Please join us in celebrating our 2022 contest winners. We are honored to share their poetry and their stories.
OUR 2023 WINNERS
This Is Not America
By Raya Yarbrough
By Cassie Lipton
By Jenna Martinez
About Raya, Cassie, & Jenna
first place winner
Raya Yarbrough is a writer and singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. Raya has written and produced three albums of eclectic music, most recently Artifacts of Grace (2020), which is based on a series of paintings and sculptures by artist Pam Douglas that explores the way female-bodied experiences intersect with larger issues of justice and equality. In addition to songs, Raya is a playwright, writes poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction about being a parent in a multiracial family, while also being a working artist. Her voice and original music have been featured in many TV series, including Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children and is finishing a humorous memoir about her daughter’s first five years.
I don’t know the answer, but I can feel it. That emotional truth is the engine behind all my writing.
second place winner
I’m a Charlottesville-based poet currently in my 4th year at the University of Virginia, where I am a double major in Music Performance and Global Sustainability. I started writing at a young age (including handwriting 100 pages of a novel in the fifth grade) but didn’t start writing poetry until college. My first year at UVA, I joined the Washington Literary Society and Debating Union (which I am currently Vice President of) and found an ever-present platform to explore my writing and share it with others. Indeed, I read Sahara to this group within a week of writing it, and this organization has pushed and inspired me to be the writer I am today. I hope to be a lifelong writer, as this is how I make sense of the world.
Poetry, to me, is the most freeing form of writing. It doesn’t always have to make sense; it doesn’t always have to be “right.” Writing poetry is like the feeling I get after climbing a mountain on a crisp fall day: I stand at the peak, I see the world stretched out before me, and it is beautiful.
third place winner
Jenna Martinez (she/her) is a queer, Mexican-American writer and printmaker. Her writing has appeared in Homology Lit and Femme, Collectively Zine 0.1. Jenna is a recipient of the Support for Artists grant from the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and Literary Cleveland’s 2023-2034 Breakthrough Writing Residency. Originally from San Antonio, Texas, she now lives in Cleveland, Ohio. She is at work on a collection of poems exploring the aliveness of place and how place mixes with her ancestry, her queerness, and her elemental makeup.
I once heard Sandra Cisneros speak, and she said, “Write the stories that only you can tell.” This poem is born from that telling.