Contest Winners 2022

A hearty congratulations to the winners of our Fourth Annual Robert Golden Poetry Contest, and our sincerest gratitude to all who entered their poems this year.

First, Second, and Third Place winners in both the Adult and Student categories received cash prizes.


Here’s what our judge, Jose Hernandez Diaz , had to say about the 2022 entries and the First, Second, and Third Place poems:

The contest entries for the Nexus Poets Contests 2022 were engaging and fascinating and therefore challenging to narrow down to winners, finalists, and honorable mentions.

The adult entries had many quality submissions, folks experimenting with form, some favoring traditional forms, all with passion, intelligence, and keen attention to craft. It was suggested to me that an “honorable mention” category was optional, but after reading all of the entries it was clear that there were numerous qualified candidates for prizes. There is tremendous satisfaction and joy in discovering striking work as you read submissions, like opening presents on Christmas.

The process of reading the student entries was equally engaging and refreshing. It is a true privilege to read poetry from youthful, passionate writers. Some writers wrote about joy, others isolation, others created unique worlds with their experimental poems. This was my first time reading for a student contest so I was unsure what to expect. After judging this contest, I truly can’t wait for the next opportunity to judge a student contest.

About “Bad Therapist Says” (First Place, Adult Category):

“Bad Therapist” cleverly satirizes the therapy experience imagining what it would be like if a therapist blatantly declared all the bad things ordinary people routinely tell us about dealing with problems and stress. Utilizing the prose poem and the forward slash, this innovative piece makes us laugh out loud with a dry sense of humor and at the same time provides caustic commentary on the general indifference we at times display to each other despite unusually hard times. This is a sharp, memorable poem on many levels!

About “Not this Poem” (Second Place, Adult Category):

“Not this Poem” juxtaposes the expectations on poets to write about the beauty of life when in fact reality can be all but charming. This poem hits on a visceral and visual level with fine attention to line break and form.

About “In Search of Exits” (Third Place, Adult Category )

“In Search of Exits” is an ode to the introverted. Importantly, this sense of isolation has become widespread during these manic Covid times. Unafraid to tackle vulnerable subject matter, “In Search of Exits” ploughs through the provocative in order to gain insight and agency into the muted self in an increasingly claustrophobic world.

About “Natural Comparison” (First Place, Student Category )

“Natural Comparison” offers a surreal and unique look at perspective and how expectations don’t always fit reality. This avant-garde, concrete poem has a tongue-and-cheek aesthetic with a mysterious alluring quality. “Natural Comparison” utilizes experimental approaches to language, form, and content.

About “worlds” (Second Place, Student Category)

“Worlds” is a touching tribute to a grandmother and to those who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

About “Don’t Open that Door” (Third Place, Student Category)

“Don’t Open that Door” creates a haunting and intense reality through the use of rhyme, repetition, and form.

Bravo to all of our participants! It was a true pleasure.—Jose Hernandez Diaz, author of “The Fire Eater” and “Bad Mexican, Bad American.”


WINNING POEMS AND POETS 2022

Adult Winners

First Place: “Bad Therapist Says” by Frances Klein

Second Place: “Not This Poem” by Jo Ann Hoffman

Third Place: “In Search of Exits” by Maureen Anne Sherbondy

Honorable Mention: “It’s So Very Hot” by Marty Pitcairn

Student Winners 

First Place: “Natural Comparison” by Frank Hopkins (10th grade)

Second Place: “Worlds” by Kenna Zhang (9th grade)

Third Place: “Don’t Open the Door” by Madison Eborn (10th grade)

Honorable Mention: “My Eyez Opened to Hip Hop” by Auston Dunn (10th grade)

Honorable Mention: “Allspice” by Diamond Ford (10th grade)

Honorable Mention: “First Deer” by Cooper Bloomberg (10th grade)

Honorable Mention: “Brother I Am Sorry” by Aniston Hill (10th grade)


First Place, Adult Category:

“Bad Therapist Says” by Frances Klein

Bad Therapist Says

can I pray for you/you look so pretty today/I can see why everyone likes you/where did we leave off last week/I lost my notes/I don’t think you mentioned that before/I don’t think you mentioned that in every session/I’ll pray for you tonight/you’re too smart to be a teacher/a negative attitude is probably why the procedures aren’t working/I have a reputation for being able to speak to God/anxiety is all in the mind/none of it is real/none of it is realistic/why are you scared of a death not your own/aren’t we all striving for heaven/you are a serious case/you need to come every week/don’t forget your credit card/I pray for you every night/you should quit your job/don’t you think you could do more good elsewhere/like in the movies/or on tv/or have a podcast, your voice is so pleasing/I think you should stop the procedures/It doesn’t seem natural/God told me you would have twins/I’m thinking of starting a new career/wellness coaching, or life coaching, or maybe seeing the world/no one cares what you’re doing/if you’re going to work every day, then it’s not depression/I wasn’t excited enough for my own pregnancy/the baby died/birth defects/sometimes I wonder if it was me that did it/my attitude, I mean/do you think it was me/I’ll pray about it tonight, when I pray for you/who is that, that name you said/I didn’t know you were married/I didn’t know you had a son/I didn’t know you aren’t from around here/God brought you here for a reason/God does this to you for a reason/can you write a review for my website/a good one/that says how much I helped you


Second Place, Adult Category:

“Not This Poem” by Jo Ann Hoffman

Not This Poem

You asked for a poem about leaving.
But that is not the poem I wanted to write.
 
I didn’t want you to know that my father
left us when I was in sixth grade,
died, no warning, just died,
leaving us with only the stale
sweet smell of his Pall Malls
in the Chevy, and on the tweed fuzz
of the old green couch,
 
or how I left my mom alone
when I went sailing off to college,
filled with songs of myself
and my friends and my future
and my rights and my life,
 
or how my baby left me
when he was six days old,
died, no warning, just died,
leaving me with a yellow nursery
filled with fuzzy blue bears.
 
That’s not the poem you wanted.
 
You hoped for a poem about leaves
floating from trees in crisp autumn,
fledglings leaving the nest in late spring,
or five-year-olds leaving moms
at the school bus on the first day
of kindergarten.
 
Perhaps, to please you,
I will write about a snake shedding
the shell of itself on the cool dirt
under the jasmine vine, slithering
forward, hoping to grow a new skin,
to leave the tight, splitting pain behind.

Third Place, Adult Category:

“In Search of Exits” by Maureen Anne Sherbondy

In Search of Exits
 
 
Lately, whenever I enter
a room, I form an exit
strategy. Eyes scan
for windows and back doors.
At movie theatres
and grocery stores,
I craft a plan for survival.
 
As a child, I did this too.
Younger eyes sought out
departures from loud places:
hallways, kitchen, bedroom.
 
Someone is always screaming
at the mall. Angry customers,
infants in strollers, mad teens.
I am trying to find an alleyway
toward silence.
 
Sometimes I go missing
for days when buildings grow
too loud. There is a child inside
my head seeking shelter
from the noisy universe.
 
The happiest I’ve ever been was inside
an igloo I built in my front yard.
Seven years old. Danger seemed
a thousand miles away.
 
It became so quiet all I could hear
was my own beating heart
and the sound of my breath,
as I watched white flakes drifting
into the insulated world.

Honorable Mention, Adult Category:

“It’s So Very Hot” by Marty Pitcairn

It’s So Very Hot
 
 
That damp blue sky leans heavy on your head,
Clogging your lungs with water that
Tastes like the river beside you;
And the sweat, with no place to go,
Slides down your sides,
Slips down your legs,
Gathers on your top lip,
Until you’d swear you inhaled
Your own drippings.
 
Even the frogs are too heat-drugged
To peep, chirp, or cheep.
The crows are too lazy to run off the
Hawk that sits weary in the tree top.
Dogs pant with eyes that say,
“Chase your own damn ball,”
And the cat just let a mouse walk by.
 


First Place, Student Category:

“Natural Comparison” by Frank Hopkins

Natural Comparison

You won’t define            fire just by looking
But because we can’t touch it, what should we do
You can always smell the potent smoke when it is black
You are able to hear the woodchips sizzle, pop, and crack
You may witness the light disappear and never come
Back it will make the starry night visible when lit
And all of this is unnecessary, till you realize
the fire is you. You are not identified
By your appearances
But instead you
Are you
 

Second Place, Student Category:

“worlds” by Kenna Zhang

worlds
 
my grandmother lives in
two places at once.
the first: billions reside there.
and the other: she is the only one who knows it.
 
nobody knows if her world
has lush green grassy plains,
clear azure skies, or a vast woodland,
full of never-ending chirps.
 
trees with blush pink blossoms,
the flushed warm tones of maple leaves,
perfect water lotuses
resting on picturesque lily pads.
 
i will never know.
i will be a relative,
a stranger met by chance,
but always forgotten the next day.
 
a world where
she doesn’t recognize her son
but only remembers,
he was good to her.
 
she is a free spirit
where she can breathe fresh air
where she cannot be held back
by the restraints of reality.
 
it is a world that
i don’t know,
and i never will
but i know its name:
 
Alzheimer’s.
 

Third Place, Student Category:

“Don’t Open the Door” by Madison Eborn

Don’t Open the Door
 
 
The voices came from the door
The door in the back of your mind
The door nobody mentioned
The voices that nobody talked about
 
In school the voices roared
In the car the voices panicked
During sleep the voices whispered
No matter what, the voices were there
 
Reminding things
Over examining things
Repeating things
Over thinking things
 
Nobody opened that door
Why would they?
 

Honorable Mention, Student Category:

“My Eyez Opened to Hip Hop” by Auston Dunn

My Eyez Opened to Hip Hop
 
 
It was the first day of high school.
I had gotten into my friends car,
He was listening to some rap.
I was never really into rap music,
But something about this song.
These lyrics were telling a story.
These lyrics were creating an image.
“I wont forget the weekends spent sleeping at your crib, thats the way I wish my family lived”.
Then I realized something about myself.
I really enjoy this music,
I enjoy the story telling along with this image in my mind being created.
This image making me feel like I was in his shoes, living his life.
It was my first day of high school,
And of course, like most people I was nervous.
But this artist just made my day so much easier.
I went home and made a playlist of all the J. Cole songs I could find.
A few songs later,
I was instantly hooked.
The friend who drove me that day is the biggest J. Cole fan I have ever met,
I ask him to tell me everything about J. Cole.
Ever since that day I have never enjoyed listening to a rapper like that more than J. Cole.
 

Honorable Mention, Student Category:

“Allspice” by Diamond Ford

Allspice
 
 
I woke up to a sweet cinnamon smell.
The smell gave me joy
The joy I couldn’t ignore
Reminded me of thanksgiving
The sweet aroma of ginger candles
The turkey in the oven
And the wind seething through the screen door
The leaves falling and the dogs are barking
A blessing to see another day.
The oven dings as we all gather together
We all give each others gifts as we
Thank one another for the love and care.
 

Honorable Mention, Student Category:

“First Deer” by Cooper Bloomberg

First deer
 
 
The first time
I killed
a deer was a couple of years ago.
 
My first deer was a buck,
I killed it hunting with just me and my dad.
 
It was first thing in the morning and me and my dad were hunting and we were sitting there
watching a little buck and I was about to
shoot it.
 
I was looking through the scope aiming to shoot it and my dad said, “Wait.” He pushed the gun
over and said, “There’s a bigger buck.” So I looked
through the scope and
aimed at it and
shot it.
 
After I shot it we got up and went and looked for it
and found it.
 

Honorable Mention, Student Category:

“Brother I Am Sorry” by Aniston Hill

Brother I am Sorry
 
 
Is it because of me, you don’t speak up when I talk over you?
Is it because of me, you choose to hide away in the comfort of your own bed,
watching countless hours of what rots your brain.
Is it because of me you begin to smile,
then turn away, fearing this feeling won’t last?
Is it because of me you put your hands over your face when you mess up?
Or is it because of me, I never hear you say, “I love you?”
I have caused you many nights of restless sleep, I can see that.
Because of me, you have told yourself you are nothing.
Brother, I am sorry.
 
Brother, I am sorry to reflect the way I think about myself;
Countless nights, I stay up too…thinking,
Thinking of what I could have done better today,
Thinking about the days I’ve wasted.
Questioning if I am good enough for mom and dad.
Questioning if they are happy with me and you?
Do the things that I do matter to them?
Does it matter to them,
that I set my own life aside, so to pick up after everyone else?
Do they even see that?
Me trying my damndest;
Through all my struggles,
to make them happy, when I’m tired?
Brother,
to have put you in the middle of it all,
I will stay up once again..thinking how I want to say,
Brother, I am sorry.