Chilmark poetry contest celebration returns

Rabbi Balfour Brickner and Marina Tempelsman (one of the four winners), at the 1999 ceremony for the Reading of the Poetry Winners. —Photo courtesy of Kristin Malone

The Chilmark Free Public Library is bringing back the Elisa Brickner Poetry Contest Ceremony, after a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contest and celebrations — held on April 24 at 4 pm — will feature poetry and readings by winning high school poets.

The contest was established 30 years ago in honor of Elisa Brickner, a teenage summer resident of Chilmark who died in a tragic horseback riding accident in the 1970s. 

Elisa spent hours every summer at the Chilmark library reading and composing poetry, and her family endowed the Elisa Brickner Poetry Fund in her memory. Library officials say they are thrilled for the ceremony’s return after the pandemic. 

This year’s contest was open to high school students living on the Vineyard, and timed to coincide with National Poetry Month. 

With the allure of cash prizes and extra credit from their classroom teachers, 75 students submitted poems.

Judges Jill Jupen, Donald Nitchie, and Claudia Taylor are reviewing the submissions, and the winners will be notified shortly. There are two separate contestant groups: Grades 9 and 10, and 11 and 12. There will be first-, second-, and third-place winners for each group, with a top prize of $300. 

The fund was established in 1974 by the Brickner family, and in 1994, they helped to organize the first Elisa Brickner Poetry Contest.



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