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  • The 2015–2016 Video Poetry Scholarship Results Are In

    They're here! The results are here!

    The Video Poetry Scholarships reward talented young poets around the world. We offer six awards, three for high school seniors and three for university students.

    In the 2015–2016 competition, students were each asked to write and recite an original poem in a YouTube video. We received hundreds of entries in both categories from applicants worldwide.

    The six awardees below created poems that inspired and moved us, and we're thrilled to announce them here.

    Category 1: High School Seniors

    First Place: Ayat Al-Tamimi

    Ayat is a graduate of Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan, and will be attending the University of Michigan Dearborn in the fall.

    The Incident on the Plane

    I walk into a bar and everyone ducks for cover
    9/11 is the punchline here
    No one is laughing
    Not me, not the bartender who won't look me in the eyes, not the collection of sweaty bodies, too drunk to hold their heads up
    Misunderstanding is the punchline here
    Misunderstanding, miscommunication, misinterpretation
    All these misses that we have allowed to seduce our hearts
    Fear is the punchline here
    Fear is the tool used to isolate, used to
    Burn down bridges that were never built, destroy homes that were never filled, kill children that were never loved
    I sidle up to the bar and, with an apologetic smile, ask for a glass of water
    The bartender relaxes when the syllables that come out of my mouth are ones he understands,
    when the vowels I use to string my words together are the same ones he spent his childhood learning
    Privilege is the punchline here
    Privilege is not having to disarm yourself with a smile as an apology for the color of your skin,
    The shape of your eyes, or
    The foreign sounds that leave your mouth when you say your name
    Privilege is not having to fold yourself up to fit the allotted space
    Privilege is not having to pretend molds are progress
    Privilege is learning about racism, not living it

    Second Place: Colin Dombrowski

    Colin is a graduate of Greencastle High School in Greencastle, Illinois, and will be attending Indiana University in the fall.


    Oh how we preach against wealth
    We preach against worth
    Preach against value
    Preach against joy and 'gainst mirth

    But stead we give praise to virtue
    And to life of simplistic "bliss"
    Claiming 'lightenment grants more than lecher's needed kiss

    But when we stop to stare at the stars
    And desires are forgotten for shimmers so far

    Here Buddha wins, and the Devil sheds tears
    As instants of life turn to passed, spent years

    There, there it goes the human desire
    Swept away by society's preaching and ire

    Against the "wanting" these "fiendish tricks"
    Which we claim burn down a man. His soul as the wick

    But what is this man?
    This sentinel stoic
    Who stands still and stares
    We all laud as heroic?

    He lives not as a man
    But a statue afflicted
    By Gorgon's "sweet" scan
    All pleasure evicted

    We see these men of marble
    We admire their fate
    How their forms do not crumble
    Below vice's very weight

    But why love a statue?
    Why love perfection?
    When reality retains such rosy complexion?

    We need our desire
    We need all our passions
    For though mortal they make us
    Real people they fashion

    If needs make us beasts
    Then beasts let us be
    For beasts live
    And die

    Third Place: Natalie Kulick

    Natalie is a graduate of Battlefield High School in Prince William County, Virginia, and will be attending Boston University in the fall.

    The Man

    There's a ghost that follows me
    If I ask he'll hold my hand
    Most people would find it crazy
    Because they can't see the man

    His name is very short
    Plain, simple, and sweet
    He'll whisper little things
    Like are you sure you want to eat

    Sometimes he'll say to lie
    Or to find a way to drink
    He knows to claw at your heart
    And to change the way you think

    You feel a little dirty
    Like something isn't right
    But the man who follows me
    Will stay with me all night

    That's the scary thing
    He isn't afraid of the dark
    So should I hold his hand
    Or try to pull apart

    Like a pulsing beat of a drum
    Or rings around a splash
    His voices echo in my head
    Long after they have passed

    No matter what I tell him
    I've tried some times before
    You aren't real, you aren't here
    It only fuels him more

    I don't know if I'll escape him
    Or if I should even try
    So for now I'll let him hold me
    Just for one more night

    Category 2: Undergraduate and Graduate University Students

    First Place: Spencer Funk

    Spencer is a senior at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington.

    When I Age

    When I age,
    If I age,
    If I'm privileged with age,
    I want a face that reflects my whole self:
    Wrinkles that crease in the shape of my soul,
    The lines on my forehead
    A little indented from raising my curious brow;
    Not crisp chiseled lines engraved from the passing of judgement or scorn.
    By my eyes I want shapes like robins' feet lifting,
    Three little prongs on each gooey corner
    That tell a tale of my time.
    When I smile those lines shall fall in familiar pattern,
    But also when I weep,
    For a life without sorrow is half complete.
    And so I want wrinkles on the bridge of my nose
    From smelling things rancid and sweet,
    And off-colored bags at the base of my eyes
    From good and bad nights without sleep.
    When I age,
    If I age,
    If I find myself aged,
    I wish to unpack not a lot.
    As I go through my storage
    I do not wish to find
    I acquired collections of nickels and dimes,
    Nor memorabilia from people of fame,
    Nor vanity trophies engraved with my name,
    Nor underworn clothing that never was used,
    Nor messes of junk that are fused to a box.
    I wish to find books that I recall reading,
    And pictures of pets that I recall feeding,
    And stubs from the tickets of weird black box shows,
    And poems from lovers I had to let go.
    I wish to find masks that I made on a whim,
    A tool from my father that reminds me of him.
    I want to read letters I got from a friend,
    And bold resolutions that I shall ascend.
    I want to uncover the props from my plays,
    And laugh, and remember the glorious days
    When I age,
    If I age,
    If I find myself aged,
    I hope I look back, and am proud of my ways
    I hope I regret not my days good and bad,
    But treasure each memory, just because it was had.

    Second Place: Elisha Thomas

    Elisha is a sophomore at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

    Open Door

    13 years: locked behind the doors
    Having Aunt Rose live with you is like living in a field of war, weapons drawn.
    Childhood13 years is looking down and tiptoeing around my house.
    One twin bed: little brother, sister and me. Mom and dad sleeping on the floor beside us.
    Locked behind the doors, screams, cries, shoves, phones thrown across the living room, lamps swing like swords, knives pointed at each other
    Fights between my mom and aunt became fights between my mom and dad
    Frightened to take a stand,
    all we heard were slaps with a hand, slaps with a belt...
    I was 11, heard momma scream, saw her bruises, and her cherried eyes. Every night she cries, Deep inside we knew she fights.
    Afraid to look at her...Afraid to look at her purple lips, small puffed eyes, messy hair, blood stains on her shirtweak.
    Stay locked behind the doors, accepting this life is mine and not yours.
    Every day my childhood was a game of hide and seek
    Hiding under the dining table and when the screams got closer, we ran and hid behind the couch.
    Shushing the cries of my siblings and yelling, "STOP!" but my 11-year-old voice was nothing.
    Afraid to sleep at night...
    It was waiting for my mom to fall asleep first.
    It was waking up earlier to the fear that my mom would disappear.
    It was checking up on my mom to see if she was okay.
    Momma: when you cry, I cry.
    "Hold my hand, mommy. Please forget it, please don’t do anything that will make daddy and Aunt Rose mad...mommy I am here."
    I'm tryin' hard not to cry even when I close my eyes.
    Childhood—13 years, looking down and tiptoeing...
    11... lost in expression, all I could do was write. Wrote the dirty truth in a diary every day
    Entry 1: I hate daddy for not being there, for leaving painful scars on my mom's mind
    Spilled blood to broken bones
    Hearing the screams echoing in my ears for 13 years, I learned to grow resistant to fear.
    An 11-year-old's sadness turned into a 13-year-old's rage.
    I found the voice within my body: stronger, prouder
    Now 17
    A young woman who won't let anyone mask her face with cuts and bruises.
    A woman who won't let a drop of her own blood spill.
    I'm done playing hide and seek,
    Because my future will be an open door & I will never be locked in again.

    Third Place: Tremeka North

    Tremeka is a sophomore at Columbia College of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.

    Incandescent Flower

    I be that slave runner
    that never got free
    My bones ache from falling futures only to be medicated by disoriented history
    Death fills the air as hounds are following me
    Flesh opens and out of the tree on my back blood begins to seep
    I be woman I be me
    I be that ghost writer that's never been seen
    My words bring euphoria to the weak
    Providing poetry picked from the prophesy of profound piece producing poetic philosophies better than mythology and will bring far greater beauty than the Greeks black satin is the involuntary follicles that grow from my skull to earth wind and fire I speak
    my prayers are like an antidote to heal all souls

    My name is Nizohni
    My name is beautiful
    I be Tuskegee
    I be Apalache, Navajo and
    I spy with my little eyes
    Plantations and reservations
    My heritage slowly dies as I become a diehard fan of this nation
    I be choosing that peace over death even though they whipped me
    I be choosing that piece over death sure enough because they whipped me into submission I enter
    but in Liberty I'll leave
    I be woman I be free
    My alabaster box is now broken into pieces which once safely resided in between the pillars I call my wide hips, out of it flows living water
    Giving birth to death
    Making me the mother of immortality
    I be woman
    I be eve

    We be beauty
    We be brilliance
    We be Power
    Women we are all
    an incandescent flower

  • 128 Words to Use Instead of Very
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