High School Prize 2017-2018 Winners

Finalists Winner and Judge of HS Poetry Prize Seated on Couch in Poetry Center

2017-18 H.S. Poetry Prize (left to right): Finalist Lexie von der Luft; Finalist Maureena Murphy; Judge Marie Howe; Finalist Susan Li; Winner Malia Chung

Malia Chung
Milton Academy, Milton, MA

WINNER, 12th Annual Poetry Prize for High School Girls in New England

Crabbing In Bethany, Delaware

He told me how he caught
blue crabs off the dock sinking
in wet sand and beer cans behind the beach cottage, splitting
the haul with his immigrant mother who cooked until
the pale bodies flushed red. He used to lure them with chicken
necks bought for ten cents a piece, money
from returnable Coke bottles stolen
from the neighbors’ yards. He remembers still
how she ate them: slurping the soft
flesh from the inner skeleton, the hack
and hiss of screen doors shuddering in their frames,
blackened nails from umpteen packs of Merits,
the “Who’s your boy?” and “What you looking at?”
Red-faced Floyd West lighting stray cats afire,
the Austin boys belt-whipped on their front porch.
This was being mixed in rural Delaware.
Sheryl wheezing in her yard, hair in curlers, bloated ticks
hanging from dogs’ ears, and the ex-Green Beret who snuck boys
his homemade wine. This was to be mixed
up in rural Delaware in the ‘80s. My father promises we’ll go crabbing
sometime, buy the necks and stand above the marsh stream on the wooden bridge
in another state. He tells me: the trick
to crabbing is tickling their white stomachs,
loosening their muscles on the net until, resigned,
they let go.  


Lexie von der Luft
The Holderness School, Plymouth, NH

FINALIST, 12th Annual Poetry Prize for High School Girls in New England

Light​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Wreckage

We are the empty dogs that hound in pitch darkness,
With snow scraping our feet and fur infecting our backs.
Although scars cut our pelts,
We bark anyway.

We resemble the shiny apples that fall from the wise tree
Into a bushel, with bruises freckling our rotted minds,
Our cores filled with seed,
And that is terrifying.

And we spread our seed.

We act like the frozen rings trapped in correlation around the orbit
Of Saturn’s ruthless pull, drifting from the Sun and
Still manage to live
Without the freedom of Mars.

We roughly inhale a breath of fresh smoke as the sky darkens,
Modifying the associations of quickly rising fire
From light,
To destruction.

We are the empty dogs.
We are the stars that don’t shine.
So glisten for me.


Maureena Murphy
Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH

FINALIST, 12th Annual Poetry Prize for High School Girls in New England

Her Afro Pick Speaks



this black girl.

birthed of melanin,

of a bronze-eyed star gazer,

of clear island nights on the beach,

of dripping mango juice and coconut water on shore.

Her. she held me before she could learn how to hold herself.

ripped through curl and coil searching for answers i could not give her

i am her savior.

it was my fingers that ran through her hair whispering beauty between strands like hymnals

directed her nervous hands through twisting fiber of cotton made silk upon her touch

taught her the heat of oxtails and dumplings fresh off a stove of matches and gas

showed her the adventure of climbing jack tree on bare foot and oiled palm

Me. it was through me that she brought herself out of chemical hiding

washed perm and applicator away with the waves of the island

held broken parts of her from root and cut them like weeds

turned back-bar comments and weary glare into

patois that rang like music in her ears.

she has found herself now.

discovered the art upon

her that god spent so

long to create.

a black girl



Susan Li
Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, MA

FINALIST, 12th Annual Poetry Prize for High School Girls in New England


& then, as if by magic,

                                    the late light sweeps up the last stragglers
loitering outside of the Motel 6, stalking shadows half-crescent,

                                    beating geese songs into the gravel, teething
on the ruins of this summer. Mother says this is just

                                    the way of the world: how every tick of the clock
presses another bruise under the great white eye

                                    of the moon. She tells me it is always dawn somewhere,
but it is hard to believe in anything beyond the tight mean pulse

                                    of these hours. And down here there is no exit sign,
not a soul on the interstate 95 for so many decades, nothing left to happen— 

                                    mother shivering in the stillness, praying
to steal away from these bodies for one night, as if

                                    forgiveness could make gravity unhinge all around us;
summer sucking its lungs in, moaning for any small mercy;

                                    the dim flickering lamp between us a lighthouse
shining on the ragged edges of the world.

                                    Meanwhile the geese are still singing their hymns, still
splitting open on the knife-points of their own limbs.

                                    We know that sharp need. The midnight brash,
shuddering where our limbs puncture the sky.

                                    But in the morning
we will tiptoe out of our bodies- still enough

                                    we can forget to be alive.
We will flay the room raw, bone white.

                                    We will surrender
nothing to the imagination.