Judges Comments - Adult Division - Southwestern Illinois College


1st Place: Kathryn Klepacz

The first-place winner is Kathryn Klepacz of Troy, Illinois. She is a student at SWIC. Kathryn is an Oklahoma native. Before the pandemic, she participated in SLAM Poetry events and was a runner up in the WOWPS.

She enjoys binge watching shows and spending time with her friends.  Her favorite poem is To This Day by Shane Koyczan.

Her winning poem is titled Poetry Is Not Always Destruction. She says she realizes not all poetry needs to be dark. Some of it can show beauty which is what she is doing in this poem. One very beautiful passage is this one: The only escape is to turn my skin into paper/ My tears into words. Here, she has found a reason to write.

Also, this meaningful passage is the extended metaphor (comparison which is longer than a simple metaphor): Poetry is a mountain. Then she goes on to explain with these words: An uphill battle won. A victory dance and after party.

Another one of her extended metaphors is: Poetry is the sky/ The way it is always changing/ The way I wish to change/ So resilient and beautiful.      

Good luck in your future SLAM Poetry events, and, by all means, keep writing.

2nd Place: Belinda Burnworth

The second-place winner in the adult division is Belinda Burnworth of Belleville. She enjoys running, sewing, and playing the piano. Her favorite poet is Dylan Thomas, and her favorite poem is his Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

The name of Belinda’s poem is February 24, 2022. She leaves much unsaid, but that is part of the beauty of the poem. We can ascertain that she is writing about the events in the Ukraine, but she wisely leaves that for us to figure out from the contextual clues she gives us.

Belinda uses some strong verbs such as waiver and soar. She recounts the horror the people involved must feel, then steps away from them to write about us and our problems like the weather and mask mandates. The contrast of the two countries makes us feel pretty whiny in comparison. The one line that says it all is this one: A bothersome noise in the background of our own daily concerns. How true this is, yet how sad.

Belinda, you have written an excellent contrast to make an important point. Continue this kind of writing. We need to read it.

3rd Place: Yvonne MeckFessel

Yvonne Meckfessel of Troy, Illinois is the third-place winner of the Southwestern Illinois Poetry Contest. She enjoys writing, photography, genealogy, sewing, wool creations, and reading. Her favorite poets are Baxter Black and Waddie Mitchell. Her favorite poem is Cat-Tastrophy by Waddie Mitchell.

Yvonne is a published author whose work has appeared in Country and Reminisce Magazines. She has authored five books.

Her winning poem is called No One Comes. It is a narrative poem about a young woman who visits her mother in a care facility. This shows a heart-breaking picture of a mother who has forgotten her daughter, but complains no one comes to see her.

Yvonne’s poem has what poets call regular rhyme where both rhyming words have the exact assonance (vowel sounds) and number of syllables.  The second and fourth lines rhyme in each stanza.

The poem is one that will resonate with many people because experiences at care facilities similar to this are all too common.

Continue to write these poems. You have a message people need to know.



Judging the adult division this year was difficult because there were so many quality entries. If you entered but did not win, realize that the choice of only three winners was a difficult one.

3rd Place: Belinda Burnworth

The third-place winner in the adult division of the SWIC Poetry contest in the adult division is Belinda Burnworth of Belleville, IL. She enjoys running, sewing, singing and playing the piano. Her favorite poet is Dylan Thomas and her favorite poem is “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” Belinda’s winning poem is called “Garden of Dreams.”

Hope is the central theme of Belinda’s winning poem “Garden of Dreams.” I liked the simile that began the poem comparing the bulbs that poke out in Winter’s melting snow to the vaccinations that are springing up everywhere.

The theme is stated in the line that says precious liquid, stored in icy cold that pushes life protecting hope into arms.

Belinda reiterates the hope of so many that Spring and the vaccine will bring hope for a better tomorrow. We feel that Belinda’s poem has a number of effective images. Phrases such as garden of dreams grows, now armored to fight and isolated hearts are the examples that make this poem stand out.

“Garden of Dreams” contains a lovely alliteration (two or more words that start with the same sounds) toward the end of the poem with the words Spring and spreads. Belinda’s message of hope is just what our world needs right now.

Keep up the good work, Belinda.

2nd Place: Yvonne MeckFessel

The second-place winner is Yvonne Meckfessel of Troy, IL. Yvonne’s hobbies include writing, photography, genealogy, creating in wool and felt and reading. Yvonne is a published writer with five books to her credit. She has articles published in magazines such as Reminisce and an article with photo credits in Country Magazine.

Her favorite poet is Jimmy Stewart. Yes, THAT Jimmy Stewart. One of her favorite poems is Stewart’s heartfelt “A Dog Named Beau” which one can find on You Tube with Stewart reading it.

The title of Yvonne’s winning poem is “A QUESTION FOR THE FAMILY.”

The first line of this poem asks the question: What’s to be done with Grandma’s things? This poem strikes a chord with many people because it is a common experience for us.

Yvonne gives specific details which make the poem come alive. When she describes the dolls, she gives them the names of Shirley Temple and Audrey Hepburn, who would have been movie stars in Grandma’s time. When she writes about the bears, quilts and pillowcases, we learn that Grandma made these treasures.

One of the poetic devices I really liked in “A QUESTION FOR THE FAMILY” is the internal rhyme in the third stanza that uses the words stand and hand.

The ending of a poem is quite important. The ending of this poem brings about an entirely new and intriguing thought. The focus turns from grandma’s things to What’s to be done with mine? This turns from a third person perspective to a first person one, which causes all of us to think What about mine?

We want to encourage Yvonne to keep writing. The world needs her unique perspective.

1st Place: Maribeth Clancy

The first-place winner of the SWIC Red Bud Poetry Contest is Maribeth Clancy of Belleville, IL. Her hobbies are journaling and hiking. She is an artist and an aging specialist who offers workshops in the community. Her favorite poet is Mary Oliver who is mostly known for her lovely nature poems like “Wild Geese” which is Maribeth’s favorite poem.

Maribeth’s winning poem is “Searching for Poems Without Words.” This poem causes one to ask the question about what poetry is.  Because of Maribeth’s interesting perspective, we see what poetry is in a brand-new way by using our senses as inspiration.

The very first line starts with the sense of sight. The words sparkling across the starry night sky gives us a visually pleasing scene as well as one of gorgeous s sounds.

Her example of the sense of hearing is the dry crackling leaves.

The smell of that baked bread might inspire poetry, too, as well as the taste of the hot pumpkin latte.

She goes on to the feeling of warming under the covers on the coldest winter day.

These are all familiar experiences which can inspire us if we take the opportunity to let them do so. Any of these experiences can inspire by warming your heart and nourishing your spirit.

We do hope Maribeth continues to write poetry and to think outside of the simple definitions of poetry. The results are pleasing.


3rd Place: Sandy Baum

The third-place winner of the adult category in the SWIC Poetry Contest is Sandy Baum of Waterloo. Sandy is a past winner in the contest, and she is continuing to write fine poetry. Her favorite poem is the inspirational “Footprints in the Sand.”

Her interests include genealogy, sewing, and collecting Santas. The Santa interest is so appropriate for her winning poem, which is called “The Dream Before Christmas.”

Roselyn and I like the light humor, smooth pace and familiar rhythm in this dreamy poem. It is written to the rhythm of “The Night Before Christmas.” It also has a Christmassy theme about Santa, but Sandy’s poem is about his real identity.

As in “The Night Before Christmas,” the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme. The rhythm and rhyme make this narrative poem pleasing to the ear.

I could see reading “The Dream Before Christmas” aloud with a group of people at a meeting or around the fireplace at Christmas time.

Keep up the good writing!

2nd Place: Randy Halleran

The second-place winner is Randy Halleran, also of Waterloo. Randy lives in Waterloo and is a retired biology teacher at Waterloo High School. He is the proud grandfather of seven grandchildren.

His winning poem is called “Old Friend.” Randy is a past winner also, and we are pleased he is continuing to create high-quality poetry. Randy’s poem is one which most of us can understand because we identify the experience he describes as one of our own. Think about that friend you haven’t seen in such a long time. When you find he/she is coming to see us, we get their favorite foods, get out the games we enjoy, but mostly get ready to talk the kind of talk that goes beyond telephone call chatter.

Randy’s poem uses repetition well. Every stanza starts with “Welcome back old friend,” and ends with “It’s good to be together again.” In this poem, the repetition is a strength. Sometimes repetition is overdone but not here.

Randy uses a little end rhyme such as been and again. Friend and again sound much like rhyme. We could call it assonance where vowels have the same sound.

As you read this poem, imagine yourself in the room with someone you like very much but haven’t seen in a long time. If you can do that, I believe the poem will speak to you.

Keep putting those thoughts on paper, Randy. They inspire others.

1st Place: Yvonne Meckfessel

The first-place winner in the adult division is Yvonne Meckfessel from Troy, Illinois. She is the author of five books, some of which are found on Amazon. Her favorite poet is a cowboy poet called Waddie Mitchell. Her favorite poem is Cat-Tastrophy which you can hear on You Tube with Waddie Mitchell reciting it.

 Yvonne likes writing, photography, genealogy and sewing wool.

 Yvonne’s love of cowboy poetry is evident in her heartfelt winning poem “The Old Man.” The poem is written in rhyming couplets (two successive lines that rhyme.)  This kind of rhyme usually gives a not-so-good sing-song effect, but it this poem, it is just right. I can see “The Old Man” being read at a cowboy poetry reading celebration, and I don’t think there will be a dry eye in the place when it is finished.

This is another one of those universal themes that people can relate to because they have been in similar circumstances. This is another narrative poem, and the story it tells is so poignant and real that many will find it hauntingly pleasing. As with all good story poems, it has a beginning, a conflict, and an end.          

Thank you for introducing us to a form of poetry not seen in our contest before. Keep up the good work, Yvonne.