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Teen Poetry Contest

Teen Poetry Contest! 

Submissions open April 1 – April 30 and may be sent to [email protected] or dropped off to the Teen Desk (or any library service desk). Participants must live in or go to school in Bartholomew County. Limit to one original poem per participant.

Submissions should include:

              Name/age/pronouns/school/email or phone number

Two age group categories: middle school and high school

One First Prize and one Honorable Mention will be selected from each age group

Cash Prizes: First Prize - $100; Honorable mention - $50

All winners will receive personalized feedback from Samandar Ghaus, professional poet. All winning poems will be published on BCPL’s website.

Poems will be judged anonymously by a team of teen volunteers.

2023 Winners:

Introducing the High School Contest First Prize Winner:


Hannah Michel (She/Her)  Grade 12

About Hannah:Hey I'm Hannah and I like creative writing. I learned about poetry in a new way during a seventh grade English class. I've been working on it on and off ever since. I love talking about why I use certain styles and techniques.  

Praise for "i once had aspiration" from El Williams, poetry editor fo Indiana Revew:

I learn so much from Hannah Michel’s poem, “i once had aspiration.” With their musicality and precision, this poet allows for the speaker to revel on a meditation of revelation. “I thought I was a music note/so important to the piece,” states the speaker and in this poem, readers begin to have a better understanding of the complexities of self-awareness and interpersonal interactions. Through this poem, Michel teaches readers how to navigate newfound ways of existing. Mostly, this beautiful piece teaches us all how to come to terms with “the music.”

i once had aspiration 🎙

I thought I was a music note

So important to the piece

I didn't know I'd be the rest

That they would like the least

That they would sing all over me

Ignore my little curves

They want to just forget me

Replacing me with words

I thought I had my job

But then they took that too

But when you were wrong and had your job

I still respected you

I'd swear I was a music note

Inside an epic chord

But instead they cut me off

With sharpness like a sword

I tried to be a quarter

I tried to be a whole

I tried with all the very

Inner parts within my soul

They said I would be all those things

I said I'd do my best

I thought I was a music note

Till they made me their rest

Honorable Mention, High School:

Francesca Bates (She/Her) 

About Francesca:

Francesca is a person
Francesca is a poet
Francesca is a personification
of nothingness
Francesca is me.
She plays flute as she marches
And piccolo as her throat parches
Water pouring onto blacktop
Washing into cerulean sea
Piano playing into air
Ringing through with candid care
Passion projected into vocals
Singsong, songs sing
Do, re, mi
Strings adjusting to fingers
Used to
Pencils scribing singers
And then I hear my heartstop
1, 2, 3
Seconds before it beats again
Scribbling, scribing, scrubbing
Faces of fiction and locals
Words inked by pen
Failing feet flubbing
nothing as it should be.
First letter of the alphabet
‘Cross every classbound page
But only in lasting general
While the marks that are ephemeral
Are often below;
I’m not that sage.
Purple swirls within my favor
rite passed up with every age
Aesthetic teaching language
Learning forever
Correct me if I’m wrong
My skills always stammer
Unless it’s in grammar
My visage a plain twinge
Sprinkled to together
Bringing peace and joy via song
At least, that’s how I try
To have my world
To be
Even though it’s often not
Because it’s the only skill I’ve got
To be a person
To be a poet
to be a personification of
To be Francesca
To be loud and soft
To be me.
Or, so I tell
Though it’s probably just an ideal
Because not much is really real.


I wish to be a poet

To thrive on smiles and words

To show the world amazing feats

Within their own mind.

To bedazzle and to lead

Them to the corners

They never seem to find

On their own.

To love and to cherish

Admonish and beguile

To humble the haughty

To help the lowly

To put youth in the elder

And to wisen the child.

To make magic from paper

Stardust from ink

Roses from wheat

And water from stone

I wish to be a poet, to be forever

and never alone.

Praise for "untitled" from El Williams:

Francesca Bate’s poem “untitled” is bursting with desire.

A speaker who wishes to be a poet
tells readers why:

“to humble the haughty/to help the lowly/to put youth in the elder/and to wisen the child…”

However, the irony is that Bates, the poet, has masterfully crafted a beautiful poem,  here, one that ends on an internal desire with hope to share the magic of verse.

Introducing the Middle School Contest First Prize Winner:

Idhika Shetty (She/Her) 

About Idhika:  Hi, I'm Idhika Shetty. I love dogs and cinema :)

I like writing songs, poems and listening to music for inspiration. In my free time, I swim and am on my robotics' build team.

Praise for "Goodbye" from El Williams:

"What a devastating poem that poet Idhika Shetty has strikingly written. Commenting on a very serious subject, the speaker of this poem manages to emote with a broad and critical perspective. “12 kids are sacrificed everyday,/because that weapon keeps it/this way.” Wow. Shetty is a brave and talented poet for whom we should all look out!"


As she hugs her little kindergarten goodbye,

she never thinks about a lost life.

She hopes her kid will have a good day,

while in reality the kid hides in a closet and prays,

prays that everything will be just fine,

when outside her friends are losing their lives.


Families are torn, kids are killed,

but in the end it’s no big deal.

To the government that still thinks guns are a

savior, killing students and teachers isn’t

pleasant behavior.


12 kids are sacrificed everyday,

Because that weapon keeps it

this way.


Each family then gets the gruesome call

letting them know their children are gone.

that feeling they have

we will not know, until

we’ve lost one of OUR own.


The guilt and sorrow

will eat them alive, until

they realize they must put up a fight.


To court they go, and in the end they win,

but kids have a fear of coming back again.

To the place where they lost all their friends,

they will now realize that there is no end.


To the government themselves, “how do you feel?”

witnessing school shootings, thinking “they aren’t real”

but they are very real, and a survivor once said,

how many friends will I have to say goodbye to in the end?

Honorable Mention, Middle School

Manisha Mohanty (She/Her)

About Manisha:  Manisha Mohanty is the author of “Lonely Girl”. It is a poem which was written by her when she was in her first year of middle school. Though she is in 8th grade now, she remembers why she wrote the poem very vividly. She has a passion for words and a desire to connect with readers. Her poem offers a glimpse into the mind of a girl who is navigating through a period of loneliness. But towards the ending she wrote about the feeling of hope blooming in the heart of the young and lonely girl.


In her spare time, Manisha can be found with her nose deep in a book. She loves reading, and she believes that the power of storytelling has the power of inspiring, comforting, or galvanizing the reader or the listener. Lastly, writing is the most powerful weapon that can be used to affect anything or anyone in this world

Praise for "Lonely Girl" from El Wililams:

"I am struck by how sentimental Manisha Mohanty’s poem is. With their keen eye for rhythm, this poet has allowed readers to enter the poem and witness the variant modes of loneliness. However, I’m drawn mostly to the penultimate stanza: “but deep down inside,/she knows she’ll be okay,/and someday soon,/she’ll find her own way.” With this pocket of hope, readers learn the possibilities of happiness. Mohanty has given us a gem in this poem."

Lonely Girl

She sits there in silence,

Her heart heavy as stone,

Surrounded by people,

 But feeling so alone.


The laughter and chatter,

All around her ear,

But it's all just noise,

 That she can't seem to hear.


 Her eyes are downcast,

Lost in thought and pain,

As she wonders why,

She can't break this chain.


The world seems so big,

And she's just a small part,

A lonely little girl,

With a heavy, broken heart.


But deep down inside,

She knows she'll be okay,

And someday soon,

She'll find her own way.


Till then she sits, 

In her quiet despair,

 Alone with her thoughts,

As she tries not to care