Poetry Without Paper Contest

2020 Contest Winners

Opening Comments from John Ronan

Middle School


First Place, Middle School

Josephine West

O’Maley Innovation Middle School

“Hymns and Handstands”

Pencil rests behind his ear,

critical eye judges:

bones, sticks, clouds

littered across pages.

A purring motor drones from a cocoon of blankets,

Queen Clementine ruling her kingdom,

a stationary monarch.

Seagulls screech outside-

she flies, a blurry orange streak.

Cat thunders downstairs

to a graceful gymnast,

legs suspended in air, until-


She falls, a heap of limbs.

Joining joyful ruckus,

my fingers slide up and down frets,

plucking notes that drift

into the magic kitchen.

Sweet-smelling slightly charred carrots,

creamy feta, crunchy-smooth walnuts topped

with spring-smelling sprigs of dill

prompt a chorus of growls from our stomachs.

Chord sheets pepper the island,

strums and stirs synchronized,

handstand percussion

drumming out the beat.

Artist descends, stairs creaking.

We gather.

Chef hollers orders,

and we oblige

with minimal grumbling.

Prettily presented veggies blanket table.

We sit, our hands linked.

Meows accompany our grateful refrain,

and at last, we feast.


Second Place, Middle School

Lyall Cunningham

O’Maley Innovation Middle School


On the rock I sit

to think,

to contemplate

my actions

thus far into life.

My hair in the wind,

I am all but still.

The cool breeze in my face,

my thoughts swirl.

These drafts of thought

are more wild

than my hair

in the wind.


Third Place, Middle School

Talia Higgins

O’Maley Innovation Middle School

“The Weeping Willow”

The wind sings a sorrowful song
She stands weeping
Her hair sweeps across her face
She sways to the sound of wind

She hears a familiar melody
The color returns to her face
Her friends have arrived
They have been away for so long

A robin lands on her shoulder
Singing the tune of spring
Cheer up, it whistles
Cheer up


Honorable Mention

Natalie Sheedy

O’Maley Innovation Middle School

“Dream State”

Drifting to another world,

Hoping it’s permanent, knowing it’s not.

The night is yours to wish away.

The moon and stars looking down upon you.

Inner darkness finally melts away leaving true happiness.

Sometimes startling, dark, but everything happens for a reason as they say.

A distant memory the next day.

Sad when that time, state, turns into the best part of your day.

Dreaming, the most desperate wish for hope.

Night turns to day, once again we wait to feel fully free.


High School


First Place, High School

Willa Brosnihan



Second Place, High School

Autumn-Marie Silva

“Lucky Feet”


Third Place, High School

Calhoun Dyer

“Snowy Owl”

To loft freely above the highest bough

With wings of fluffy down

Softening any sounds

Unknown, unfound

A greater freedom than man can know

Borne aloft on feathers of snow


Honorable Mention

Mila Barry


Honorable Mention

Katrina Machetta


The sound of the unfamiliar language.

The smell of pasta and fish in the market.

The sight of old photographs with people

we never talk about anymore.

The place I call home


Never put as my permanent address.

The brokenness we never talk about is why I keep coming.

The yesterday that no one remembers

formed the today that people always talk about.

I love every flaw because that is when I realized what beautiful really means.

I want to show you my gratitude but money can’t buy a thank you or I love you.

We could talk today,

but I don’t want to get stuck on our yesterday.

Just open your arms-

because tomorrow I will be home.


Honorable Mention

Sarah Nealon


Artwork by Calla Rose Zerilli, Grade 3

Poetry Resources for Students and Teachers

At-Home with Kwame Alexander. Video lessons from Kwame Alexander on borrowed poems and defining poetry, and a mini lesson online booklet with poetry writing lessons. 

Favorite Poem Project. Resources for Educators page includes Elementary, Middle, and High School lesson plans.

Poetry Foundation: Children. Poems and videos chosen to help children learn about poetry. 

Poetry Foundation: Teens. Poems, podcasts, and author studies for teen poets. 

Poetry4Kids.com. The funny poetry playground of children’s author Kenn Nesbitt, former Children’s Poet Laureate (2013-15). Lots of funny poems for kids, classic children’s poems, games, poetry lessons and activities, plus a rhyming dictionary, videos, and more.

Poets.org: Poems for Kids. Popular poems for children and great poems for children by theme. 

Poets.org: Poems for Teens. Poems, essays, recommended reading lists, must-have anthologies, interviews, and advice for teen poets.

Readwritethink.org. Poetry-writing lesson plans and activities for teachers of students in grades K-12. This website partners with the International Literacy Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. 

Shel Silverstein Animations. Animated videos of Shel Silverstein’s well-loved poems. 

Shel Silverstein Poetry Lessons and Activities. Poetry lessons, National Poetry Month activities, and more.

Award-Winning Poems from Previous Years

Poetry without Paper 2019

Poetry without Paper 2018

Poetry without Paper 2017

Poetry without Paper 2016

Poetry without Paper 2015

Video Resources

Here is a great example from a contestant who chose to set her poem to video. “1, 2, 3” by Chandra Lavery: