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Poetry & Spoken Word Competition 2023 Winners Announced

Poetry has the potential to find beauty and meaning in even the most unexpected places. From vivid reflections on the ocean and the nature of language, to the story of a childhood desperation to take flight, the winners of our Poetry & Spoken Word Competition used the poetic form to explore a varied and powerful range of topics.

Read on to discover the winners and finalists, along with commentary from Guest Judge Elisabeth Sharp McKetta! Log in or sign up to view the full pieces below.



Best Written Poem: After the sea by Starlitskies (Sri Lanka)

“After the sea” by Starlitskies succeeds by its restrained, sharp line breaks (always breaking on interesting words); its structure of stanzas like short wave sets, reflecting the poem’s theme; its teaching of a new word; its elegant use of repetition of the title; its themes of beauty in translation and of nature as inspiration; its emotion that simmers just below the surface and bubbles forth to show the universal through specific details; the way the mystery unfurls of what has been known before; and the beauty of the personification in compound words, both familiar and invented: “God-like. The sea smiles. Moon-charmed.” What a poet! I will read this poem again and again, and through reading it, I will see the ocean in a new way.

Best Spoken Word Poem: The Flightpath of a Gravitational Anomaly by Anne Blackwood (US)

Anne Blackwood colors the worlds with meaning in the spoken word poem “The Flightpath of a Gravitational Anomaly.” Listening, I was rapt with the language of birds, the “confines / of birdlessness,” and the revisiting of a childhood moment with older, wiser knowledge. Even though the child-self’s attempt at flight predictably failed, the poet finds beauty reflected in the attempt, observing: “my heart fluttered and pounded / just like a bird, / so perhaps the decadence of a / fledgling fantasy / is every bit as crowning as flight.” I loved hearing this poem performed. Beautiful word choice and elegant, clear, confident delivery—taut on the theme of weightlessness, wishing, wings.

Listen to Anne Blackwood read their piece here.

Best Peer Review: Abysmal, reviewed by a.vennn (United Arab Emirates)

The beauty of this peer review is that it encourages while it teaches. Reviewer a.vennn casts both a broad and deep eye on the entire poem, offering wise insights on many things ranging from word choice to overall meaning to juxtaposition to clarity, to much more. I think this reader has much to teach, an excellent eye for what the poem under review is trying—in its ideal version—to be, and a wonderful way of encouraging the poet to make craft choices that help it close in on its ideal version. This reviewer is a first-rate poetry teacher and reader.


Written Poem Finalists:

From Scale by amberizidae (US)

Fa( r )ther by Isabelle_ (Hong Kong)

shouting through the glass by Emma Gold (US)

Spoken Word Finalists:

It’s Mine by Jiya Doshi (India)

Corset by a.vennn (United Arab Emirates)

Peer Review Finalist:

Art of thought, reviewed by ⚡️Lia⚡ (US)


Icarus by le Lapin Blanc (Romania)

Five-Second Rule by Charlie Can Chen Wu (Canada)

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