Poetry in the High Schools

A note from MPC High School Anthology Coordinator, Kirsten Jones Neff

In troubled times, the language of poetry offers a sense of connectedness, a calming salve for the soul.  As the COVID 19 pandemic stretched across the U.S., individuals stuck at home have turned to poetry, sharing their most beloved poems through email and social media.  Here in Marin County, new high school poetry published recently in the Marin Poetry Center High School Anthology 2020 offers readers a peek into the heart of teens and insight into the complexity of being a teenager today. The Marin Poetry Center (MPC) is a non-profit whose mission is to nurture the enjoyment and craft of poetry in the region, and each year the organization hosts reading and workshops, and publishes two anthologies, one being a high school anthology.  This year’s collection of student work also offers a window into the level of instruction happening in Marin County classrooms. Every day, English teachers across the county walk into class and share their knowledge and appreciation of the written word with young people. Anyone who has been in a high school classroom lately understands what it takes to captivate the teenage mind. Suffice it to say, there are many competing tracks, and the high school teacher must pour a tremendous energy and enthusiasm into drawing their students’ attention and cultivating interest in language and the art of storytelling.

This year, approximately 1200 students from ten high schools and Marin County Juvenile Hall submitted poems to the Marin Poetry Center’s annual poetry contest.  After a rigorous juried process involving a panel of ten readers and Marin County Poet Laureate Terry Lucas, eight award winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd place, plus five Honorable Mentions) and 52 additional poems were selected for the anthology. 

Most years the Marin Poetry Center hosts a gala awards ceremony and reading in early May to showcase the work of these talented young poets as family and friends gather to listen to readings and to hear from the Marin Poet Laureate about his selections.  Due to the COVID 19 outbreak, this year it is not possible to honor these writers and listen to them in person. Here, Marin County Poet Laureate Terry Lucas answers questions about how he chose the top three award winning poems, plus some advice for aspiring poets. 

Read the full interview with Terry Lucas, Marin County Poet Laureate

Read poems from this year’s anthology:

Winners 2020

First Place                                                   Les Garçons Amoreaux by Cole Marrinson
Second Place                                              November: New York by Evelyn Bohn
Third Place                                                  32 Reasons Why I Love My Mom by Sydney West

Honorable Mention                                    Something Whispered by Saoirse Staples
Honorable Mention                                    One by Alexis Lanigan
Honorable Mention                                    All Connected by Dylan Marin
Honorable Mention                                    Bittersweet Symphony by Abigail Marciniak
Honorable Mention                                    How Capitalism Destroyed the Moon by Jewel Guerra         


MPC’s contest provides students professional review, selection, and publishing via our High School Poetry Anthology. Also, students selected for the anthology are invited to read their work at our Gala Award Ceremony in the spring of 2020 and receive a free anthology copy. For many students, inclusion in our anthology is their first experience writing and/or publishing a poem.  In the process, students tap into a special part of themselves and learn the power of their unique voice. Thank you for supporting the MPC High School Poetry Contest.

View Marin Poetry Center High School Poetry Contest Guidelines

Read poems from past anthologies:

Winners 2018

First Place, Clyde Childress Award         We The Same Color by Rudy Perez-Diaz
Second Place                                              Making Birch Paper with my Father by Elizabeth Wing
Third Place                                                  I Love to Write Poetry by Iona Normandi





Winners 2017

First Place                                                  Memoir by Benjamin Wall-Feng
Second Place                                             Native Tongues by Ashley Sanchez 
Third Place                                                 Dementia by Lily Kun






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