We are pleased to announce the winners of the 1455 Teen Poetry Contest.

First, some numbers. We were delighted to receive almost 70 submissions (and almost 140 poems!) from around the country. The overall quality of the writing exceeded all expectations. On one hand, this made for some excruciating decisions; on the other hand, based on this sample of young writers, the future of poetry is more than promising!

The judges (including 1455 Founder and Executive Director Sean Murphy, co-judge Maia Siegel and special guest judge Kristin Bock, author of Cloisters, Winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award) truly enjoyed and admired all the work, but inevitably some difficult choices had to be made. As such, it was with no small relief that we had consensus regarding the ultimate finalists.


(Note: all the poems were read blind. Per the contest guidelines, no author information was to appear on any of the poems, and the personal biographies of each were sent as separate attachments. When the judges realized that two of the poems on each list of finalists were by the same writer, it certainly made it easier to pick the grand prize winner.)

Our grand prize winner is Taylor Fang, whose poems “Solstice” and “Prehistory” comprised a one-two punch that made her the unanimous choice for this award. Taylor lives in Utah and is the 2019 National Student Poet for the West. Her poetry has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Cargoes, Aerie International, and Rookie Magazine, among others, and has been recognized by the New York Times and Poetry Society of the United Kingdom. Her poems appear below; a full recap of the winners (and their poems) will appear in a subsequent post.

Grand Prize Winner Taylor Fang

The second prize winner is Sabrina Guo for her poem “Huài shì hǎo shì” (Evil Things, Good Things). The third prize winner is Kaja Rae Lucas for her poem “for that morning when pretending was the only way to survive.” Honorable mentions are awarded to Catherine Ji for “meanwhile in godLand”; Madison Lazenby for “Notre Dame Burned to the Ground but That’s Not What I’m Really Upset About”; Megan Lunny for “The Nostalgist’s Guide to Naming the Lizard that Washes Up on Your Porch During the Flood”; and Lydia Wei for “A Map of Places to Kiss in Manhattan.”


Special thanks, again, to the Friends of Handley Regional Library System for co-sponsoring this contest.


All finalists have been invited to read from their work during a special ceremony next Friday at Winchester Book Gallery as part of the 1455 Summer Literary Festival (those who cannot attend will have their poems read by the judges). Co-judge and teen poet Maia Siegel will also be doing a special reading of her own work during this session, which is followed by live poetry readings (see our festival site for details). A reminder that the 1455 Summer Literary Festival begins Thursday, July 18 at Winchester Brew Works, followed by programming both Friday and Saturday at Bright Box on the downtown walking mall in historic Winchester. All of the events are FREE to the public; an optional ticketed ($50/person) cocktail and dinner reception will be held Saturday July 20 at Shenandoah University. You may register for the event here.


Two Poems by Taylor Fang, Grand Prize Winner of 1455’s Teen Poet Contest


I dress slowly.

In the kitchen, Mother cracks eggs

over rice. Golden

into white.

Grandfather called. He says

he’s sleeping well…

(A certain bitterness

in her voice.)


As if we could escape

what circles back—


the air, the day, bold cotton

and milk white,


as fine silt, slow rain

soaking my apologies

in lines.


How stupid I was

when we last visited.

Wearing a flimsy dress

in Grandfather’s dark house,

pressing fingers

to the sticky tape

on his windowsills.

What did I care

for his second wife,

the frozen meat dredged up

from the depths

of his freezer,

barely careful enough


to not dredge up

the wrong words,

tongue screened flat

behind my bright teeth.


The spring

continues, indifferent.


Lineage of color:

dark clay and sweet


undertones of brown.

Laid bare

to the sky, an ear to listen, clean

as a hand, a wrist

without a sleeve.


Yes, I thought the low clouds

could be shelter.


as I was, by air

like the inside

of the moon.)


When did I first

begin to understand?


Now, at daybreak,

(as at spring),

we are finally approaching

the other side of the sun.




In the ultrasound he’s Johnny Appleseed

in sneakers, seventh malted milk ball

from the sun. He’s a daisy chain

of good luck—think

a-boat it, boasts his dad

at the hotel, sipping

his paper cup of lukewarm tea—

someday he could be president

or better. Leader

of all the unborn sons, pope

though they aren’t religious, cardinal

saint to every big cheese.


And what else?

In the ultrasound you can’t tell

he’ll lie under the bridge

on Sundays, letting the sea break

against his temple. You can’t tell

he’ll kneel on the kitchen floor

to let the ants

search his kneecaps. Age nineteen,

he’ll load up red tubs

of noodles and rice,

and take night shifts that turn papery

and weak in his throat.

He’ll swallow pills

out of a Coke can

to clear the dust. He’ll shake

8-balls. Browse museums

for cubist paintings.

And the girl

sleeping on his porch steps?

They’ll slide down the fire escape


like the weight

of summer, late.


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