2018 Poetry of Place Celebration Winners

2018 Poetry of Place winners
From left to right: Matt Mason, Camille Frey, Abigail Meier, Sophia Birch, Emily Martindale, Baylen Hall, Jadon Karp, Aruneem Bhowmick, Cyrus Zgud, Hudson Witte, Conleigh Hemmer, Twyla Hansen, and Charis Erickson


  • Aruneem Bhowmick, grade 5, Willa Cather Elementary, Omaha (Teacher: Diana Weis)
  • Baylen Hall, grade 5, Watson Elementary School, Hastings (Teacher: Stephanie Strong)
  • Hudson Witte, grade 6, Pound Middle School, Lincoln (Teacher: Vicki Rankin)
  • Cyrus Zgud, grade 7, Irving Middle School, Lincoln (Teacher: Nancy Svoboda)
  • Charis Erickson, grade 8, Pound Middle School, Lincoln (Teacher: Vicki Rankin)
  • Jadon Karp, grade 8, McCook Junior High, McCook (Teacher: Cindy Wilcox)
  • Conleigh Hemmer, grade 8, Irving Middle School, Lincoln (Teacher: Nancy Svoboda)
  • Sophia Birch, grade 8, Milford Jr. Sr. High School, Milford (Teacher: Megan Seibel)
  • Emily Martindale, grade 9, Sandhills High School, Dunning (Teacher: Chris Christie)
  • Abigail Meier, grade 9, Pierce Jr./Sr. High School, Pierce (Teacher: Melissa Legate)
  • Camille Frey, grade 11, HTRS High School, Humboldt (Teacher: Amanda Bowen)
Aruneem Bhowmick


by Aruneem Bhowmick

If love was a person, it would be a loving mother,
She would take care of everyone very well.
Love could also be a friendly, caring brother,
Who helps others, I can tell.
Love can also be a helping friend,
Who stands up when you’re in a problem.
He will stick with you till the end,
While you grieve, he’ll also be solemn.
He would cheer in your victory,
And be somber for your loss,
And would always support you no matter what.
If your last living moments had arrived and you did not know what to do,
He would happily sacrifice his own life just for you.

If love was in the weather, it would be just right,
With birds singing and chirping in the air.
The sun would be big and bright,
Gone, would be the sorrow, sadness, and despair.
The clouds, big and fluffy, would rise up, way up high,
And give a small and friendly shower.
But when the raining and pouring would cease,
Up, will arise the flowers.
The storms would disappear
From the bright, immense aura of the sun;
The storm would never come here,
And let us enjoy and have fun.

If love was in what we know as outer space,
It would be a beautiful and vibrant star system
Or perhaps a meteorite plummeting in its own pace
On course for a hate-filled moon full of craters, a natural pendulum.

If love was an animal, it would be a mix of many:
It would have the strength of an ape,
It could display caution and be wary,
And have jaws showing a smiling gape.
This animal would have a familiar, flamingo pink pigment,
A symbol of universal love;
This loving creature would show its motherly sentiment
And flap its majestic wings like a dove.
With those glorious wings it would leave this hateful world
Of sadness, grief, and eternal violence.
Perhaps our antediluvian world will crumble and fall without love,
But a new, loving world shall emerge, hence.

Baylen Hall


by Baylen Hall

As I crawl into my special spot,
the trees seem to grow into giants.
The illuminated sky fills me with joy,
and I feel at home in my special spot.

The sun is a giant, orange glowing ball of fire.
The leaves crunch as I stretch,
the bushes creech.
Autumn smell fills the air.

A silent secure feeling comes over me,
the soft whisper of wind lulls me to rest,
the orange sky grows black,
And I am asleep.

Hudson Witte

Countryside Splendor

by Hudson Witte

Beautiful sights fill the countryside
Crops and grass
stretching farther than the eye can see
Creating stunning views
As I travel Nebraska’s countryside

Large corn stalks tower over me
bending and swaying in the cool summer breeze
Wanting to grab an ear of corn right off the plant
My dad tells me,
“I know what you’re thinking.
Buttery, salty, juicy, delicious corn on the cob,
but this is feed corn, son.”
Disappointment quickly overcomes me

Until fields of dark green soybeans line the horizon
Sparking my imagination
If I plant a seed
And its vine reaches the heavens
I will step onto the marshmallows of the sky
To meet an imaginary giant
Losing his appetite to welcome a rare visitor

Suddenly, an awful aroma assaults my dreams
Brown ones, spotted ones, black ones
Dozens of oblivious cows stand in the green pasture
Munching on healthy turf lunches
Soon they’ll become delicious hamburgers

Further down the road,
Golden grass waving under the sapphire sky
Invites me to a picnic
While devouring my tasty beef sandwich
I enjoy nature’s view surrounding me
All this beauty in one place

Cyrus Zgud

Prairie Song

by Cyrus Zgud

By the light of fireflies dancing through the warm afternoon air,
could you come join me in a chorus?
Could you come join me in dancing?
Could you join me in dreaming?

Let us sing a song of the days long gone by,
a song that now only rides on the eagles’ wings.
A song that recounts deep and ancestral roots that have stayed firm.
Even when pried from the land they call home,
those deep roots have woven their way back
into the loving arms of the good Earth.
The same song that tells of great and abominable
storms of a dried and overworked land.
A resource so torn and used,
that it blew away in the wind;
and its cold emptiness was returned to the people
who felt nothing of the new land,
rather the New World, they called home.

But, do not be mistaken to think
that this song is a sad ballad of times past.
It is also in many ways a hymn
recounting the joys that people have felt
over the many long years.
This song rides on the early morning breeze,
bringing with it the radiant globe of the new day,
bringing warmth and light to all living things
under its brilliant rays.
The wind carries its song all through the day,
and when evening comes the song still continues
ever onward to sing of the night sky.
To sing of the stars and the great moon,
guiding wayward travelers
and inspiring the imaginations of storytellers
to continue on, so that they might see
the Sun rise again at dawn the next day.

By the light of the last rays of light shining in the cool evening air,
would you come join me in a chorus?
Would you come join me in dancing?
Would you join me in dreaming?

Let us dance over the flat water that
skips under bridges.
The flat water that nurtures living things
when the clouds of rain have all but forsaken them.
Let us dance to a beat that is heard
in the voice of an elder’s folk song.
Whether it takes the form
of a leader’s voice calling spirits to bless,
or the voice of an old man who remembers the
sound of rhythm and blues
down in his home-town’s local theatre,
the tone always goes to a beat
that any person can dance to.

And that same beat
that resonates
in every one of our hearts.
That beat that allows us to express,
entice, explore or free ourselves
of our inhibitions.
That same beat that flutters by
in every moment of our lives
in the wind,
and the same wind carries the beat
through the fields of endless grass
that it rustles and tousles.

By the light of the pale moon in the cold night air
will you come and sing with me?
Will you come and dance with me?
Will you come and dream with me?

Yes, let us dream of a greater future
for the world in which you and I live.
But let us not forget the elders
who the world seems to toss
by the wayside.
Let us remember simpler times, and simpler ideals.
Let us always remember the fresh wind of spring
and the beauty of the heavens.

By the light of the early morning sky
come and sing with me.
Come and dance with me.
Come and dream with me.

Charis Erickson


by Charis Erickson

Walking down the street,
My sister and I,
We see many people
Dark, light
Brown, fair, tan


What are their stories?
I have one
A story painted by destiny
Lined with chance
Disappearing into the wall of history
Where all of the colors of humanity
Mix into a beautiful harmony


My sister has a story too
A country shrouded in segregation
Bordered with risk
Prominently placed in the middle of history
Where no one ever knew whom to trust
Where the colors of humanity push on each other
Never blending into unity

Who led her to me?
Twisting stories of hurt to
Uncertainty to
Fear to
Somehow, He brought her halfway around the world
From one broken but beautiful place
To another
And to me

We wonder
My sister and I
We wonder about the pasts walking among us
Bustling through the streets
Coming to a city where friendships reign above all
And second chances are given out like candy

We wonder

Jadon Karp

The Diamond

by Jadon Karp

In Nebraska, this is my place ... the diamond.
Where miracles happen,
where crowds of people herd on a hot July day,
to watch their nephew pitch, or their son snag a high slow fly ball.
Where, too-critical-bystanders, cling to the fence and disagree with a high, third strike that their son decided to let pass.
Where the smell of hot dogs and cotton candy mixes with dust rising up from the windy infield.
Where the thwack of the shortstop's throw to first accompanies the sound of parents chatting in the stands.
Where a string of successful defensive plays can send you out of the blistering heat, into the sanctuary of the dugout to grab a drink of cold water and a handful of seeds.
Where a successful slide into second can leave you with the ultimate badge of honor, being a knee-level dirt stain.
Where one single diving play can make you your team's savior.
Where miracles happen,
In Nebraska, this is my place ... the diamond.

Conleigh Hemmer

Dirt Roads

by Conleigh Hemmer

I’ve seen the depths of the Grand Canyon
And the cobblestone streets of Europe
I’ve seen the white sand beaches of East Coast islands
And the clear blue waters of Key West
My footprints are in seven different countries,
Scattered around the world
But of all the places I’ve been, and all the places I’ll go,
The places that will stick with me forever are the dirt roads of Nebraska

The roads in the countryside, winding through miles and miles of rich farmland
Surrounded by waving wheat and corn as far as the eye can see
Dirt rises up in the pure Nebraska air,
Circling, swirling, up to the blazing sun
Woolen clouds float across the azure sky
Birds shoot across the horizon, dark streaks slashing across the plains

In the summer, these roads are dry, filled with loose dirt and pebbles,
Pale brown paths crisscrossing their way through farms and pastures and fields
Connecting our land
Behind car tires rise clouds of dust, mini Nebraskan tornadoes
Cows roam in their pastures with their sloped backs carrying the weight of our state

But in the winter, the roads sink back into their shells
They fill with melting snow, quickly turning dirt into mud
These roads remain unused, slowly creeping their way back into the land
Animals take refuge beside them and live undisturbed
Weeds disappear, only to thrive again when the sun shines bright

And I’ve grown up with these roads, driving them for hours and hours, never truly appreciating where I was
Never realizing Nebraska’s roads are its history
They have been travelled over and over, walked by horses and people, driven over by wagons and pushcarts
These humble roads carry the story of those who have journeyed them,
And those who are yet to...

Sophia Birch

Flat Water

by Sophia Birch

I breathe as the Earth breathes
Drafts of wind sweep across my skin
The very crust of the world

I am Flat Water.

When I was first found
They said that I was fallow
And could not bear fruit
But then they looked beneath the surface

And found Flat Water.

I gave life to those seeking solace
For I had not riches to give but
Treasures of a different kind

I was Flat Water.

On the surface I am bleak
And desolate
No mountains or forests here
No oceans or glaciers

Only Flat Water.

But there is beauty in the sun and there is beauty in the shade
And there is beauty here
In the land

Of Flat Water.

Emily Martindale

Branding the Sandhills

by Emily Martindale

Swish of the grass in the summer’s gust of wind,
Lowing of the pairs of cows and this years calves,
Nickering of the 1200 pound animal underneath me,
Sandhills sand carried by the wind into my eyes,
Slight smell of a patch of spiderworts flows through the wind,
Creeks of the windmill pumping up the water from the aquifer,
The soft sound of the water rustling trough the river,

People gathering up the cattle as we prod them to the pen of panels
The ho’s and hey’s of the wranglers pushing them into the homestretch,
Chatter of the older ladies and gents as they prepare for the bunch,
Children running around not caring bout what the adults said,
With the irons all ready to brand the gates open,

Wails of the first calf caught,
2 shots, brand, cut, 2 shots, brand, cut,
The pattern continues with the next calf,
Smoke of yellow and white,
The stench of blood, sweat and burnt hair,
All taken away by a pleasant breeze,
Last calf worked and let up,
Shouts of the elders tell the younger to pick up the panels,
Clash of the panels’ together echoes across the pasture,
Panels on the trailer, horses loaded, were ready to leave,

We gather at the host’s house or shop,
As you walk in you see,
Rows upon rows of muddy boots at the door
Wash up and get in line,
Plates, napkins and plastic silverware
Varieties of food sit in a row,
Salads to Roast, Rolls to Desserts
A cooler of sodas and other beverages at the end

Sit in rows of tables,
Chatter of the crowd soon fills the room,
Happy memories are made,
Either one is drenched by a cooler of ice water,
Or one does something so stupid they can’t live it down,
We leave with a cheek in my hand,
And with a new memory

This is what my community is like,
It’s not that big,
Not that exotic,
Nowhere close to prefect,
But we come together as a community to help each other,

I go to brandings not because of the money,
I come to learn,
To help;
And to make some new memories.

Abigail Meier

On the County Line

by Abigail Meier

A big red house up on a hill
A bright blue sky above
The smell of dirt with weeds galore
Wind sighing all around

A wagging tail, a playful bark
Bring greetings ev’ry day
A look outside and a sea of gold
That waves and says hello

Ice cold water and waves of heat
Warm blankets, a merry fire
The smell of Tide on patched-up jeans
Fireflies like blinking bulbs

When struggles come and knock me down
When good luck is hard to find
I always know where I can go
The place that I belong

Camille Grey

Across the Bridge

by Camille Frey

To some it's only a bleak old creek,
but for those who can truly appreciate
the masked beauty beneath it all
a grand creation that is.

Water trickling along
making quiet chaos.
Through stones and moss and sticks,
supporting the love and life around.

Snapping of the fragile twigs
we make our way by.
Crossing clumsily our makeshift bridge
nearly falling to the shallow crystal water.

One step into the peaceful creek
creates a mess of foggy muddy storm.
Clouds morph into the water
we no longer have sight of the sand and dirt below.

Through memories we can all reminisce
our fateful lives at the same stream.
We all come back together
to cross the bridge again.