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Poetry & Spoken Word Competition 2024 Winners Announced!

Hailing from Vietnam to Australia, teen writers worldwide participated in our Poetry & Spoken Word Competition and used the poetic form to explore themes of family, love, hope, conflict, and justice.

Check out the competition winners and finalists below, along with commentary from Guest Judge Malika Booker!



Winner: ‘The Reddest Summer’ by Minh Khoi (Vietnam)

Read the winning piece here, or log in/sign up to read it on our site (for writers aged 13-19).

This is a beautifully crafted lyrical poem – rich, rhythmic, and vivid.  The reader is gripped from the first line (“Thirty years draping sunrise on satin hush”), followed by an equally beautiful yet devastating second line (“pouring love into a fragile, chipped cup”). It is not only the lush, vivid emotional and physical landscape being painted here that makes this an engaging evocative poem, but the superb way the musicality of the lines reinforces the narrative concerns. Take, for instance, this alliterative use of the consonant “b” across three lines: “Offerings on the dias, bleed hearth and home. / Bayan roots, bony hands, ancient baobabs calling / your name, dreams bearing bitter.” The beat of the “b” is like a persistent drum. Or even the internal rhyming of “conviction and friction”!

I was equally impressed with the poet’s mature control of the poetic lines, ending lines with words like hush, cup, silent, calling, bitter, see them, remain, etc. – which allowed each line to enact the meaning of the word at the end of the line, before then transforming on the second. For instance, the “satin hush” on one line transforms into an active “pouring love” by the beginning of the second line. So it’s the line breaks that are really encouraging the multi-dimensional meanings implicit to the poetic line. The technical aspects of the poem also correspond with a complicated thematic exploration and poetic criticism of the silencing of memory. Not to mention themes of family, ritual, war, and religion silenced yet permanently etched into ancestral and geographical memory. Congratulations.

Runner-Up: ‘Border Crossing’ by Seonkoo Kim (South Korea)

Read Seonkoo Kim’s piece here, or log in/sign up to read it on our site (for writers aged 13-19).

The power of this gripping political poem lies in its cinematic quality. I am impressed with this portrayal of bodies all motionless or curved/bent in some way. The poem erupts from the exquisite enjambed line break: “The angle at which” – an apt set-up that propels the reader into a harrowing filmic catastrophe. The poem traps the reader into  the act of witnessing, each line a potent scene of the harrowing danger of “Border Crossing,” and culminating in the unexpected and potent last line “and the downturn faces of migrants.”


Winner: ‘Rush’ by Kait W. (United States)

Read and watch the winning piece here, or log in/sign up to read it on our site (for writers aged 13-19).

The power of the poem ‘Rush’ power lies in its persistent litany of questions. The first verse's repetitive use of the anaphoric “when did / when did” adds a rhythmic performative quality that is at once arresting while enacting a sense of bewilderment and urgency. Throughout, the poem displays a hectic rhythm – not unlike the tendency of humanity to “rush” that is being interrogated throughout the poem. That urgency builds to a crescendo, enabled by the performative use of the transformative phrase “And yet” before again enacting the repeated “we” to build to a climax. Kait’s powerful performance demonstrates just how rhythmic the poem is. It is a powerful plea for humanity to slow down and appreciate life. Great work, Kait.

Runner-Up: ‘Social Destruction’ by Cara Reiss (Australia)

Read and watch Cara Reiss’ piece here, or log in/sign up to read it on our site (for writers aged 13-19).

I was struck by the necessity of this critical technological poem. Cara’s powerful performance impressed me with the use of the body (her arms and hands) to enact physical metaphors and symbols that further layered the powerful and engaging spoken word performance, which was gripping.

BEST PEER REVIEW (Selected by Write the World):

‘afterwar-d,’ reviewed by C. Betty (United States)

Log in/sign up to see the winning peer review on our site (for writers aged 13-19).

This peer review is kind, constructive, and extremely specific. C. Betty considers how the poem’s form relates to its content, as in this comment: “Most of your lines are short, which I also find effective because it causes the reader's eyes to move to the bottom of the piece faster.” Acute observations like this help the writer better understand how their structural choices are being interpreted by readers. The reviewer is also thoughtful in offering suggestions on how to elevate the poem – not take it in a new direction that’s different from the writer’s intentions or voice, but helping it realize even more of the potential that it already holds – which is the art of a good review.


Beside the Sidewalk’ by nicodg (United States)

I was impressed with this ecological nature poem, painting a devastating picture of the daily damages inflicted on the environment against the backdrop of families engaged in the everyday mundane – a mother tending to a toddler. The poem’s strength lies in the way the poem transforms the everyday human behaviour into the extraordinary and the maple seed into a symbol of hope.


Written Poem:

And So Dada Said’ by ChloeLing (China)

The Ocean Beyond’ by Jey Min (New Zealand)

i want to write a poem about suffering’ by briefly.jaded (United States)

Temple’ by kanive (Canada)

Spoken Word Performance:

Freedom’ by Kayli Harris (United States)

Peer Review:

‘How the seeds bloom,’ reviewed by Falling Star (United States)


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