we may well find examples of that haunting “music” that we hear, even when we may not grasp all of its individual “words.”


We are happy once again this evening to welcome Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken to our ceremony. She has written poetry of her own and participated in one of our “Gloucester Reads Poetry” programs several years ago. PWP is one of her many enthusiasms. Later in the year the winning poets will be invited to appear on John Ronan’s local cable program “The Writer’s Block.” They will also share cash prizes and each receive a book of poetry. I would like to thank and congratulate all the students who took part in this year’s contest, and their teachers and parents as well. And finally, for their various contributions to the success of the contest, I want to single out Diana Cummings, Kristen Lauderdale, Justine Vitale, AnnaKatherine Amacker, Head Children’s Librarian Christy Rosso, Assistant SFL Director Beth Pocock, and finally, for her support and encouragement, Library Director Deborah Kelsey.



Richard M. Sloane

Poetry Judge


High School
First Place

Jemma Johnson-Shoucair
Marblehead High School

Grade 12



The Deeper The Shipwreck The More Precious The Treasure

I want you back so badly sometimes
I can still taste you in my mouth the
Scent of a home i have escaped from a
Refugee of my own body searching to make
A place for myself in this skin
My body a temple where i can find shelter from the
Looks you give her while i
Ignore your gaze pretending everything
Is fine pretending i don’t feel the ground
Slipping out from underneath me hoping
I have grown wings solid enough to fly when
The earth is gone and i am
Left in a cloud of my doubts ones
Strong enough to pull me under a
Ship lost in the bottom of the ocean one
That everyone wants to find but nobody has
My yearning the treasure in the hull of my ribs
My heart beating out a rescue signal hoping you will hear it
And come back to find yourself in my arms but
I forgot we cannot breathe underwater and
Dreams don’t exist when I am awake so I
Sleep to rid myself of you the only
Time when i do not imagine your hands in her hair
Kissing her sweetly the character i used to play and
Had almost forgotten that actors can be replaced while
The play still goes on and i am left to
Forge my own kingdom in the empty castle you abandoned for i
Am not afraid of solitude i am afraid of
Watching you find me in another’s eyes watching
Myself move on too slowly and too quickly at the same time
I have lost a best friend
I will not pretend it doesn’t hurt i will not pretend that
Some days i can’t imagine the sky is still above me and
That morning will follow the stars and i
Forget to look at the stars
The same elements i am made of chasing off the darkness
Burning without fear of fading knowing
That when they die they will have two options:
To explode into a supernova or
Implode in on themselves to become a black hole i feel
I am doing both at once my lungs collapsing with
Every breath while straining with the weight of the oxygen they take
My diaphragm tired of holding my body up
My heart restless in my chest pounding a beat that I once thought
You could hear music to but now
I am left to decipher its rhythm to craft
Notes from its cadence ones that i will dance to when
I am on my own ones that i will sing to when I
Fear my voice has grown too soft to understand
In the end you have lost one of the only people you can trust and
Replaced me with a substitute to carry you through these months
You leave burdened with regrets you have lost
The wild woman who will haunt your dreams the one who inexplicably
Caught your breath it was you who decided to open your heart and
It was you who decided to close it again leaving me on
The outside of someone i thought i knew i
Know how to climb walls to build bridges through the rubble of
Heartbreak but i will only be an unwelcome visitor one
Who is not quite an enemy but you still do not want
To share your home with a
Thorn in your side that you pull knowing
The space left behind will heal not knowing if
It will leave a scar
You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me i
Do not regret loving you with all i had learning that
I am allowed to heal to sink back into the
Mold my body had made years ago but was waiting
For me to find
I am one of the best things that has ever happened to you someone
Who let you be a child while still holding the title of a man
One who kept your dream in my pocket for safekeeping
Rolling around with promises i still intend to fulfill I
Am the best thing that has ever happened to me
When I cry myself to sleep my eyes will still open in the morning
Me to move on the muscles in my face will chew my food my
Throat will swallow keeping me alive i am forever grateful for the
Beauty my body has graced me with the way my legs stretch out
When i run pretending there is nothing behind me my chest heaving
With the hope that I will never have to stop my mind
A constant whirlwind of ideas ones that can be overwhelming but
What storm isn’t
I am a hurricane, a fire, a quiet chaos waiting to turn into a roar
I am the silence after an unnecessary apology the feeling
In your throat when you hold back tears i am
The hand that holds you steady and the one that grabs you
Down i will not be silent because you can’t hear yourself think i
Will only be silent to hear the beat of my pounding heart
Leading me back home


Second Place

Moriah Murphy-Thornley
Grade 12


Resting Wide Awake


It soothes the troubled souls.
Except I wake,
Troubled once more.


It’s before dawn.
I venture out
To the shore.


Where the dark turns to blue,
And the hour turns to gold.


The rolling waves,
They crash so gently,
That my ears hear the shimmer.


The sand between my shoes and the bridge,
Sounds nothing like sandpaper.


The wind whispers peace
The wind howls secrets,
In a language I cannot speak.
In a language I can only feel.


Closer to the water’s edge
I creep.
Amid the almost silence.


I break nature’s harmony.
Setting my memory machine up.


Staring through the tiny hole,
I capture words my soul cannot tell.


My heartbeat slows.
My soul stops jumping.
My body,
Finally quiet.


That’s where I rest.


Middle School

First Place

Willa Brosnihan
O’Maley Innovation Middle School
Grade 8


Time and Quiet


Blue painted clay-ware holds it,
Cinnamon-sugar my mother mixed,
Belonging to burned toast,
And mushy summer-butter.


It is in the white cabinet,
Next to prescription bottles,
And cloves of garlic,
Their long leaves braided.


The fever in July,
My mother made toast for my writhing stomach,
Like her mother made,
Cinnamon sugar toast,
Wet towels,
And ginger ale.


I would read picture books,
I would leave summer-butter fingerprints,
On the pages of Patricia Polacco,
Doctor Seuss,
To find now,
Grease stains a keepsake,
Crumbs and dust and sugar and spice clinging,
In the spines.


In the clay container it clumps and separates,
As it sits forgotten,
For stretches of time,
Next to prescription bottles,
And cloves of garlic,
With long leaves braided.


It is rediscovered,
On days too hot for pancakes,
When the milk is curdled,
It is rediscovered,
And breakfast tastes like the softer parts of sick days.


In the hotel dining room,
You spread dense packaged butter on both sides of your bread.


I thought of the Butter Battle Book as you told me,
That you put cinnamon sugar,
On your toast at home.


And then,


I wished only for time,


And quiet,


To tell you the bedtime story,
That ends with books marked with sweet honey,
The sticky reminder,
Much like my summer-butter blotches.


I wish only for time and quiet,






To show you the childhood in the lacquered blue,
And the bit of me,
On both sides of your toast.


I haven’t changed since then,
Since sick days,
picture books.
To know me is to know me as I always have been,
Filled with these narratives,
And tasting of cinnamon sugar.


Middle School
Second Place

Mila Barry
O’Maley Innovation Middle School
Grade 8




A lush hush, wheezy, breezy,
singing softly, coax the sleazy.
Cloaked in cryptic-ness, they creep,
pull the long dead ones from sleep.


Sweet some linger,
on our brow they gently finger.
Stroke away the bittersweet,
that hovers there like summer heat.


Rivulets run rosy, rushing.
Syrupy tide cannot stop gushing!
Cue the tears that fly away,
slippery bird song on an autumn day.
Sugar crystals harden fast,
flake away and do not last.
Only then you want them back,
groping wildly for what you lack.


Intangible, they spark a yearning,
incomprehensible internal burning.
Aches the heart with heavy beat,
Tortured soul that craves to eat.
Is it worse to have them there?
Tantalizing burdens that we must bear?
Or is a shadow, mere, washed-out,
better than emptiness, a vacant life-drought?


All of us have
inky stains
that pool in darkness, what remains?
Personified, these midnight sins,
But how much from without,
how much from within?
These will feast if they can stay,
haunt by night,
fester by day.


Most however, nearly all
will not scar, tease, or appall,
simply they will be a part
of you in mind, and of course, at heart.
Sweet satisfaction of a better time.
Suck them like hard candy,
you’ll taste hope; soothing, sublime.


Happiness flitting on dove’s wings,
pure, light, then
Gone.  And the blue sky.


Middle School
Third Place

Seth Grover
O’Maley Innovation Middle School
Grade 7


Cosmic Progress


We are but a celestial drop in the vacuum of the universe.
Our stay is indefinite
And the possibilities are infinite.
The stars flutter like butterflies as we look on,
As permanent audience members,
At a never ending show.


We have everything to see,
Yet so little time to see it.
Stuck in the perpetual pit
Of  “what if”
Slowly making our way up the cosmic cliff.


One day we will have seen it all,
But that time will not come for a long time.
Until we hear the cosmic chime,
Space will always be one step ahead of our time.
Maybe when we come up with greater rocket power,
We will climb the last astronomical tower.


Honorable Mention

Gabriella Amaral

O’Maley Innovation Middle School

Grade 7



Silky silhouettes swaying
Luminous pink petals straying
Beautiful physique displaying
Leaflets darker than night laying
Buzzing bees conveying


Clouds begin greying
Rain starts spraying
Water-filled puddles are arraying
Millions of tiny water droplets splaying
Beaming umbrellas disarraying


Trees more colossal than skyscrapers allaying
Illuminating sun commences raying
Joyous children initiate playing
Anxious adults set about taxpaying
Dusk seems to be delaying


Honorable Mention

Megan Gove


Grade 6


Confrontation With Darth Vader

Luke Skywalker cautiously wandered through a hallway
He glanced at each wall the color of a faint gray
Startled, Luke took a step back
A man came around the corner, cloaked in black
He wielded a red lightsaber


Luke quickly ignited his blue blade
The two lightsabers met with a clash
Hit after hit, Luke blocked Darth Vader’s blows
The two lightsabers’ clashes caused a flash
It got brighter each time


The lightsabers hit together
One red, a red redder than a rose,
The other a blue, bluer than the sea


Darth Vader and Luke were led to a thin platform
White and yellow spars flew
And surrounded the two


Luke fell onto the ground
And Vader swung his blood-red saber around
He then pointed at the young Jedi
But Luke was not ready to give up, not ready to die


He grabbed his saber once again
And fought Vader from the ground
When he saw the moment, Luke took it, and stood
As quickly as he could
The fight continued on
With one swing of Vader’s lightsaber, he cut at Luke
Luke’s hand… was gone


His lightsaber flew into the sky
As Luke let out a painful cry
Luke crouched onto an even thinner surface
And slowly inched away from Vader’s masked face


Luke found a pole to cling onto
He looked down at the ground that was a dozen feet below
Luke felt the soft wind as it blew
Through his blond hair


He was handless
But he wasn’t ready to be hopeless


Darth Vader tried to convince Luke to join him on the dark side
“I’ll never join you! You killed my father!” Luke vowed never to
join him
Even when missing a limb
Luke was strong


“No…” Vader began, his voice deeper than the sea
“I am your father!”
The words cut through Luke like a knife
He hadn’t felt like that in his entire life
Not when Owen and Beru died
The pain was unbearably
He no longer felt the pain of his missing hand
The pain he felt in that moment, was terrible
“No!” he bellowed
“That’s Impossible!” his voice echoed


Thousands of emotions ran through his body
How could this be?
Luke wanted desperately to flee


He couldn’t stand to be in the same room as the man
Who claimed to be his father
Claimed to be someone Luke had always believed to be dead
He couldn’t shake the thought out of his head
With one last glance at Darth Vader—-no, his father—-
Luke jumped from the platform


Luke landed in a tube surrounded with light
He didn’t know if he should believe that Vader had been right
Luke left Darth Vader behind
And called to Leia in his mind


Luke had lost his hand
He had lost his father to the Dark Side
A father he had believed had died


Luke was safe in the Millennium Falcon
He wasn’t ready to see his father again
Luke had been lied to
His hand got banged as the Falcon slowly flew
Away from Bespin City
And away from…
His Father…


Honorable Mention

Charles King
O’Maley Innovation Middle School
Grade 7


The Impossible Store

The Impossible Store
Open seven days
Our products
Are sure to amaze


Our stocks include
Lyres, falcons, seed
All we have
You’ll surely need


Shirts that scream
Pants that shriek
Dogs with wings
And a head with a beak


Lights that make dark
A sword with no sheath
Clouds that are marshmallows
With fans underneath


Pens that don’t write
A glowing material
Clocks that do math
Pre-soggified cereal


The Impossible Store
Even sells pillows that shout
And the amazing thing is
We never sell out!


Honorable Mention

George King
O’Maley Innovation Middle School
Grade 7


Tittynopes From the Lost Days

I’ll always remember the
hot days of summer
When the sun’s rays were the most we had to worry about
I’ll remember how the waves frothed
How the rocks always
held another crab or eel


And how the elaborate castle
we left intact
Had always vanished
by the next day
And the long runs we would take
To the old bridge and back
And how one of us usually collapsed in the surf
Content to lie in manifold blue


Elementary School

First Place

Wilhelmina Rolf Thaemert
Glen Urquhart School
Grade 3


A Girl

A girl walked out of her house and slowly stepped down the rocky
She felt the wind on her shoulders and looked up to see the pretty
night sky.
She heard the sound of a frog in the nearby pond.
And kept walking.
Rain started falling and as it dripped on the sidewalk it reminded her
of standing in a stream playing.
She saw, as the rain stopped, a butterfly on the ground, wet.
She picked it up carefully and set it on a plant.
It took a while but it flew away and she flew with it into the clouds
and away.


Second Place

Niava Friday
East Gloucester Elementary School
Grade 3


The Journey (Migration)


Ferns dotted in dew drops
Withered brown fall leaves
Pine cones scattered


Fresh dirt rich as mulch, water rippling softly,
as wet leaves shook
Frost weaving its way in and out of the woods.


Settled under a fern, a moth-like creature slowly arose, and delicate
wing flaps could be heard, the edges of the wings lined black.
On the color of the dark night lie white markings looking like stars in
the Milky Way. Without warning thousands of flutters echoed through
the woodland, as the atmosphere was rapidly filled with vibrant,
blue, blurs dancing on thin air.
Footsteps sounded, leaving the winged creatures fleeing, to take cover
on gleaming white dots nestled in leaf blankets.


Third Place

Willow Barry
East Gloucester Elementary School
Grade 5


The Beach


I smell seaweed and salty freshness on the wind.
I hear the roaring of waves and the crying of seabirds
wailing for something they will never have,
The beach.
I feel the tiny particles of warm sand drifting across my feet,
The beach.
As soon as I step closer to the water I sink deeper in the sand,
The beach.
A wave comes and tickle my toes,
but soon it goes back out trying to pull me into its watery
But it will never succeed, for soon it will give up
and I will be set free to go into my own eternity.
But nothing wonderful can stay forever.
Soon it will all fade into memories.
Soon I will leave,
The beach


Honorable Mention

Miles Buddenhagen
Brookwood School
Grade 5


Kiley (My Deceased Dog)

They say there is a reason
They say that time will heal
But neither time nor reason
Will change the way I feel
No one knows the heartache
That lies behind my smile
No one knows how many times
I’ve broken down and cried
I want to tell you something
So there is no doubt
You’re so wonderful to think of
But so hard to be without.


Honorable Mention

Seamus Swift
Grade 4




built upon others,
or new-
the result of a brainwave;
of any kind
prose or poetry
Non-fiction or fantasy,
always with an idea.


Honorable Mention

Jude Friday
East Gloucester Elementary School




The sun shines over the water


and the waves splashing on the rocks


and the water like jewels,


the sun like yellow gems,


the rocks the
color of dirt.