Judges Comments - 7th Grade Division - Southwestern Illinois College


1st Place: Logan McDonald

The first-place winner in seventh grade is Logan McDonald of Chester. He attends St. Mary’s in Chester.

His winning poem Stars begins with a simile where he compares the brightness of the stars to mini versions of the sun.

His words paint a thought-provoking picture of the night sky. One thing that makes this poem extra good is the descriptive language Logan uses in nearly every line. Lines five through eight give us specific pictures to look for in the sky. He sees swans flying above, lions ready to pounce, bears hunting their prey, and warriors ready for battle. Words such as dark void and the verbs twinkling and creating help us understand his word picture.

Logan, continue to watch the night sky, and continue to write poems.

2nd Place: Hailey Yankey

The second-place winner in the seventh grade is Hailey Yankey of Ellis Grove, Illinois. She attends St. Mary’s in Chester.

Her winning poem is called Sunsets. Hailey makes good use of the senses. The sense of sight is seen throughout the poem. Almost every line gives us something to see, while some of the lines give us something to hear and touch, too.

We see and hear birds chirp and we see as well as feel the sand.

Another exciting part of this poem is the way Hailey describes the passage of time until the sun sets. The event is so gradual as in second by second, but after that we do see that predictable glow. Then slowly slips over the horizon finishes the scene. The entire poem is a beautiful description of the day slipping off into night.

Good job, Hailey. Continue to write these beautiful poems.

3rd Place: Zac Lauer

The third-place winner in the seventh grade is Zac Lauer who lives in Red Bud, Illinois and goes to Red Bud Elementary School. His favorite poet is Dr. Seuss and his favorite poem is Seuss’s One Fish, Two Fish.

His favorite hobby is playing baseball and Baseball is the title of his poem. This poem is a compact narrative poem. It tells a complete short story about a turn at bat.

Zac’s poem makes good use of the short a sound in the first few lines. Words such as back, crack, bat and gap illustrate this. Words such as these provide and easy listening experience for the reader.

Another creative aspect of this poem that makes it stand out from the many entries at this level is the word tumble used as a noun instead of a verb.

Good luck in your baseball games, Zac, and keep writing.



Before I write about the seventh graders in the Southwestern Poetry contest, I must say that Roselyn and I found many good poems in seventh grade. When that happens, many poems that might have been chosen as winners in previous years do not win because we have only 3 winners.

3rd Place: Genevieve Nadziejko

The third-place winner in seventh grade is Genevieve Nadziejko from Columbia who attends Immaculate Conception School there. Genevieve says her hobbies are soccer, volleyball and art.

Genevieve’s winning poem is called “Mom’s Perfume.” Good poetry makes use of the senses. This poem uses the sense of smell to evoke a memory. It shows that the aroma of this perfume brings her mom back to her, gives her strength, and helps her cope with life’s challenges.

Both Roselyn and I feel this is a powerful poem with many pleasing poetic features. One of those is the use of repetition. That can be tricky or overdone, but it isn’t that way in this poem. Every time we see jasmine, roses, and lilies we know we will read an important concept.

Genevieve also uses sound to make her poem effective. She uses a little rhyme in everywhere and air. Also, the ing words make line eleven pleasingly parallel.

Sometimes the powerful part of a poem is what is left unsaid. That is true of “Mom’s Perfume.” Instead of writing about why Mom isn’t there, Genevieve tells of the empowering influence she has left behind.

Another aspect of this poem we like is the use of intricate details. When one reads the first three lines, we feel its place is so well described that we could find that perfume if we were looking.

Genevieve, we hope you continue to write poetry.

2nd Place: Tess Simpson

The second-place winner in seventh grade is Tess Simpson of rural Evansville. She goes to Red Bud Elementary. She enjoys softball, basketball, volleyball, and running. Her favorite poet is Luke Kennard; and her favorite poem is his “Spade.” Kennard likes to take a simple object like a spade, describe it, and then make it symbolic.

Tess’s winning poem is called “Hoops.”

Most of the time when we see all of those The words repeated we won’t find it appealing, but in this case, it is because it introduces the strong nouns which make this poem so interesting. Tess makes good use of words that are most often descriptive verbs, then turns them into nouns by their position in the line.

Tess employs onomatopoeia in “Hoops.” Examples are squeaks, thud, clang, grunts. (Onomatopoeia is the use of a word that imitates or suggests the sound that it describes.)

In Tess’s poem, we see a variety of concrete nouns like pound and squeaks and abstract nouns such as silence and hope. We feel like we are at this game by the careful word choices Tess employs. Her use of sensory words like sigh, dribble, squeaks, and so many others put us right there with her at that basketball game. We can hear and see so many of these in our mind’s eye as we read.

I would like to encourage Tess to continue to write and enjoy sports. Both are important.

1st Place: Ayden Burgess

The first-place winner in the Southwestern Illinois Poetry Contest is Ayden Burgess also from Red Bud Elementary. Her winning poem is called “Ode to Volleyball.” Her hobbies include volleyball, running and hiking. Her favorite poet is Twin Stars and her favorite poem is “Trees.” 

If you’ve heard us talk about poetry in the past, you’ll know that we aren’t fans of rhyming poetry, but in Ayden’s poem, it just seems to work. One metaphor (comparison of two unlike things meant to show their similarity) that really catches my attention is Ball is not just a hobby, an activity of leisure/ It’s a hungry lioness and I’m just trying to feed her.

Another metaphor I like is Ball is an emotion, a feeling. It is a unique way of describing what volleyball means to Ayden.

One thing that can strengthen or weaken an otherwise great poem is the ending lines. “Ode to Volleyball” ends with a strong statement. When we read these poems, we often write opinions or comments by phrases that impress us. The ending of this one has I love this strong ending beside it. Her ending shows her opinion, but does not put down someone who has a different one.

We hope that Ayden will continue her volleyball and her writing. She has a penchant for both.


3rd Place: Josh Walsh

The third-place poem in the SWIC 2020 poetry contest is called “Force of Nature.” The author of this poem is John Walsh of Red Bud, Illinois. John attends school at Red Bud Elementary. His hobbies include fishing and cooking.

“Force of Nature” intrigued us first with its catchy title. That title made us want to read on. The poem shows a lot of self-wisdom and knowledge. Its strong exact verbs like spews, pollute and vexed show the inner workings of a teenager or pre-teenager.

John uses several poetic devices. One is the simile (comparison using like or as.) This is found in “My anger is like fire.” What a strong compelling way to describe occasional anger!

Another is alliteration where initial sounds are repeated, as seen in the s sounds in lines four through six. Spews, sometimes, soul, stunning, and shocking are pleasing to the ear when read aloud.

One of John’s images which really strikes us as unique and interesting is the truthful, “I can pollute the ecosystem surrounding me.” Congratulations, John, and continue writing.

2nd Place: Kolton Jany

The second-place poem in the contest is “Basketball Moment” by poet Kolton Jany of Chester, Illinois. Kolton goes to St. Mary Help of Christians School in Chester. Kolton didn’t tell us of his interests, but a guess would be sports, or at least basketball.

The title is important in this poem also. “Basketball Moment” tells us this is an exciting moment, but it isn’t a world changing event. That is important to our understanding of the impact of the moment.

The poem is written in present tense which makes it seem more in-the-moment. It has a narrow structure and a countdown which add to the excitement.

“Basketball Moment” is laced with onomatopoeia. (This is a device that attempts to make the sound that would have been made at the time.) Some of Kolton’s examples are tweet for the sound of the whistle, swishhhhhh for the sound of the basketball going through the hoop, and ernnnnntttttt for the buzzer.

Continue reading and writing good poetry, Kolton.

One other thing we think is so incredible about this poem is what is left unsaid. At the end, many people would want to put something like, “We win.”

Kolton leads us to that moment, and we have no doubt of the outcome, but he doesn’t say the words. That makes this poem even stronger.

1st Place: Luke Schuwerk

The first-place winner is also from Chester and attends Saint Mary Help of Christians there. His name is Luke Schuwerk, and his winning poem is “The Forest.”

One of the most important elements in poetry is word choice, particularly verbs. Luke uses those strong verbs which help us comprehend through our senses. Words such as chirping, barking, crunching climbing, and creeping are precise verbs that give an accurate picture because they show us precise words for what Luke hears and what he sees. They cause us to experience the walk in the forest with him.

Another poetry element that is important in “The Forest” is the way the poem looks on the page. Luke’s “I…hop…across” strikes us as innovative and imaginative. It causes us to see with words what Luke wants us to understand.          

Congratulations on this fine effort. Keep up the good work.