Georgia Poet Laureate’s Prize 2018: Meet the winner and finalists

The annual awards highlight work by teen poets
Georgia Poet Laureate’s Prize

Photograph by Patrick Lane via Getty Images

Launched in 2014 by Judson Mitcham, the state’s poet laureate, in collaboration with the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Georgia Poet Laureate’s Prize is an annual program designed to encourage works by teen writers. It is open to all students in grades 9 through 12. The winner and finalists, profiled below, visit the state capitol and the governor’s mansion. “Involvement in reading and creating poems can enrich any life,” Mitcham told us when the program was created. Read more about its inception here and meet the 2017 winners and finalists below.


By Dagmawit Adamu

mother knows how to spin genocide into
a jovial, innocuous tale so daughter’s lips
break into a teeth-filled, gum-protruding

smile and her face splits into a constellation
of freckles so much like that of the father
she will never know;

daughter’s cavernous midnight eyes, akin to
the pure onyx beads that snake around
mother’s neck, glisten with innocent fascination

at the story mother seamlessly weaves; of
how some people, like father, his father before
him, and her unborn brother blossoming in the

garden of mother’s belly, are created not for
this putrescent, iniquitous world, but for a
better place, the promised land;

of how they are taken and scorched, father’s
skin melting like the candle wax that burns to
keep their vision at night, so their bodies are

reconstructed, clay and dirt all over again,
and they are faultless and immaculate this
time; of how the incarnadine rivers, scarlet

and ebony in moonlight, are purified by the
molten-gold veins of the victims; of agony,
yes, but sweet and necessary; of the saccharine

kiss of death, like nebulous cotton candy, the
boys must taste early; of treachery; duplicity;
deceit; of coal-blackened lies mothers must

tell daughters to keep innocence alive.

Dagmawit AdamuDagmawit Adamu is a junior at Milton High School. She is a writer who spends more time thinking about writing than actually writing. She is honored to receive this award and would like to thank God and her family.

She was inspired to write “Seamstress” by the following commentary:

“Just like we did in Rwanda, just like we did in the Balkans, we are once again seeing a genocide happen before our very eyes. And we will do nothing about it. We will bury our heads in the sand, and when our children will ask us why we let this happen, we will plead ignorance. Once the final act of killing starts, it is usually too late. For the Rohingya, the final act is in full swing. And still we are in denial about what is happening.” — Dr. Azeem Ibrahim on the Rohingya Genocide, for CNN


“Ybor City”
By Lillian DeLecuona

I was walking down 8th avenue,
when I paused and thought of
you. It made sense, I was holding
your old Nikon in one hand and my thoughts alone
in the other. All while bobblehead chickens scuttled past
me, butterscotch tail feathers catching fire in the afternoon sun.

In Ybor City,
the buildings squat on their haunches, blue tongues panting. The houses bend over
backward in a crooked rainbow of mustard, burnt brick, and bleached bone
white. Houses built on the sweat stained backs of immigrants, in between the years spent rolling
flaxen tobacco leaves between their blackened fingers.
A mural is painted on a large wooden plank with a hole punched
through the middle of a squash a colored woman rotting.

I leave 8th and turn onto 13 and there is a stop
I need to make. To a park the size of a dime possessed
by the country of Cuba, an oasis in the buried in sticky Tampa.

But I found the gate locked.

The sign snipped-
After one o’clock, closed!
I peek in anyway and took in Jose Marti’s alabaster face. I stuck
my arm in through the iron bars, my hand
in Havana hovering in the air,
Me and Ybor city, just not quite there.

Lillian Isabel DeLecuonaLillian Isabel DeLecuona was born in Augusta and is a senior at Davidson Fine Arts. Writing has always been a lifelong passion of hers, along with visual arts and theater, and she is planning to pursue a degree in animation next year. Her poem “Ybor City” is about the town of the same name located outside of Tampa, Florida; her connection to the area with her mixed Latina and American heritage; and her Cuban father, Juan DeLecuona, who passed away in 2013.



“The State My World Is In”
By Allison Boyle

Each state of my world has a different color palate, like a Wes Anderson movie; For
instance, Virginia was Earth: greens and browns and golds, like hazel eyes. New York
was foreign and shiny: metallics and blacks, like a camera Washington was clear and
bright: neons and white, like a concert

Georgia, though… I must be on the moon in Georgia: all I can see is grey Grey was hard
to think about-nothing is definite in grey Pencil can be erased, rain goes away (in a week
or so), dust floats around, Nothing is permanent.

Then I saw the needle of my record player, and it was all alright, Because my needle may
be grey but the records themselves are colorful. They are so colorful… A translucent ruby
red love song, a cosmic, buttery yellow techno-beat, And even when the vinyl is black, I
can hear him sing along to the tune, So it’s okay. It is always ok.

The state my world is in is always changing – it’s like a portal, a warped timeline, One
thrown out of order day in and day out. He is a constant, though. A star that will remain
for years to come, A song that hasn’t ended yet. It is a dream that would make eternal
sleep seem worthy, And the day I wake up from it, I think I might melt of sadness.

I love it, and I love him too, and I think the state I’m in might change colors someday But
for now it’s grey And it’s okay. It is always ok.

I sometimes cry for the state my world is in Sobs rise up when I sit alone in my car Or
when I sit in my room, and I feel so small because the room is so big, And then I cry for
my selfishness, since many don’t even have a room to stay in at all. I cry for myself in the
shower, And I watch tears mingle with suds and water. I cry for all I wish to be but never

But even though nothing is permanent in grey, It’s okay. It is always ok. I have him, and
that’s all I need for now, anyway.

Allison BoyleAllison Boyle is a junior at the Bradwell Institute in Hinesville. She enjoys reading, writing, visual art, and singing. She also hopes to become an actress someday.



By Ashley Wu

When I see her I see a pale blue tourniquet
or a street littered with confetti littered with
broken promises. When she looks at herself
she sees inebriated breath hanging like smog,
laying claim to the valley of her bones.

In a dark room, she chops off her hair
and waits desperately to be someone else
cuts herself out of pictures and wonders
how long it takes to fall out of love.
Her smile, thick as paste, all encompassing,
Her hate, thick as orange peels.

My friend likes her skin, but likes it better with
a constellation of pockmarks, an inked thing
stretching nebular across the underside of her arm.
It took all of thirty minutes to poke herself a tattoo
and twelve years to forget her estranged father
in the kitchen, carving at his jugular with a dull knife.

Three tongues lapping at the autumnal air,
She is, woman, an open wound looking
like an open palm, unflinching in her resilience
We are echo chambers, speaking to ourselves
and receiving only plastic screams.

Ashley WuAshley Wu is a senior at Johns Creek High School. She is co-editor of her school’s literary magazine, a National Merit Scholar, and president of the National English Honors Society.



“what i know of your silhouette.”
By Avanti Tulpule

i know of summers & desire /
object and action, spoken / softly & coagulating
hollowed, hanging / between your face and mine.
i want / the meat of you, the give of you –
my fingers prying apart an asymptotic horizon / from sulfuric skyline.

summer and there are always boys. / antiseptic skin, gap-toothed gap-
ing possession where their eyes should be.
in the lingering / light fracturing under streetlamps, / halo-ed by mothwings,
you are barefoot & i swallow / moths. my body formless, rises
over us like smoke / my eyes sunken and hungry,
my mouth perforated sky. / boys straddling our fences, /
winding the world in their careless hands & keening
“theres something more out there – misted over / wait
-ing for us to go.” / you, barefoot, falling, in flight
my fingers grasping fog / your silhouette lingering, sickly-bitter,
my body immortalized / in amber / in the dripping stretch of sunlight.

& one day it will be spring / open-
mouthed and gasping;
thrusting shards / of chipped tulip bulbs & irises
in languid violence, / life encroaches.
& i will walk barefoot,
heavy-handed, wringing the clamor of bells
out of salt-stung breeze.
& swallow my self / in an open-
mouthed kiss
endless like the sea.

Avanti TulpuleAvanti Tulpule is a junior at Johns Creek High School. She enjoys trying to read multiple books at the same time, birdwatching, and listening to truly terrible music. In her spare time, she can be found with a cup of hot tea, scribbling poetry on the back of her unfinished homework. She would like to thank her family and friends for supporting her love of writing.