High School Prize

2010 winning poems



Haeyeon Cho
U-32 High School


Unconventional Couples

My classes go hand-in-hand,
circulating through the school hallways
like unconventional couples.
Pre-calculus is inseparable from US History.
When I allow a math problem
to overwhelm me with its cunning impossibilities
I think of Andrew Jackson:
would he shrink before an equation?
Never! He would challenge every variable to a duel
until they cringed and surrendered the answer.
Chemistry class hooked up with chorus.
Songs are word-electrons orbiting in lip-shaped spheres
around a positive pulsing core, pure and elemental.
French married painting, words coloring canvases
je t’aime red and je ne t’aime pas blue.
And English? It’s on-and-off with PE.
Some days, writing is a speed workout,
arduous, drawn-out, unpleasant.
Other days, it’s like rock climbing,
searching, cautious, a little afraid.
But most days, it’s like the high ropes course.
I dangle in a chasm of nothingness,
alive and acutely aware, harnessed by isolation,
but made breathless by the sensation
of incandescent freedom.




Samantha Ardoin
Marblehead High School



Things a Stripper Does While Trapped Inside a Cake

Measure the walls. Count the minutes. Notch the walls with a fingernail.
Do not look for an early release. Make use of the quiet and think back on your life.
Practice singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself. Call your mom back, speed dial 6.
Plan the bachelorette party your sister asked you to hold. Dream of college.
Look at yourself through your mother’s eyes. Work up the courage to quit.
Review the mistakes that led you to this fate. Endure your guilt silently.
Find solace in your family’s ignorance. Destroy that little flare of hope that
Occasionally bursts to life. Try to listen to the party outside your hell.
Listen for your cue. Be ready to jump out at any moment.
Be ready to surrender another scrap of your ravaged dignity.
Think of your little boy, bright eyed and curious. Remember,
You must suffer so he might have the chance you never did,
And smile.




Elizabeth Bennett
Algonquin Regional High School



It didn’t take long before everything began to overflow.
Couches, schoolwork, bills, macaroni-picture gifts, accusations, pictures, desks, hand lotion, scarves, newspapers, pens, bruises, junk food, dust bunnies, books, sunlight, shoes, guilt, computers, sheet music, all piled over each other, neglected, one thing would loop through another, shoved back into corners, ignored, forgotten.                                                                                                                                               One might be looking for the pen but was just as likely to end up with a fistful of macaroni, or lotion, or guilt crammed into the back of the scratched mahogany drawers.  (It was more like finding hay in a needle stack than anything else.)                          The couches always accompanied the bills, absorbing complaints, absconding headaches.                            Computers and books were synonymous, they were scattered amongst the first floor, rectangular prisms, grey and black and boring colors, they provided the same information.  Some worked. Some didn’t.                                                                                                                                                           Old decaying shoes began to be stacked against the windowpanes; sunlight slid in through the holes and left criss crossing patterns on the plush floor.                                                                                                                                                               
And all of a sudden—
There was nothing left.
The closets, empty, the bedrooms, empty, the bathrooms, the basements, the living dining computer rooms, all empty.
            Every window-sill dusted, each one opened to finally remove the trapped bugs with their arms crossed like pharaohs, pobrecitos.
            Hair elastics found in the strangest of places: inside the utensil drawer, mingling with the rocks of the fish tank that had only supported dust for years, sprouting from where the carpet hit the wall.
            Every secret the family had hidden in the voracious house, exposed.
            •            Hundreds of photograph: the unsettling ones of the parents in the 70’s.  The boy’s prematurely born older brother with his face still pink and wrinkled, unnamed, the same brother turned cold and white, unnamed.
            •            That one ominous crack in the wall splintering off into a plethora of others, evoked by heavy hand and blame. 
            •            The fact that she didn’t wear that multitude of scarves just for the colours and style.
            •            The roaming yellow bouncy ball that no one could remember buying the kid.
            •            The only half-burnt report card dropped hopefully into the radiator.

Beneath this, books:
What to Expect When You’re Expecting! and
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Toddlers             and
Got a Shy One? From Timid Caterpillar to Social Butterfly                 and  
Explaining Death (unopened, corseted in shear plastic wrap.)                              
Every surface entirely and miraculously cleaned, with only some boxes and a rented dumpster to show for
years                                                            of                                                            accumulation.







Carly McIver
Marblehead High School



Bellum Inferre

I watch the stars above my head
Like soldiers marching out and in
The shot, it rings, they all fall dead.

Crystal fire, bloodstained red
The soldiers bathe themselves in sin
I watch the stars above my head.

The bullets fly, the clink of lead
The brothers fight, the war to win
The shot, it rings, they all fall dead.

The monster from the evil fed
The bodies lie, the devil grins
I watch the stars above my head.

When waste seems like a cause instead
The loss of blood and life and skin
The shot, it rings, they all fall dead.

They’d be heroes, so they said
In life and death forever kin
I watch the stars above my head
The shot, it rings, they all fall dead.












Carly McIver
Sharon Academy



We crouched on the tracks,
eating canolis that pooled chocolate on our fingers,
feather dusting over the topics that throb,
marveling instead at the way we looked
under the trumpeting noonday sun.

The bells clanged, the train came,
the arrival trumpeted over the still air and
we stepped back from the heaving approach and
listened to freight car’s rusty song,
listened to the graffiti’s slanted words
sang along to the trumpets in those rough declarations.

We charged forward. You jumped first, threw yourself
onto the train. You were swept yards away from me in seconds
an eager, three-second hobo
throwing your head towards the sun,
the metallic music, the throbbing,
the canolis, throwing your head back
and trumpeting.

Tracy K. Smith


Judge for 2011: Maxine Kumin

The High School poets will spend the day at Smith College, meeting privately with Maxine Kumin to discuss their poetry, and will present their winning work at her evening reading on March 29, 2011.

    Watch for next year's guidelines!