Judges Comments - High School Division - Southwestern Illinois College


1st Place: Kaitlyn Chung

The first-place winner in the high school division is Kaitlyn Chung of Sparta, Illinois. Kaitlyn is in her senior year of high school. She is a dual credit student at SWIC, and she will graduate from high school with an Associate of Arts degree.

She enjoys singing writing, being outside, and exercising. Her favorite poet is the lyrical poet Hozier. Her favorite poem is Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream Within a Dream.

Her winning poem is called Your Ocean Through My Eyes.

Kaitlyn’s poem starts with a hyperbole, an exaggeration. In this case, it’s an extreme exaggeration. (Drown me in your sea.) She wants to be completely drawn into the circle of this person, or possibly into the circle of a philosophy. The latter is probably not the case, but the poem could be read with that in mind.

She makes good use of repeated sounds such as the ex in expand and explode along with the ur sounds in curl and urge. She also utilizes assonance with the long o sound being repeated in explode and hold.

The poem is an ode. It is written to a person she does not name, but the reader can ascertain her high opinion of this person. The one line that summarizes this feeling is Grasp onto a sliver of the euphoria only you supply.

Kaitlin, continue to write these poems. This one could probably be set to music.

2nd Place: Julia Nicole Venus

The second-place winner is Julia Nicole Venus from Chester. She attends Chester High School where she is a junior. Her hobbies are painting, drawing, hiking, writing and reading. Her favorite poet is Emily Dickinson, and her favorite poem is Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop for Death.

Julia’s winning poem is called Already Dead. It is the story of a woman who has been dealt bitter blows in this life and has learned to deal with those blows by hardening herself until she feels no more and waits for death.

Julia describes this person as someone who blankly wanders sober/ only static in her brain. There was a time when she felt hope seen in these words: She dreamt of days of rescue, but she is past that now. The last two lines are a perfectsummation of her present state. They say: A walking corpse with no remorse, / breathing but already dead.

Julia uses rhythm and rhyme throughout the poem, but the internal rhyme of corpse and remorse is especially interesting.

Julia, continue to write. You have a gift for it.

3rd Place: Jessica Ixcoy-Sica

Jessica Maris Ixcoy-Sica, a sophomore, from Chester is the third-place winner in the High School division. She attends Chester High School. Her favorite poet is Dr. Seuss and her favorite poem is The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman which was read at the Presidential Inauguration in 2021.

Jessica says she wants to recognize and thank her teacher, Mrs. Hammel, for encouraging her and helping her with her poetry.

In her fine poem called Paper, Jessica examines the way paper has been used over the years and by us today. She sees the blank paper as a challenge and describes the many documents and writing which would not be if not for paper.

Jessica uses some exact verbs such as spill, tear, burn and seeps. Also, she uses some strong nouns such as ache and rumble which is especially interesting since they are usually used as verbs.

Jessica, keep thinking and writing creatively. Your creativity shows in this poem.



2nd Place: Kate Wexell

The second-place winner in the high school division is Kate Wexell of Shiloh, IL. Kate is a junior at O’Fallon Township High School. Her hobbies are writing, playing the piano, baking and researching genealogy.

The name of her winning poem is “Corruptors.” Her favorite poet is Emily Dickinson and her favorite poem is “Love’s Growth” by John Donne. The theme of that poem is that love is complicated not simple. A similar theme runs through Kate’s poem, but in her poem, it is life that is complicated and not simple.

She begins her poem with a simile. It says:  dilettantes strutting like peacocks with an armory of slogans, icons, analogies and logical fallacies.

Kate uses the s sound to please the reader’s ear. Listen to the s sounds in these words from “Corruptors:” whistle, song, suffocating, and souls. There are others also.

Kate’s last line ends strong with the juxtaposition of the ones fighting against the corruption being the corruptors.

We hope Kate will continue to write poems

1st Place: Elseah Congiardo

The first-place winner at the high school level is Elseah Congiardo of Chester, IL. She is a freshman and is home schooled. She loves art, reading and hiking. Her first-place poem is called “The Journey” and it is an extended metaphor for life’s journey. (A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things or ideas which does not use as or like as a connector. An extended metaphor is when an author takes a single metaphor and gives multiple aspects to the comparison.)

Elseah starts in a familiar place, then steps further from the known. She gives some symbols of problems one might encounter. She uses the words bumps, holes and obstacles to symbolize the degree of difficulty that problems might cause. We also see the parts that have side roads that distract and others that are set in stone. The value of symbols is their universality. When they become too specific, we have trouble applying them to our own lives, but as symbols, they can mean whatever our life experiences dictate.

In “The Journey” we see strong verbs like forge and defeat which create a positive can-do tone in the poem. The poem ends with a challenge for the reader that the path is forged by the reader and each of us is responsible for the path you forge.

We hope Elseah will write more poems and journal that journey.


2nd Place: Khiana Wilkinson

The second-place winner of the SWIC Red Bud Poetry Contest is Khiana Wilkinson of Cahokia. She attends Cahokia High School where she is a junior and is also dually enrolled in some SWIC classes.

Khiana enjoys reading, writing, and drawing. Her favorite poet is Maya Angelou and her favorite poem is Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Her winning poem is called “Memories.”  The images in her poem are vivid and they start early in the poem. The first three lines show a flower whose petals are falling off one by one. This is an introduction into the human condition that is getting worse and worse, although Khiana wisely does not state that to her readers. The unstated reality usually strengthens a poem, and that is the case here.

Khiana uses a literary device called assonance where some vowel sounds are repeated for effect. The words life and alive are examples. She also employs just a little rhyme as seen in grow and know. Also, she utilizes internal rhyme such as the line: “You can make it, break it, and take it.”  See how the three words within that line rhyme. A lot of internal rhyme within one work usually weakens the poem, but that is not the case here.

The last three lines of this poem are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit leading us from the despair of the earlier part of the poem to the strength and wisdom of these last three lines.

It is our hope that you continue your fine writing.

1st Place: Kate Wexell

The first-place winner at the High School level is Kate Wexell of Shiloh, Illinois. She attends O’Fallon Township High School where she is a sophomore.

Her hobbies include classical piano, trumpet, horn, writing and painting. She is a fan of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and her favorite poem is John Donne’s “Love’s Growth.”

Kate’s winning poem is named “Tire Pot.” It is a narrative poem, and that means it tells a story.

 It explores the angst of young love. Two lovers plan to live together forever, then the girl decides to explore life outside of their small town. As a reader of poems like this, I always want a happy ending. I’ll leave it to the reader to find out if that happens in this work.

Kate uses rhyme but not in a regular way. The rhyme at the ends of some lines catches the listener’s ear but does not become sing-song or contrived. In the second stanza toward the end, there are three rhyming words that end lines.

There were several images which make the reader think and imagine. One is on page two of the first full stanza. The words that was harmoniously loud give us words that seem incongruent, but actually make much sense in this poem.

The pure angst of love is seen in the image his heart bore a magnificent scar.

Another of these fabulous images was spouting tremulous shrieks. I could see the female character seeing the sights of the world outside her little town with such joy and amazement with this image.     

Continue delighting an audience with your insightful writing.