English Department releases La. High School Poetry contest winners


Students from 26 Louisiana high schools entered a Poetry Contest sponsored by the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Grambling State University. Fourteen department faculty members participated in the judging without knowing the names of the poets, their high schools or their locations within the state. After several rounds of anonymous judging, the faculty agreed on winners. 

Darshini Deutsch, a Greenwood, LA., junior at Evangel Christian Academy won the first place prize of $500 for her poem, “Glasses at the Graveside”.

“Darshini’s poem was subtle and understated,” said Hugh Wilson, an English professor and co-coordinator of the contest with James Clawson. “The repetition of the stanzas, in a slightly different key, was quietly effective.”

“Her poem consistently scored highly in each round for the review process,” added Clawson. “Darshini is clearly talented.”

A Dutchtown High School senior, Paula Gomez, of Prairieville, LA., earned second place for a poem titled “Diary Entry of a Closeted Pedophile.” The third place winner is Kennedy Alexander Edwards, a Bastrop High School senior, who wrote “There is a place of silent grace.” Gomez wins a $300 prize and Edwards will get $100 prize. “The money is real,” said Wilson. “Funding for prizes was donated by faculty members in the Department of English and Foreign Languages.”

The Department of English and Foreign Languages started the contest this year in order to cultivate the art of poetry in Louisiana, and they were impressed with the results. The faculty particularly appreciates the mentoring done by high school faculty. Deutsch was mentored by Jemima Deutsch. Gomez was mentored by Tamara Empson and Mark Ebarb. No teacher’s name was submitted by Edwards. 

Several high school students were recognized for honorable mention:

Summer Roberson, a Dubach High School senior, “Where I’m From.” Roberson was mentored by Amanda Cauley and Jennifer Franks.

Tyler DeSpenza, a Benjamin Franklin High School senior in New Orleans, for “Technical Reflux” and “Aubade.” DeSpanza was encouraged by Stephen Pearce, Ph.D.

Sarah “Kate” McMillan, a Evangel Christina Academy junior from Bossier City, LA., for “Pawpaw” and “Moonlight, Carmel.” McMillan was mentored by her teacher, Jemina Deutsch.

Winners were notified in April and prize money and certificates have been sent to the students. Clawson and Wilson agree that with the success of this first-time effort, there’s no question that the faculty will continue the contest next year.