Judges Comments - 8th Grade Division - Southwestern Illinois College


1st Place: Jonathan Hayer

The first-place winner is Jonathan Hayer of Chester. He attends St. Mary’s in Chester. His winning poem is called The Forest Floor. It is a narrative poem which tells about seeing the squirrel play and then, the story of a rabbit avoiding a bobcat. Jonathan sets the scene with an exciting flair.

Jonathan begins his poem with an alliteration which are the three m’s in mellow, morning, and meadow.

Anyone who has been in a wooded area can picture this scene. Jonathan uses exact words to tell us what the squirrel sounds like (rustles) and how the squirrel gets around (scurries.)

Those who enjoy happy endings will be pleased with Jonathan’s poem. Because of Jonathan’s exact wording, one can nearly feel the heart-pounding relief of the rabbit.

Keep up the fine writing, Jonathan.

2nd Place: Gabby Vause

Gabby Vause from Red Bud is the second-place winner at the eighth grade

level. She attends Red Bud Elementary School. Her hobbies include writing, volleyball and playing the flute. Her favorite poet is Edgar Allan Poe and her favorite poem is Silver by Walter de la Mare.

The title of her poem is The Eternal War of the Seasons. Her poem is written in rhyming couplets except for the line that sums up the war…Fighting and fighting. This break in the couplets seems entirely appropriate because it draws extra attention to itself for its strong message.

One of the features of this poem that stands out is the strong nouns and verbs. Words such as froze, blast and prepared are somewhat out of the ordinary and attention-grabbing.

Another appealing aspect is the word eternal in the title. This tells the reader this battle is not a one-time thing, but a continuing war.

Gabby, continue writing poems. You do it well.

3rd Place: Addison Tarr

The third-place winner at the eighth-grade level is Addison Tarr of Columbia. She attends Columbia Middle School. Addison enjoys painting, digital art, musical theatre and writing. Her favorite poet is Robert Frost and her favorite poem is A Word Is Dead by Emily Dickinson.

Her winning poem Feeling It describe her performing in one of her talents, maybe musical theater.

Feeling It describes a person onstage beneath blinding lights which sets the scene perfectly, and it is also alliterative with the two b sounds.

The line My throat is begging me to stop is extra descriptive of nerves and a bit of a raw throat, but the next line I won’t stop assures the reader that the show will go on.

Addison’s positive attitude toward theater is evident in My glass is not half full, but bursting over the rim. What a creative way to describe the feeling of elation!

Congratulations, Addison. Your poem is a perfect example of joy. Write more poems.



3rd Place: Kolton Jany

The third-place winner in the eighth-grade division of the SWIC Poetry Contest is Kolton Jany from Chester, IL. Kolton attends Mary Help of Christians School in Chester. The title of Kolton’s poem is “Shed Hunting.” We learn things when we judge these poems. Kolton taught us about something we didn’t know in his poem. Shed hunting is hunting for antlers that have been shed by deer, elk, or other animal with antlers.

Kolton starts with cabin fever which many people felt this year. He uses the descriptive word drive. Strong words prevail as he says I itch. He stretches out the miles and miles with his slim column that makes us feel those miles.

Kolton uses a simile in these lines: The excitement is euphoric once you find one/ Like a little kid finding a candy stash.

Accurate interesting description is important to a poem. An example of this is the line: The antler giving up a deer’s secrets…size, his core area, where he is late season.

Kolton, you describe the things you enjoy in such a way that it makes others appreciate them too. Keep up the good work.

2nd Place: Lyndee Easter

The second-place winner in the eighth grade is Lyndee Easter from Red Bud, IL. Lyndee enjoys basketball, reading and painting. Her favorite poet is Walt Whitman and her favorite poem is his “Leaves of Grass.”

Often, when we judge the poems, we find teachers make an assignment of a form poem. This year, we received many poems from a form that could be named “I Am From.” Sometimes these poems lack substance, but that is not the case with Lyndee’s poem. Her “I Am From” poem contains poetic elements. She starts in the very first line with an alliteration (two or more words beginning with the same letter sound or sounds.) In this case it is beautiful butterflies.

Her words are descriptive and precise which make the reader able to picture that large Redbud tree in the yard whose leaves were used as shade on hot summer days. I can nearly taste one of Aunt Marcy’s scotcheroos.

She uses Taylor Swift blasting instead of playing which would say the same thing but not as precisely.

Strong endings are important to poems. This poem left me with a mental image of a family having a wonderful time and enjoying every moment.

It is my hope that Lyndee will continue to write. The world needs more of these joyous moments.

1st Place: Jack Heffernan

The first-place winner in eighth grade is Jack Heffernan of Chester, Il. Jack attends Mary Help of Christians. He likes sports and art. One can tell from his poem that he enjoys nature also. The name of his poem is Nature’s Lullaby. When we first read the poems, we put plusses on strong parts and minuses on weak parts of the poems. This one has plusses all over it.

Jack’s poem begins with the precise image that says the gleaming sunlight flows through the trees. Instead of using a common word like walking in line three, he opts for the more exciting journeying.

This poem is crafted with sound in mind. He employs alliteration with cheerful chirping. The s sound is used in the poem to make the poem more pleasing to the ear. Words such as songbirds, sticks, flowers, suddenly, bushes, and emerges show this feature. If one looks, there will be plenty more s sounds I have left out.

I love the similes (a comparison of two unlike things which use like or as for a conductor between the two.) Jack says the size of trees are like skyscrapers in the wilderness. He also says gives this simile: owls perched in the trees/ like guardians of the forest.

The word peaceful is never used in “Nature’s Lullaby,” yet that feeling is conveyed by the last line where he said he would drift off into sleep.

It is my wish for Jack that he continues his appreciation of nature, and persists in writing it down.


3rd Place: Alex Wittenbrink

The eighth-grade third-place winner in the SWIC Poetry Contest this year is Alex Wittenbrink of Red Bud. His winning poem is called “Holocaust Museum.” Alex attends Red Bud Elementary School and his hobbies are fishing and hunting. His favorite poet is Emily Dickinson, and his favorite poem is Dickinson’s “There is another sky.”

Alex’s poem is about a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. We liked the way he started his poem, not in the museum but outside where he sees monuments which make him think of freedom and democracy. Later Alex leads us to the place where there is no freedom and no democracy. Even the word looms tells us this is not going to be a joyful place.

The visual imagery in this poem is amazing. One can feel the area becoming more and more confining. Images such as narrow gates, suffocating fear, and the soldiers yells tell us this is not a place anyone would want to be.

The simile comparing the cramming people in a crowded space to a tornado drill gives us a reference with which we can identify.

Alex uses alliteration with lots of s sounds with such words as sorry, sad, scared, silent and screaming. These words reiterate the somber tone of the poem.

A vivid visual image is the apt but horrifying: Skeletons wrapped tight with skin.

Good poems have intriguing beginnings and strong endings. That is very true with “Holocaust Museum.” The last line underscores the feeling that most people have as they tour the museum, yet Alex was able to put it into words for us.          

Thank you, Alex, for reminding us of an important part of history we cannot afford to hide. Your poem shows us the importance of its remembrance. Keep up the good writing.

2nd Place: Nicholas Ellrich

The second-place winner in eighth grade is Nicholas Ellrich of Columbia, Illinois. He attends Columbia Middle School. His winning poem is called “Words are People.” Nicholas’s favorite activities are trading cards games and music. His favorite poet is Edgar Allan Poe.

Nicholas uses poetic devices to begin his poem. He employs the extended metaphor in the first stanza and throughout the poem. A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things without the use of like or as. The extended metaphor goes beyond the one comparison, and in this poem, the metaphor encompasses the entire work.

As you read “Words are People,” remember everything goes back to the original metaphor in the title. This poem reminds us of the power of words.

Nicholas uses powerful images to excite our senses. One of his standout images is “Words carpool/On a single page/Going to work/Doing their job.” Attached to that is the further description of words: “Describing things, and/Managing each other; being.” Notice the personification that would refer us back to

Each stanza gives us a sense of the power of words. He uses exact verbs to make sure we understand his point. Words such as carpool, cradle and beckoning give us an exact picture about word power with these powerful images. What a joy it is to read and have to think in a metaphorical way about what one is reading!

Nicholas, we hope you continue to think deeply and we want you to write more great poetry.

1st Place: Noah Boyer-Edwards

The first-place winner at the eighth-grade level is Noah Boyer-Edwards, also of Columbia Middle School. He enjoys reading, writing, and theater. He is a fan of Shel Silverstein’s poems and of Poe’s “The Raven.”

His winning poem is called “The War-Worn Poets.” What you see on this site is just “Part the First” of a twenty-five-page epic poem. When one reaches the end of the twenty-five pages, one finds the story is just beginning. The characters have been introduced, a traitorous villain identified, and we are beginning to realize the important role of the War-Worn Poet.

The story is set in a kingdom long, long ago. The poem has an even rhythm and lines two and four rhyme in each stanza. It is an epic poem, which means it is a long narrative poem, a poem that tells a story. I thought of “Idylls of the King” as I read it. The two stories are not the same, but the styles are similar.

Noah uses exact adjectives that we find intriguing such as sodden, wizened, jagged and wisdom-riddled. These are examples you can find in the pages you have before you, but there are many more in the pages you don’t see.

Now that the scene is set, it is our hope that Noah will continue his magnificent epic poem.