In an era of stay-at-home orders and COVID-19, what is escape? Is it a physical act, an adventure, or just a dream? From where do you start, and where do you wish to go?
For the Sixth Annual Narrative “Tell Me a Story” High School Writing Contest, we invited students from around the world—all of whom were sequestered by COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions—to conjure a poem that demonstrated their version of escape. We heard from students in 19 countries, including Malaysia, Serbia, Uganda, China, Sweden, Turkey, South Africa, and the Philippines. Within the United States, we received poems from students in 39 states and 174 cities and towns—a virtual world of young poets, ages fifteen to eighteen, all dreaming, imagining, and writing their finest mode of escape.
“I don’t want to talk of promise in these winning poems because there is something else happening here; these poets are poets, they have arrived,” noted our guest judge, Narrative Prize–winning poet Javier Zamora. “They will continue to write, regardless of what I say. There’s a lot that we so-called adult/professional poets can learn from these young writers. It’s an honor to select these poems as this year’s winners.”
What a privilege it was for all of us at Narrative to read every poem submitted—and to think of the teachers who every day encourage their students to write in their authentic voices. This past year of the pandemic has provided many hard lessons and immeasurable sorrow, yet these poets from the far reaches of the globe reminded us that we are united by a common wish for connection—for life’s simple pleasures and possibilities, and for the heart’s healing. I hope you enjoy the work of these talented writers who fearlessly, brilliantly, invite us, their readers, to escape on the magic carpet of poetry. —Carol Edgarian
• Jonathan Chu, St. George’s School (Vancouver, BC)
• Iqra Naseem, Lordswood Girls’ School & Sixth Form Centre
• Andre Pang, Convent & Stuart Hall High School
(San Francisco, CA)
• Zoe Parkin, Stuyvesant High School (New York, NY)
• Tanisha Shende, Bergen County Academies (Hackensack, NJ)
• Grace Song, William A. Shine Great Neck South High School
(Great Neck, NY)
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