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Earth Day Poetry Contest

WVC holds an annual poetry contest every April in recognition of Earth Day and Poetry Month.

Three co-winners of the 2024 Contest 

Please check out the footage of our Earth Day reading!

Dead Lamb on My Bathroom Floor

By Aislyn Ross

rubber neck bowing as I lifted the form of you,
loose like the flaccid tentacles of an octopus
washed ashore. I never saw you move on your own.
the air was warm but you were warmer, 
swaddled in a blanket as fleece as your fresh cream coat.
pale eyes dipped like empty snow globes
shifting away from the light. 
as your mother's milk dripped down
your still muzzle,
did you even know you were gone?
quiet one, soft sleeping virgin,
what does it feel like to lose before you could ever begin?
Judge's Commendation: "The speaker's care and empathy for a life already gone in "Dead Lamb on My Bathroom Floor" is admirable, and also tragic in its hope for a future that cannot be. These powerful feelings are resident in the lamb's mother, too, who looks onto the dead form along with the speaker and the reader. That the whole poem unfolds in the speaker's bathroom gives the poem a sense of the urgency that unfolded before the lamb died. The poet's heart is truly here on the page" — Kurt Caswell


Are You Watching Me?

By Ella Reynolds

My muscles felt it first.
When I became flexed and heavy
When my inhale fills with Black Walnut and Pine sweat
I'm reminded I'm in the wild
and it doesn't matter that the barn is below me. 
When I flick my eyes three hills up--
I see You
And your dark fur that could blend in If your kind didn't stand out in North Carolina.
Large, yet quiet.
Yes, I see You now
and You are watching me.
The hooves from the cows and mules 
Clump dirt
then fling the dust in different directions.
Their nostrils flare and snort
As you sit.
On your grass throne
In the property we bought
That you own.
How long have you been watching me 
And what are the intentions in your eyes?
Those golden, illuminating eyes!
Are they uncivilized?
Or does your wild come without war?
I see You wondering that, too
In every black-satin-tail curl
That almost smacks
Then brushes the ground.
No one will believe me 
A ten-year-old girl,
that I saw You
The Extinct Panther.
Judge's Commendation: "The question posed by the tittle, "Are You Watching Me?", is answered almost immediately, and the poem moves on to other concerns. I admire the speaker in the poem who acknowledges the panther's right to be, to exist, and to be in North Carolina--the family's property is the panther's property. And the answer to the question: "does your wild come without war?" is implicit in the question itself, yes it does. The speaker's astonishment is the reader's astonishment that what was lost long ago--"The Extinct Panther"-- was never lost at all" — Kurt Caswell


By Alex Fisher

I sit
in a corner light
which holds back
the creep of evening
faint rhythmic
cricket strains
slide past
the cracked doorway
filling space
by the silent
unseen air
a harmony of life
shadows dance
on the fading silver wall
Judge's Commendation: "I love the way "Evening" envokes a moment in the passage of a day in such space and clean language. Even as time flows in this poem, it is also suspended as the speaker or seer in the poem looks and listens and feels. So much of what is in the poem is present in absences: space, air, shadows. This is a place I want to be and watch the evening unfold." — Kurt Caswell

Honorable Mentions:

Blossoms Resurgence

By Silas Keifenhiem

Looking west-deep in the forest of antiquity
I step into the chrysalis glow of pastel moonlight
beams blind me by reflected obsidian
Until a new world is revealed to me
Smoldered and Moribund trees, touched
by the blaze of human inferno-
A place that once breathed 
Secreted to floating embers
Fire lit-but fleeting into darkness
Feet planted in charred leaves and calcined life
I look to the moon
Where she begins to speak to me-
In a soft voice, warm like the autumn sparrow song,
which echoes through the cities and the gollies-
And she says to me,
Remember, Wildflowers grow, after Wildfires

Soy tu hija, madre.

By Gabriela Pedraza Fraga

Diosa Cuerauáperi, mi madre tierra, la que engendra. 
Mis ancestros me enseñaron a respetarte 
a honrar tu nombre con ceremonias y rituales 
a escuchar el eco de tu voz en el viento 
y a sentirte en cada uno de los animales.   
Pero mi realidad, me invita a explotarte, 
a olvidar lo que mis ancestros me enseñaron 
y de tu existente vida solamente se olvidaron 
pero mi alma no cede, y no deja de pensarte.   
¿pensarán que eres eterna? 
¿Será que nunca morirás 
y solo evolucionaras?   
Aprendí sobre tus ciclos y tu renovación 
pero lo único que observo es tu defunción, 
como se desvanecen tus colores,
desaparecen tus animales, 
y se secan tus manantiales.   
Mis raíces purépechas 
me hace llamarte madre, 
soy tu hija heredera de tus riquezas 
portadora de tus historias y tradiciones.   
Me hieren tus ríos y lagos secos, 
secos por la codicia humana. 
Me arden tus bosques quemados, 
testigos mudos de aquellos 
que solo piensan en el beneficio propio.
Me mortifican tus animales extintos, 
criaturas que ya no corren ni vuelan, 
sacrificados por la ignorancia y ambición. 
Y cada vez más extinguido tu corazón.   
¿Por qué ellos no te valoran? 
¿Por qué venden tu agua
y queman tus bosques? 
¿Que no ven que al destruirte se destruyen ellos mismos?   
Eres más que solo tierra 
eres la historia de generaciones  
eres todo lo presente y ausente, 
pero el día de mi muerte,   
serás la tierra que cubrirá, 
con amor, mi humilde tumba.   
Volveré a tus entrañas 
y daré vida a cada brote  
renaceré en cada flor que abre 
y en cada niño que nace.   
Para recordarles que eres arte 
que eres protectora y madre 
que cada raíz es un guía 
de quien nos abraza y cuida. 


2023 Contest Winners

I Met an Owl Once

By Isaac Day

Youth told me wander, 
seek life’s old clay, 
land of stories ages told,
land spoke of in hushed tones. 


Land of night never end, 
where trees hum melodies 
with wind. 
That is where I met him. 
Feathers ash gray, 
hooked beak, coal black, 
sat on lowest branch 
of dead wood's oak. 
He heard my steps, 
and turned to look, 
in a cold voice he spoke. 
Flame’s child, he called me, 
words tinged with smoke, days old. 
I laughed with new name, 
naive, assuming some joke, 
but the owl did not laugh. 
With eyes born of night’s wisdom 
and grave’s gray voice, 
he told me how man came, 
how the others all burned away. 
When the story was told 
I saw him too come ablaze, 
ash, cinder, and smoke, 
the golden eyes of a ghost. 



Judge's Commendation: "I Met an Owl Once" stands out as a poem accomplishing quite a bit of work with just a few stanzas. It tells the story of youth's exploration and a coming-of-age realization of humankind's ability to destroy. The poem holds itself tonally to the end, involving thoughtful use of assonance and a suggested rhyme scheme that exists without overwhelming the reader. The diction, too, is consistent, allowing the mix of details and abstraction to carry the reader through the allegory of the poem, along with phrasing and suggestions of the gothic, something that contributes to the mood of the piece, the dark, timeless, smoky wisdom that comes when we wander and focus. " — Andrew Gottlieb, author of "Tales of a Distance"


the fly.

By Leo Perry

i’ve never really paid any attention to flies, but if i were any animal, i would be a fly.

i don’t want to admit my resemblance to flies, they’re annoying and i get overwhelmed easily by the monotonous buzz that their tiny bodies emit.

it’s too close, too loud, and too much.

but i’ve never noticed that they rub their hands together when stationary.

what i’ve seen are flies with their fuzzy bodies and little wings.

what i didn’t see, is that their wings are painted with intricate designs, ones that i can only compare to fine line art.

i didn’t know that their fuzz looks like miniature tufts of soft cat fur. like the fur of an affectionate maine coon, the ones that rub their head against your hand any moment they're visible.

flies are complex, and have “a surprising mental capacity and emotional intelligence.”

i wouldn’t be a fly because of the movie starring Jeff Goldblum. the only media about flies is grotesque body horror, by the way. which the point of, is that it violates the most fundamental piece of human existence, the body.

i would be a fly because there is an unsettling relatability to them. i, too, am annoying and have a body that some view as disturbing.

my likeness is also villainized like the fly is, just *usually* by different people. flies aren't typically the focus of harmful lawmakers and bigoted people. flies don’t worry about violent hate crimes or deep-rooted insecurities. they don’t have suffocating depressive episodes or unstable relationships.

though, they might worry about their colonies. they might try to protect their young and their little fly-friends.

they’re smart, that's for sure. flies can process more than triple what the average human can. even though they're nuisances, their existence is vital for ecosystems and can be used for biomedical research.

i would, undoubtedly, be a fly.


2022 Contest Winner

Breathing Grasses

by Eva Christine

Tall grass breathes peaceful
prayer sings in the clouded sky
Dusk falls in silence

Swinging back and forth
Daises and weeds between toes
Belonging lives here

Lemonade taste sweet
Upon her tongue and sizzles
Down her throat, she sings

With gazing eyes, love
Dawn became more clear today
Gentleness lies here


2021 Contest Winner

The System They Can't Resist

by Kaylee Nielson

i have a dream of a world,
where we all live in peace
helping each other, healing one another,
no war torn refugees
for this dream i'm ostracized

a radical to my peers
proving once again
this dream i have
is squandered by their fears

i dream of nature
life reclaiming land
but all they do is laugh
selling out the earth for a profit
with their cement paver path

they have the power to fix it
but until it suits their interest
the life of the earth will burn
in the system they can't resist


2020 Contest Winners

Cuba on the Earth Map

by Rosa Rajadel

You can go there, to that beach
where the wind sings its lullaby
and the waves burst against rocky shores
but the children don’t dream. Esa playa


You can go there, to that mountain.
Wield your machete or mocha, in silence.
Bleed on el marabu and la cana
and let the sun dry your wounds. La sangre


You can go there, to that river that dies in the sea
singing and crying, crying and fading
while washing tired black feet,
forgetting stories of freedom and Palenque. Libertad


You can go there, to that bay - white-blue deep grave-
where we la escoria embrace the sea.
No names, no hopes, no breath.
Say you're not alive or dead. Balsero


You can go there, but come back to me
with a big slice of island to quench my hunger,
to put in my mouth and spit out
millions of birds like fire fathoms. And forgive
(No quiero olvidar)


Notes for the Non-Spanish Speaker and Non-Cuban Reader:

Esa playa: that beach

Mocha: an instrument that looks like a machete but shorter

Marabu: parasite plant

Cana: (cana de azucar) plant from which sugar is obtained in Cuba

La sangre: the blood

Palenque: small hidden villages built by escaped slaves in the 1800s (they no longer exist)

Libertad: Freedom

La escoria: the rejected people (because they don’t agree with Cuba’s policies, so that’s the name the government gives them)

Balsero: person who ventures into the sea in a handmade boat (or anything that floats) with the aim of fleeing Cuba.

No quiero olvidar: I don’t want to forget.


Flowers and Stars

by Karlee Norton

Wherever I go,
a forest,
the waterfront,
a school,
or my home,
I catch myself
pulling soft frail petals off flowers,
ripping the veiny leaves off trees,
throwing smooth rocks,
like a child,
I don’t know any better.
I fiddle with these pieces of nature through the lines of my palms
and leave a path of ruined beauty behind me.
Whether it be popcorn on the seats after a movie,
water on the bathroom floor from our showers,
or buildings so bright we steal the stars,
time still goes by
with an unwanted trace of us.
But sometimes we leave something wonderful
like sweet watermelon seeds on a summer day.