High school poets compete on Martha’s Vineyard


High school poets gathered in the Pebble Gallery at Featherstone Center for the Arts to read their work on Wednesday, April 6. It was the culmination of the second annual Promising Young Poets of Martha’s Vineyard Contest.

Sponsored by West Tisbury poet laureate Fan Ogilvie, the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency, and Pathways Projects Institutes, the contest is open to all Island high school students and home-schooled students of high school age. This years winners were Jess Dupon, a senior at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS), and freshman Claudia Taylor, junior Lizzie Kelleher, and senior Jordan Wallace from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). MVPCS sophomore Oscar Thompson and MVRHS junior Truda Silberstein were runners up.

“Most great poets start in high school,” said Ms. Ogilvie, who both organized the contest and judged the applicants along with Justen Ahren. She proposed the idea of a poetry contest at a MVRHS English department meeting in 2009 and asked teachers to inform their students of the opportunity to share their work with the community.

“I am trying to bring the focus on poetry to young people,” Ms. Ogilvie said. “It is often a quiet, hidden art form that people don’t get recognition for.”

‘”We were glad to have the chance to support [the contest],” MVRHS English teacher David Wilson said. Students were able to apply between October of 2010 and March of 2011 for this year’s contest.

In selecting winners and runners up, Ms. Ogilvie and Mr. Ahren looked for tactics such as word choice and use of figurative language, as well as the expression of individuality through experimentation and the exploration of feelings that add to a poem’s intensity.

“It was just a pleasure to read these applications and to know that poetry is alive and well in the hearts of young people,” Ms. Ogilvie said. “They seem born to do it: they use their own form and their own voice right from the starting point.”

Each student recited between two and five poems at Featherstone. Whether this was their first or second year in the running, their confidence seemed to grow with the positive reactions from the audience. The poems’ subject matter ranged from fights with siblings to love, from traveling to being home on the Island, and an array of other experiences from their earliest memories to their current adolescence.

“I write to celebrate life, and to justify it,” Jordan said.

“I’m so glad to have had this opportunity because I’ve always been shy about my writing,” said Truda, who had only shared her work with other classmates and teachers prior to the contest. “I was nervous at first, but it was very fulfilling to share my poems.”

After the readings, the poets were rewarded with cash prizes, journals, and poetry books. Featherstone provided refreshments while audience members congratulated the poets. “I loved watching everyone read. It was a gorgeous event, and everyone has huge talent,” said Truda’s father Charlie Silberstein.

“This contest isn’t about being published or getting prizes,” Ms. Ogilvie said. “It’s about the sense that you can make something out of nothing. That’s what I found in these young poets. They took stuff from their lives and made something out of it.”

Ms. Ogilvie plans to continue the contest in years to come with hopes of encouraging more students to apply and that high school teachers will put more of an emphasis on the contest in their classes. “I want to remind everyone to read, read, read, and keep writing,” she said to the poets. “Just know that not only are we behind you, but the Island is as well.”


by Claudia Taylor

I am fourteen

and my


is morphing

into a

violent bird

that flutters

in my ribcage

I have been



shut in the closet,

and then

kissed there

and on the couch

and quieted

by lips

and quieted

by noise and quieted

by fear. Is it too

much? I am only 96

pounds of matter, only

capable of sustaining

x bottles of wine and

y boyfriends

(I should not have

told you I am only

96 pounds;

the Vogue model scouts

will hunt me down now.)


I am retaining.


I am sealing my lips

with wax

(which will crack

in a few years),

I am sewing my mouth

together and

closing myself up and

that way no one will

kiss me or stick a bitter

cigarette between my

teeth and I will

make my pen do the

talking and I will


my secrets to myself.

Destroy them Forever

by Jess Dupon

i want to wear my sweatpants,

the ones i wear when i’m feeling wasted and lonely.

the ones i fall asleep in,

while the spoonful of comfort falls on the sheets

and trash television flickers pointlessly

creating shadows on the wall.

i want to wear my sweatpants,

the ones with the stains.

the ones that hold all the truth,

all the ugliness of my personality, the ones that have seen me

through my bad times.

i want to wear my sweatpants,

my ugly, ugly sweatpants

when I’m with you.

i want you to tell me

i look beautiful

i want you

to kiss me.

i want you to rip them off.

i want you to destroy them forever.

i want you to be the reason

i don’t need them anymore.

Monarch of Nothing

by Jordan Wallace

the monarch butterfly

flies sporadically

weeping over the slaughtered field

searching endlessly

for a nonexistent perch

to alight upon

and mourn