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Florida 2013 Poetry Competition

In 2013, the Humanities Institute ran its first poetry contest and presented the finalists throughout the month of April. High school students and USF students, faculty, and staff submitted over 100 poems on the theme: "Florida 2013." The top three poets in both the High School and USF catagories received special awards presented by Jorie Graham at her reading on April 2.

Read all the finalists poems here.

High School Poets

April 1
Kailyn Bruno: Honorable Mention

9th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School

"Citrus Dream (Tanka)"

Picked fresh from the trees
They turn and dance in baskets
The long journey home
To the beds where they will sleep
Until they are freshly squeezed

Swishing in their jugs
They laugh as the pulp tickles
Sliding to the glass
They chuckle with their friend ice
Slowly they are sipped away.



April 2
Sarah Nauman: Honorable Mention

12th Grade, Durant High School

"Stop. Look Around."

Jen came to Faithful Florida
Packed her belongings and moved from Alabama
Heard about a competition
To cease a python’s breathin’ and hissin’
And what’s wrong with that?
To kill such a bother won’t have any effect
Trading life for money is what will last for years
Now she has a snake skin: boots, hats, haircare,
Gloves, jackets, diapers, underwear
Until one day another hunter saw her and shouted
“I found the biggest snake yet!”
So all the hunters picked up their spears
And Jen’s last bundle of cash went un-spent.



April 3
Tina Rosace: Honorable Mention

11th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School

Sticky Seats

a snow bird moved in
down the street
about a year ago
and they used to be as
typical as miserable mondays:
here in the winter
there in the summer
but i began seeing them
around all year
and i never understood
why they picked the place
that’s even more miserably
hot than expected
but we all accept what
we think we deserve
don’t we?



April 4
Tyler Glenn: Honorable Mention

10th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School

Bay Haven Drive

I’ve watched buildings spring up around the tiny orange home
And I’ve watched them sit vacant

Not because they aren’t nice houses
But because the neighborhood wasn’t the best
For me or for anybody else

And I guess outsiders felt the desperation held
Within the two-toned lawns and poorly planted trees
And the air conditioners that stuck out of the windows
The childless street told everybody it wasn’t a good place to live

And I spent my childhood on real estate websites
Wishing I lived in the gated community that separated me and them
By an oversized brown wall

I can still remember hearing children play in there
And sneaking through the gates on Halloween
Because they always did have better candy



April 5
Jean-Carlos Rivera: Honorable Mention

12th Grade, Durant High School

Our Land

The land of Florida is in a great pain,
Chemicals from death’s mouth drool out
Causing death to everything,
The trees fall to the mortal Earth,
Flowers of white, red, and some with golden spots fade a dull grey in sadness,
Beaches become slimy and expel stenches of grotesque, awful filth,
The Everglades fade away to a waste filled of forgotten memories,
Our beautiful Mother Earth,
Our might Florida land,
Please forgive us for the pain brought on you,
Remain strong mighty Florida land,
For there is a plan,
A plan in the eyes of the great watcher,
He is putting an end to this spread of death,
Demanding for change,
For restoration and a great cleanup,
To protect what is precious to him,
To the many people of Florida,
To protect the beauty, nature, and soul of what makes this land
The Sunshine State,
Let us all pitch in and save our land,
Save Florida’s beautiful youth from growing ever old,
Save the natural beauty from the flames of death.



April 8
Nia Scott: Honorable Mention

11th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School

Junior Year


it is December in Florida
naturally the air is wet and heavy
polluted with the hopes and dreams
of this year’s high school seniors
our principal tells us they are the leaders of this school

most days i watch the class like memories
their influence tucked underneath my fingernails

in the roots of my hair
the yawn in my talk

i’ve noticed how vacant their eyes have become
-- the creeks in their jaws from creeping GPAs
backs bent from the struggle of independence

i look at the freshmen
who still have spring on their shoulders

it warms me

they still have time

it is May in Florida
naturally the air is wet and heavy

filled with demands and expectations
i’ve seemed to fail

on rare sunny days like these
i look up at the darkening clouds

preparing for someone else’s reign



April 9
Justin Koziel: Honorable Mention

12th Grade, Boca Ciega High School

Salt Life

The horizon’s glorious kiss continues down her stomach
Sands follow zealously, the tide begins to rise
Her face sanguine as she presses on
The rest of us, helpless, our lives brine in the tide

The sand follows zealously, leaving the tide to rise
Beaches, houses, habitats – left to drown in the surge
Helpless we witness her submerge what was ours
The inland a flooded clown car, pooling these fools

Beaches, houses, habitats left to drown in the riptide
She has yet a chance to lick her wounds
Pooling these fools, one door closes – another opens
Industry halts for no man, nevertheless, we breathe

One wound closes, another opens
Bulldozers shatter Cypress knees
We breathe sunsets: ash and aerosols
Stay vigilant, we must be fit

Cypress knees, marsh lungs, snake skin
Pythons like roots in her mangrove roosts
Stay vigilant, we must be fit to crawl into canopies
O Lord! Stop these demons tempting her fruit-bearing breasts

Pythons like roots in her mangrove roosts
Time melts, salt coagulates, industry picks at her scabs
O Lord! Stop these demons tempting her fruit-bearing breasts
Horizon’s metamorphosis – his taciturn glare reveals –

Truth: brackish depths rend far beyond her shores.



April 10
Kaylie Sergi: Honorable Mention

12th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School

The Best of the Bees

Winter is not the beginning,
Neither is fall or spring.
Summer is a jumbled mess colored shades of green.

Everything has a season,
A fever with a sting,
Like bees that hum and hover
Over flower upon flower.
A little bit of baby daisies,
Some gardenias here and here.
Spreading pollen and tasting all,
Their eyes closed with feelers armed.

The best of bees can pollinate
Sunflowers and their seeds.

Bees, pollen, flower and
Drifters, zygotes, people.
I am picturing a season change
Where bees and drifters turn to beetles.

Another season and they flitter, fly and flutter

From one flower to them all.
Their taste of color changes
And each season brings anew
More pollen for them to carry,
More flowers to cover in their dew.

The best of the bees can pollinate
Sunflowers and their seeds.

Pollen exchange between drifters and people,
I am the bee that reigns.



April 11
Sam McDonald: Honorable Mention

9th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School


There was something about these sands
That raised me
That picked me from the tumbling gulf
Chose the sun
To kiss my skin.
And I hope that should I have a daughter
She could see the sand piper’s racing feet
Feel the sway of the waves
The way the sea oats
Wave in the wind.
I hope that someday
This will be her sanctuary
The way it is mine,
And that she may dig her heels in the sand
Paint the stars on the palms of her hands
So she can memorize
Each little pinprick
The way they swirl in the sky.
I hope that someday
The Sanibel breeze
Embraces her skin
I hope that someday
She can sit by my feet
And watch the spider crabs
Scuttle in the sand
Knowing that this place
Is constant.



April 12
Samuel Gladyszewski: Honorable Mention

12th Grade, Durant High School

My Life With Florida

I came here from the heartland on the fourth of July.
My first words past the Georgy border were, “It’s too hot here.”
Everything about this state was different.

Thirteen years later, I sit in my classroom
A senior in high school.
The daunting task of college looms before me.
And I love this state.

People here care about the environment.
They preserve the palms, withhold the wetlands.
We restore old coquina castles
Because we love old haunts.

I’ve seen it all, and yet
I haven’t.

I’ve been from Pensacola, the border of Alabama
I rode the passion out of Miami
275, I4, 75 Northbound, my home off of 60
I’ve driven them all.
I’ve gone fishing in the Gulf
Eaten at the Bah’ma Breeze
Been to a Jimmy Buffet concert
Sailed the Atlantic coast
Swam in beaches and rivers and lakes

And I still haven’t seen it all.



April 15
Alexa Schuler: Honorable Mention

10th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School

Sunshine's Bliss

We reside in solar paradise
With grains of sand between our toes
Salty fingers rub our eyes
We slip on our summer clothes
And watch the shuttles fire away
Into the starry sky; fiercely lit
Until the night converts to day
And NASCAR wheels skid and zip
Sunscreen sits below the cumulus clouds
Fluffy as a plethora of feathers
Diverse faces partner in crowds
Skipping outside, in every weather
And as the gators eye our every shift,
Surfing the waters from morning to late
As flamingos feed on fleeing shrimp
I reflect on the blessings of this state



April 16
Omar Santiago: Honorable Mention

12th Grade, The Broach School of St. Petersburg

Pour a Glass of Sunshine

Pour a glass of sunshine in the Sunshine State
Where hospitality is presented on a silver plate.

Florida is the place to feel so young,
To our gardens, to our southern tongue.

A touch of greenery in every scenery
On our paradise.

Feel the sublime of a key lime pie slice.
Pour a glass of sunshine
In the Sunshine State.

Bring your family and friends
And even your soul mate.

In Florida everything is pretty,
For our countries and to our cities.

Shooting the breeze in the Florida Keys.
In our heaven and oceans blue.

Every creature to see from dolphins to manatees
Or even something new.

Under the sun have some fun
That Florida has to bring.

Reap upon its bounties
In the summer and the spring.

So come out everybody,
It’s Florida or bust.

And our motto is: In God we trust.
Oh, Florida.



April 17
Shelby Brown: 3rd Place

10th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School

The Place of Flowers

Golden eyes mark the way
They are not subtle, nor meek
They have watched this land
Since the tides clawed it into shape
Scanned every leaf and danced
On every wave that broke the shore
Guarding so desperately the treasures
They have held since dawn

Sometimes, they open their doors
And let their world flow out
A hundred shades of petals scattering
As pines whisper tales of oceans
As the wind sighs through the hair
Of children who have not yet lost
Their clear eyes

It is the world’s job to guide them
From the stepping stones to the bank
Before the sky is eclipsed with night
The sun is perched on their shoulders
Pulling their clothes
Sweet lips murmuring, crying
“This is home.”


April 18
Sadie Briguglio: 2nd Place

11th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School


It was natural
to see a Willow,
dip its feet in
the Everglades,
and sway its
hair in the humidity.

It was natural,
to extend your
reach into the sun,
and be left with
a singed arm,
hurt, and alive.

It was natural,
for the bright
colors of Florida,
to entrance a
victim into its
beauty, and warmth.



April 19
Evelyn Diaz: 1st Place

12th Grade, Howard W. Blake High School


She runs with the sun at her honey glazed hum
beating down by the Bay Shore where the melted huffs
of tireless waves lick low the sky soft brown days

She moves with the moon’s silent rise
past the spilling smell of coffee shops
dripping busy hands by the clock

She’s grown weak for the warm curls
that tease the neck line at spring
The cold no longer leading her to sing
of love and other things



April 22
John D. Mullen: Honorable Mention

USF Alumnus: B.A., Philosophy & Political Science, New College of USF 1989


An anhinga spreads wings, unhinged
to allow the setting sun to dry;
The wood stork stumbles forward
prehistorically, in search of dinner's catch;
Two roseate spoonbills glide to shore
and quizzically graze the shallows;
A family of ordinary ducks paddles
impertinently, but in rhythm.

A retention pond turned inadvertent refuge
Hemmed in by Target left and Publix right
The recent arrivals, transient, human,
Flock to park, shop, bicker, depart:
The natives take their sustenance
How, and where, they can
Clinging to a foothold, a bare grasp,
To lingering, to hanging on.



April 23
Cameron McNabb: Honorable Mention

USF Alumna: Ph.D., English Literature, 2012

Buck's Roadside Stand

The whack-a-mole gator heads
Shed of their milky eyes,
With their jaws perched open,
Hoping like baby birds before a worm.

Disemboweled coquinas, drawn and quartered,
Thwarted on the tentacles of a wind chime.
All time, ticked out, slowly
Slowing to the highway breeze.

‘Boild pnuts’ in their crockpot cauldron
Scalding the world as they plot an escape
Into the orange crate, fruit deflowered
But them empowered to slough off their tattered coats.

Tawny man, with deep crow’s feet
Seated on an oak-hewn stool,
In alligator lethargy, too hearty,
Too tardy to see me as I wave.



April 24
Hannah Feig: Honorable Mention

USF Undergraduate: Anthropology and Chemisty

Florida, I Haven't Left You

why have I stayed here for so long
is it how you whisper in my ear
conch ritual desires
or is it sky-blue eyes
peeking out from palm leaf shadows

fragile beings rest upon your shores, hiding,
like clumps of sand in rain
my fingers heavy and uttering nonsense until
the sun comes out again,
warm on my back, warmer, warmer.

what makes your breath so sweet
is it low-croak gator smiles
swish-crash ant trails on dead leaves
birds before I wake
crickets when I sleep
frog-calls after rain

piles of shell and earth for centuries
juggling mouths of overflowing eau,
salty sweat and pure clean lime,
garlands of sugar sweet climbing flat land
between toes the white sand
tangled in my hair like fish in mangroves

waiting, humming, green white brown blue
love-hymns in the summertime
sing about why I haven't left you.



April 25
Brook Sadler: 3rd Place

Associate Professor: Humanities & Cultural Studies

Florida Ghazal Laid Back

Ravenous with bougainvillea blooms, day
breaks and memory clicks, a turning padlock—

At the dirt pecks a silent ibis flock.
Past and present move through a revolving door—

A filigree of ferns covers the sinkhole floor,
whispers green secrets to the ground—

Live oaks sprawl without a sound,
limbs of lovers stilled and slaked—

The mind lies coiled, a rattlesnake
in densely spiked palmetto brush—

High cypress boughs nod and hush, hush.
Below, the bent river flows with alligators—

Stealth ushers glide along the corridors
of time, and sunset again bleeds its fuchsia stain—

The self, with lizard eyes, waits, watches for rain.
Heavy clouds pant, underbelly of a panther sky—

Stars, numerous as coquina shells, on the black beach of space die.
Night-blooming hope laps and laps at peninsular tides—

Through open windows, a breeze of sorrow blows from all sides.
Birds in flight, thoughts, in unexpected vectors, turn—

Love, a paradox in lockbox, strikes its lightning burn.
Full and round, solitude rises above the sea—

If I had a hammock, there’d be no end of me.
All the idle sun-warmed hours would recall our combination—



April 26
Gloria Muñoz: 2nd Place

Graduate Student: English

Your Biome Has Found You

And who will kiss open the spine of the resurrection fern
that’s hunched like a widow, like a shamed child?
How it locks and hides and browns under the sun
—a laborer’s hands picking blistered tomatoes,
or a pile of bones, perhaps bird bones—small, dry, silent.

                      Here is the damp and thickest marsh
                       of your interior wetland. And here, begins your tundra
                       of moss, rock and shrub. Here is the thing you lost,
                       perhaps the saddest or loveliest thing—remember?
                       It was taken, as a fish spine is plucked from its open body
                       on an open plate. And who will pry apart the arms of the praying

mantis who preys on her lover’s head?
Who will resuscitate the tiny bird whose head rests
on a fallen nest? You are helpless and wild here,
a murmuration of starlings pulses in your chest,
the soundtrack of breeding amphibians seeps
through you, cicadas scream petrified from tree tops.
The feral sounds of wilderness sharpen your teeth.

                      It is November, goldfish scales crunch under your soles,
                       the autumnal scent of a fire inhales you,
                       the aerials are coming and going.
                       While adding up all the dead things you carry,
                       you realize, there is so much dirt in you.
                       Still, your nautilus ears listen, waiting
                       to hear your native sea.



April 29
Ryan Cheng: 1st Place

Graduate Student: English

Unlock the Door, Let the Moon Come in
After Bashō and Wallace Stevens and John Berryman

It is wet & heavy & humid & she is not
alone. The chatter & hum of screens
exchange voice with emptiness in her throat:
When did the sun become so boring?

Breezes whir above
walls become diluted mustard & then
starless. Even the wisteria
withers & she can’t
hear the crack in the grackle’s throat.

In my memory, her hair
adorned with orange
striped seashells—
now she mistakes sandalwood for vinegar.
The night unfastens & stars stagger.

Branches creak, shake,
old doors & wooden
floors groan at her step.

The dust mites scurry & look—
a shell, the cicada sang
utterly away.