Youth Poetry

To encourage poetry writing among our state's youth, the Laureate's website highlights noteworthy poems written by those age eighteen and under. My goal is to demonstrate that poetry is an art form hospitable to the young. It answers their need to reflect on life's experiences and gives meaning and order to these events. Doing so, young people discover not only the language to express their thoughts and emotions but also the pleasures of language itself.

Writing a poem, then, becomes a means for the young to learn equally notions of selfhood and modes of language that express and thus define them. As added benefit, we adults are privy to what the young have to say and how they say it. We thereby deepen our understanding of the range of challenges children face in the contemporary world.

For those interested in ways to encourage youth writing and reading, here's a link offering numerous useful ideas:

Click on names and/or titles to view poem and/or artwork. To ensure privacy, only students' first names are provided.

Beardstown Middle School (2015)

7th graders in Ms. Sarah Pearce's English Class
Beardstown, IL

Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Awards (2014)

Elementary Category:

Middle School Category:

High School Category:

Princeville High School (2014)

Detroit Mercy High School (2013)

Reavis High School (2012)

Dunlap Grade School

Hinckley-Big Rock Elementary Youth Poetry (2011)

Illinois Poetry for the President Winners (2011)

Grade School Category

  • First Place: Cameron / "The Great Communicator" / Taylorville, IL
  • Runner-up: Sydney / "Ronald Reagan" / Freeport, IL

Middle School Category

  • First Place: Klancee / "Ronald Reagan: A Life Worth Living" / East Peoria, IL
  • Runner-up: Kimmy / "A Hero for All" / Grayslake, IL

High School Category

  • First Place: Nole / "I Want to be Like that Man!" / Highland, IL
  • Runner-up: Kyle / "Looking Outward from the Sky" / Carpentersville, IL

Indian Creek High School (2010)

Stone Academy (2009)

Poetic License, Inc.  Workshop ( Poems written in connection with a reading of the Holocaust YA novel, Behind the Bedroom Wall, written by Laura E. Williams. The assignment asked students to personify in a poem an emotion likely felt by one of the novel's characters.

Lincoln Middle School, 7th Grade (2008)

Courtenay Language Arts Center, 4th Grade (2006)

Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, 5th Grade

Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, 6th Grade

Skokie Public Library 2004 Teen Poetry Contest Winners