Ohio’s Original Interscholastic Creative Writing Program for Middle Schools

Poetry Awards

In honor of Renee Hairston, a former poet and writer from Shaker Heights, Ohio

First established in 1991, the statewide poetry contest is normally open to state qualifiers. In 2020, due to the special circumstances of the pandemic, the contest was open to all regional qualifiers. We received 125 entries. This year, George Bilgere, a distinguished poet and professor of English and Creative Writing at John Carroll University, has selected a First Place winner, Second Place winner, and two honorable mentions. Winners were invited to illustrate their poems.

First Place: Anna Blasinski

About Anna

Anna Blasinski will be a freshman at Dublin Coffman High School in the fall. 

She has been a member of Power of the Pen since seventh grade, and is very proud of the accomplishments she has made as a part of it.

At Karrer Middle School, Anna was also an active member of Student Council, played cello in the orchestra, participated in the musical and ran cross country. Outside of school, Anna takes ballet class and loves reading, writing, and theater.

Anna would like to thank her Power of the Pen coaches and her friends for always helping her out when it comes to writing!

Evolution of a Person Based
on a Neighborhood Party

by Anna Blasinski, Dr. Henry Karrer Middle School, Dublin

When you walk downstairs you are hit by a ball.
It is followed by shrieking
from a horde of children with messy hair
and clothes featuring cartoon characters.
You are surprised that they barely come up to your waist. What’s strange is that you can remember
being one of them
hurling a red ball defiantly down the top of the staircase demanding to join the boys.

Now with those same boys and girls, too
you try to chat among the wild Nerf wars.
It is too loud to hear
so you all go upstairs to a quieter room
where you argue over what to watch -
things ranging from thrillingly inappropriate comedies to silly kid’s movies.No one listens to the TV.
You laugh and gossip instead.
What’s strange is that someday you’ll have done this for the last time
but for now you learn all about why they broke up.

Soon that information won’t matter anymore.
You will arrive at the party with homemade caramel popcorn
the same hostess gift your mom used to bring.
You’ll find something to drink
and join the adults
discussing jobs and the vacations that only a few will be lucky enough to take.
It will be incredible, how long you talk.
What’s strange is the fact that you’ll only sort of realize
That every adult upstairs sipping wine was once a kid playing Spies in the basement.

Illustration by Anna Blasinski

Second Place: Zoe Stiefel

About Zoe

Zoe Stiefel is a 7th grader who has been writing and illustrating stories since the age of 4.

Zoe's love of nature, visual art, travel and imaginary worlds inform her stories and poetry.

She has loved the opportunity to participate in Power of the Pen and hopes to do this again next year!

Cardboard Box
by Zoe Stiefel, Shaker Heights MS,
Shaker Heights

Once it was mailed
Now it rots in the rain
On the lonely doorstep
Brittle, brown and stained. 

Simple, dull, torn,
Not much to see
Yet through the eyes of a child
There’s much more it can be 

Step inside, climb aboard
And your world will transform.
From imagination and wonder
Endless marvels are born. 

It might be a rocket
That blasts to the stars
To meet and greet aliens
That reside on planet Mars 

Or perhaps it’s a time machine
That takes you back through the past
To when giant lizards roamed,
And ruled landscapes vast 

Flip it upside, and
It’s a cave to explore
With mysteries deep,
Labyrinths and more.

Crawl inside with your toys
For hours of play,
Close it up in the dark and
It’s a great hideaway 

Or grip the flaps tight,
You’re the king of the track,
Screeching ‘round corners
There’s no speed you lack! 

Or maybe it’s a pirate ship
Sailing open seas,
With the wind in your hair
And a salty sea breeze 

It can be a spaceship
That’s at your command
You’re an astronaut captain
On distant planets you’ll land. 

With belief, imagination
And creativity,
It can be anything you
Want it to be 

But to those careworn adults,
Slaves to their clocks,
In their eyes, it is only
A cardboard box.

Illustration by Zoe Stiefel

Honorable Mention: Allison Krzywicki

About Allison

Allison Krzywicki is a simple, eighth-grade girl from North Royalton Middle School who enjoys things like hiking, baking, sewing, and of course, writing.

When she's not traipsing through the woods or baking a batch of lemon brownies in a hand-sewn skirt, she's writing poetry and short stories that she hopes to one day be able to publish.

Allison finds writing therapeutic as she gets to express her ideas and emotions that may one day touch others as her favorite poet, Amanda Lovelace, has touched her.

by Allison Krzywicki, North Royalton Middle School, North Royalton

the Japanese art of replacing cracks in pottery
with gold.

making something beautiful
out of what was once broken,
and not making any attempt
to hide the past flaws.

there are so many people
so just think,
how radiant they could become
if their small flaws
became shiny perfection.

they would glow from the inside out
without a care in the world.
their future as bright,
as the light within them.

but then there’s me.
how great it would be
if all my cracks
could be gold too.

but there isn’t a part of me
that isn’t broken.
if everything wrong with me was gold
then I would be a statue.

so now even today
I still can’t decide,
if the thought of being solid gold,
comforts me, or scares me.

Maybe it does a bit of both.

Honorable Mention: Audra Lozina

About Audra

Audra Lozina is an 8th grade writer from Hudson, Ohio.

She loves to write from the perspective of children and add playful personification in her pieces.

Additionally, Audra enjoys creating art and playing Lacrosse.

The Sweet Stains of Youth
by Audra Lozina, Hudson Middle School, Hudson

I remember how it used to be
Growing up and growing older
In my yellow painted bedroom

Intense feeling of euphoria
As the ice cream truck drives by

I can hear a sweet,
Twinkling melody drifting closer, louder

Tiny eyes gazing out as
Time froze, forever in youth.

Scurrying down the steps
Whilst listening to a loud creak as I hit the third stair
Out the door

A sweet vanilla cone in my hand
The summer sun sending

two creamy drops down my thumb

But caught by one slobbery lick.
I watched as the silky dripping intensified
The soft pitter-patters of the melted ice cream
Sluggishly dropping onto the stairs

Why stop to wipe the memories away.

That cone is gone now.
Not the memory.
Now I’m still going up creaky stairs

Taking steps towards adulthood,
But cannot tread back down again.

The sweet stains of my youth remain
On my never-ending staircase

Just where I had left them.

Illustration by Audra Lozina

Power of the Pen
PO Box 442  |  Richfield, Ohio 44286

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