Escape from the Ordinary: The Winning Poems of the 45th Annual Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Contest

The annual Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition celebrated its 45th year this spring. Poets were called upon to submit up to three original, unpublished poems in one of three age divisions; this article will discuss the two student-based divisions. The poems were reviewed by esteemed poet Patricia Clark, the author of four poetry books and one chapbook. Her poems can also be seen in journals such as Poetry, The Atlantic, Slate, and The Gettysburg Review among many others.
The competition’s first division consisted of entries from poets in kindergarten through eighth grade. Sean Flikkema won first- and second place as well as honorable mention with the poems “What Lives Next to the Window,” “Oceans,” and “The Map’s Way” respectively, while Kevin Wang won third place with “Whatif Poem.”
Thirteen-year-old Sean Flikkema’s poem, “What Lives Next to the Window” is a magical tale about a spider living next to the author’s living room window. The comparison of the spider’s web to waves on the sea describing the threads as “hanging down like fish hooks in open water” brings a new perspective to a creature always thought of as a land dweller. Patricia Clark remarked that “The poem reveals the writer’s great skill in seeing. Then in lyric lines that sing, the writer shows us the world.” Flikkema attends Immanuel-St. James Lutheran School. He has developed a love for poetry under the tutelage of his teacher, Rodney Torreson. When he’s not busy writing poetry, he can be found playing basketball, soccer and video games.
“Whatif Poem,” written by seventh grader Kevin Wang, shows the reader that poetry can be fun! Kevin loves attending language arts class in school and although he isn’t currently working on any big pieces of poetry, he enjoys writing small poems now and then for fun. He enjoys playing second trumpet in the middle school band and is working on improving his tennis game. Clark embraced the joyful tone of this poem, noting that “Some poems are good for laughs!”
The second division was comprised of entries from high school to undergraduate students. Mallory Caillaud-Jones won first place with her poem “A Thunderstorm in Paris, from the Steps of Montmartre.” Kara Talen won second place with “A Snow Day with My Sister,” “Hiphop Too Ode” by Mary Kimball-Smith won third place, and Chelsea Graham’s “Gaia” won honorable mention.
Mallory Caillaud-Jones, a sophomore at Grand Valley State University, wrote “A Thunderstorm in Paris, from the Steps of Montmartre” after returning from one of her many trips to Paris. Her dual French and American citizenship gave her a unique outlook on a much-loved city. Clark remarked that “the poem’s scenes are wonderfully textured. The writer uses lively language and dialogue to transport us to Paris.”
The thunderstorm in Paris transitions to a wintry day with the poem “A Snow Day with My Sister” by Kara Talen. This piece begins with a beautiful image of daybreak; Talen describes “A sliver of the morning sky paints itself/ over a knife in our kitchen.” The whimsical day continues as the sisters encounter a “slobbery mutt” and declare their existence to their neighborhood, as well as the world. Clark commented that “this poem captures the exuberance of children on a snow day. The writer sings an ode to freedom and the magic of being in the moment.” Talen is a senior Health Science major at Grand Valley State University. She has been writing poetry for many years and still enjoys finding the significance in what may appear to be ordinary events.
Mary Kimball-Smith’s “Hiphop Too Ode” is enchanting in its rhythmic interpretation of age-related stereotypes. Clark observed that “the language of this poem is full of surprises. Some poems celebrate an atypical beauty and this is one.” Kimball-Smith is a senior creative writing major at Grand Valley State University and is currently working on her first novel entitled "What She Felt."
“Gaia,” written by Chelsea Graham, entices the reader with its intense imagery and vivid description of place. Graham, a student at Aquinas College, was inspired by a piece of metal art she helped build in a poets and writers collaboration workshop. The sculpture inspired thoughts of a forgotten earth goddess who now felt without purpose in a metallic world. The poet brings this sculpture to life and the reader can feel the poem’s journey from despair to uncertainty and ultimately to hope.
Each winning author has brought to life the beauty of the world that we live in today. Maybe the next time we see a spider crawling through the house we’ll remember “What Lives Next to the Window.” On those days that sleep is impossible we can learn from the humor of “Whatif Poem.” When we want to escape from our daily lives, “Gaia” and “A Thunderstorm in Paris, from the Steps of Montmartre” can inspire us to dream about far-away lands and mythical places. And for those times we feel age rapidly gaining on us, "Hiphop Too Ode” teaches that age is irrelevant when it comes to pursuing what brings us joy.

Works by Patricia Clark

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