2021 Poetry of Place Celebration

On Friday, May 7, 2021, student poets from all over the state of Nebraska gathered to read their winning poetry in an annual celebration called Poetry of Place. This year's celebration had an additional group of readers—student winners from the new Poetry in the Parks celebration. The event, sponsored by the Nebraska Writing Project, Humanities Nebraska, and the National Park Service took place on Zoom this year. The poets were joined by former Nebraska State Poet Twyla Hansen and current Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason.

Learn more about Poetry of Place

Winning Poets - Poetry of Place

Click on a poet to read their award-winning poem.

Micah Arroyo

Micah Arroyo

Watson School, Hastings

Teacher: Janice Herbek

Lily Penn

Lily Penn

Watson School, Hastings

Teacher: Christopher Hollister

Cade Bacon

Cade Bacon

Irving Middle School, Lincoln

Teacher: Nancy Svoboda

Lina Dvorak

Lina Dvorak

Irving Middle School, Lincoln

Teacher: Nancy Svoboda

Peyton Hoffman

Peyton Hoffman

High Plains Community Schools

Teacher: Stephanie Carlson

Grover Korn

Grover Korn

Irving Middle School, Lincoln

Teacher: Nancy Svoboda

Josie Sanders

Josie Sanders

St. Agnes Academy, Alliance

Teacher: Laurie Gould

Anjelina Soto

Anjelina Soto

St. Agnes Academy, Alliance

Teacher: Laurie Gould

Tyan Baller

Tyan Baller

Cedar Catholic Schools, Hartington

Teacher: Beth Sindelar

Gretchen Kleinschmit

Gretchen Kleinschmit

Cedar Catholic Schools, Hartington

Teacher: Beth Sindelar

Audrey Klinefelter

Audrey Klinefelter

Brownell-Talbott Schools, Omaha

Teacher: Matt Low

Maggie Painter

Maggie Painter

Pierce Secondary Schools, Pierce

Teacher: Melissa Legate

Winning Poets - Poetry in the Parks

Advaith Namasivayam

Millard Cather Elementary

Teacher: Diana Weis

Gabriel Holz

Millard Cather Elementary

Teacher: Diana Weis

Chiana Tubbs

Stuart High School

Teacher: Brenda Larabee

Taya Schmaderer

Stuart High School

Teacher: Brenda Larabee

Winning Poetry - Poetry of Place

Fascinating Fields by Micah Arroyo

I slowly crawl into my special spot
The fluffy field grass surrounds me
I am delighted to see the dancing dandelions
In the wind
At the tip of my toes
A gentle wind blows
Like a gentle hush
Flowers in the field like a rainbow
Each unique and precious
I feel like I am floating on a cozy cloud
The sun like a ball of fire
Starts to set
Going to bed
The animals huddle around
Dozing off to the gem in the sky
I too fall under this spell
Laying in the Nebraska field
Not anywhere but here
Nebraska my home.

Night Prairie by Lily Penn

Night has come early today
I lay in the grass
Grain stalks are dark from the night
Here is quieter
The night prairie is beautiful
Prairie dogs say hello
Rain falls on my nose tickling me
A frog croaks
I hear nature’s lullaby singing softly
Robins fly home
I start to doze off to sleep in the night prairie
Even if I’m not in bed
I count the stars as I doze off here in the night prairie
Darkness surrounds me
Nature’s lullaby is in the night prairie
And I am glad it is
I can now hear the wild barred owls hooting in the distance
The rain has a bitter taste on my tongue
The smell of the water lilies surrounds me as I lie near the pond
I can hear the bees humming a soft melody
I sit here in the night prairie dozing into a sound sleep
The night prairie is my home.

My Magical Midwest Place by Cade Bacon

I fling the blue curtains wide
Trying to wake the sun

Then the sun yawns
And starts his day, motivated,
He stretches his arms and launches
Random colored beams around the sky
I watch
Then the jasmine jewel jumps up
And begins the show
He furls his colored whips across the sky
And tosses his head
Bobs his hips and parties
He is a jolt to start my day
Then his dance slows
And he says
“That's all folks”
And drifts off

I wait my day out
A boring mix of lazy
A drink without a taste
It becomes late afternoon

And then the gold sun comes
For an evening performance
On another stage

He slips
And bends
Around the blinds
And through the cracks
Coming around them
Dipping into my place

He makes
My magical prairie paradise
Even more magical

I open the curtains
And let him in
A second act

The sun does a prairie moonwalk
Bursting with a smooth
Jazzy performance
Melts down
And pops up
Spins like a golden top.

And the warm sunshine
Continues on spreading across the prairie

It pours
Over the chair
Over the couch
Through my blanket
Right into me

And I am
Cuddled by the sun
Comforted by the sun
Claimed by the sun
In my Magical Midwest Place

My Front Porch by Lina Dvorak

Some fall mornings I slip down the stairs before anyone wakes,
out to the oak swing on my front porch,
and catch the fading watercolor sky as day hastens on.
I watch the bright sun begin to bathe the land in its soft embrace,
and gaze on the quiet neighborhood.
The crisp bite of cold concrete electrifies my feet.
My peaceful place to awaken alongside the day.

Midday winter hours,
I calmly gaze through the wire screen,
taking part in a childish fascination with the fresh snow.
The porch frames the snow, and I let myself feel excited.
I cut through the winter fatigue,
disregarding the blinding brilliance that bounces off the snow.
My window to a frosted world.

On rainy spring evenings,
when the foreboding chill of loneliness threatens me,
I find my harbor, my safe haven.
And I just sit there swinging, mindless,
Content to watch the earth release its torrents, majestic and terrible,
perhaps quelling the questions inside my mind.
My link to nature’s reflection of my struggles.

Summer afternoons find me there as well,
soaking up the warm atmosphere.
The hot air seems to enchant everything into moving at half-speed,
Dust dances on rays of light above the canvas antique trunk.
Across the street children frolic in verdant lawns, nothing to do but play.
The sweet sounds of summertime,
My reminder of the freedom of youth.

My porch is one of those places,
where you can just breathe.
When your anxieties are swarming,
It lays them gently to rest.
Its serenity awaits even when the weather-- or the world
is in chaos.
My front porch.

The Farm by Peyton Hoffman

Back then
it was full of life
Pigs filling every pen in every barn
smell so immediate, you knew who you were visiting

Back then,
it could’ve been in a magazine
Gates hung straight with no squeaks, level concrete
Two dogs greeted you
Always someone in the quonset grinding on something
Flowers planted every year, kept pruned and pure
Chicken coop door still latched tight
Fence neat and solid
The grass cut, kept very green
Clothesline hung tight
Balcony looked down on the pool, yellow slide from on high

still has nice people,
just not as many come by
No pigs are around squealing anymore

Gates hang at a slant,
alerting you to someone’s presence with a squeak
Graves of two trusted canines
Quonset full of dust, abandoned
The old, dead stems of flowers, hollow and brittle
Areas in the vast lawn yellowed and wilted
Chicken coop little run-down, but still habitable
Fence gates just a little wobbly
Mossy sticks now scattered among the ground
Clothes line loose, sags down like a tired smile
Old trucks now fill the yard, showing the service they’ve done
Pool is gone
no more balcony from on high

But it is still the farm
The one I grew up on
Still clucking chickens
Gained some skittish barn cats
Gravel driveway
and the smiles have stayed the same
Cheerful and welcoming

The farm, still peaceful and grand
Happy I can still call it mine

Not Just an Alley by Grover Korn

When I was in kindergarten
And summer break rolled ‘round
My classmates vacationed
Far, far out of town
But me? I just went
Right down
To the street
Of my
Bowling alley.

Hollywood Bowl was my summer home.
The bar was like my bedroom,
Though I was never alone.
Everyone knew me as
“The Boss’s Grandson”
And naturally
They’d be nice
To the boss’s
“Rooster”, although,
Taught me many things
Kids should never know
Bawdry jokes he would tell
That I shall not say
And gang signs I can do
To this very day.

When I was in second grade
And Christmas came to pass
My classmates vacationed
Cold, they tried to bypass
But me? I just went
Right down
To the street
Of my
Bowling alley.

Hollywood Bowl was my Christmas home.
The bar became the dining room,
Where you were never alone.
With family gathering
From all over the place
You were bound to find company
To sit with when you ate.
We took full advantage
Of the closing of the alley
And we used our short time
To bowl oh-so-silly.
My father and I
Once pulled out a ramp
With it we bowled a 300
Then we were the champs.

When I was in fifth grade
And New Year’s Eve came ‘round
My classmates vacationed
Saw the “Ball” drop down
But me? I just went
Right down
To the street
Of my
Bowling alley.
Hollywood Bowl was my New Year’s home.
The bar was my workplace,
Where you could only hope to be alone
With hundreds bowling
Throughout the whole day
You always were busy
With no time to play
So my co-workers and I
Made our own fun
Making games out of work
Who finished first always won
By my eight hour mark
It was time for me to go
So I signed out my shift
And finally went home.

When I was in seventh grade
And Halloween came to town
My classmates trick-or-treated
Amongst them no frowns
But me? I just went
Right down
To the street
Of my
Bowling alley.

Hollywood Bowl was my Halloween home.
The bar was my living room,
Where you were never alone.
My family and I
All sat around
Telling stories
Of the alley’s
Haunted grounds.
Tales of dark shadows
Lurking behind counters.
A vanishing man
Stalking poor customers.
Tall stacks of papers
Flying violently in anger.
When I was a child
And lived with my parents
My classmates had mansions
With wealth quite apparent
But me? I just went
Right down
To the street
Of my
Bowling alley.

In the Hills by Josie Sanders

After a night full of dreams
I rise with the sun.
I head out as the clock strikes 5;
There’s work to be done.

I grab a halter from the barn
and head for the gate.
My old horse stands there,
He knows I don’t like to wait.

As we head to the tack room,
I hear the hoofbeats behind me.
A young girl and a big bay horse,
what a pair we must be.

I brush the dust off my saddle
and throw it on his back.
I smile as he nudges me,
looking for a snack.

I climb into my seat
and put my life in his care.
But I know he’ll look after me
our bond is true but rare.

I spot the first group of cows
as we come over the hill.
They see us coming and grab a last bite,
so I give them a minute to eat their fill.

The hours pass by
but I never watch the clock.
I find my happiness in these hills;
my heart beats for the livestock.

After a long day
spent under the sky,
I turn my horse back towards the house
while the final clouds pass by.

With everything put away,
and my horse satisfied,
I watch as he walks away
and dread the day that holds his final ride.

I walk back to the house
and watch the sun’s colors fade.
My favorite sight of the day,
with a beauty that can’t be man-made.

As I walk along the old dirt path
I cannot help but smile.
There’s nowhere else I want to be
so I think I'll just stay for a while.

Freedom is a Picture by Anjelina Soto

clear water stretches for miles

a fence of greenery


not meant to keep one in

impossibly gorgeous in the dark of night

but in fact beckoning one to run out

snowy peaks rise above the horizon

to retreat from society

ghost-like mountains

yet I stay still

a thick screen of fog masking them

just me

hidden away

at the center of the canvas

out of sight from the unobserving eye

looking out across the glistening lake

a forest circles the scene in a crescent

hearing a voice


I am pulled from the painting

yet unbelievably free to soar

I realize it is not me who is free

look up at the galaxies

but the boy in the picture

glowing golden lights

being called to the next display

scattered paint across the sky

I am forced away from my bliss

jumping out

stripped of my freedom

shining bright they demand attention

back in reality

The Good Life by Tyan Baller

A place of peace and quiet,
A view of stars rather than the traffic lights,
The sound of wind, rather than people shouting,
The bright stadium lights, on a fall football night,
The cheers of a small town.

On comes the long winters,
The cold and freezing weather,
White wind whirling below the street lights,
The icicles hanging on the gutters.

Then comes the spring season,
The peaceful breeze of the spring air,
Birds chirping, flowers blossoming,
The air smells of a school year's end.

Finally comes the summer,
With the hot, humid days,
The many hours of sunlight,
The lights of the park,
The small town lights of the baseball field,
They shine bright, underneath that summer air,
This is “The Good Life”

The Secret of Nebraska by Gretchen Kleinschmit

The warm summer days are best
In the morning.
It is not too hot then
And the countryside is
Alive with the sounds of
Happy birds and insects.
Out on the minimum maintenance road
Past the old white chapel-
A remnant of the strong faith
And vibrancy of the first settlers-
Joy is found in the undulating
Hills and pastures of the raw countryside.
Your thoughts can run free
In the dancing wind
To soar on the wings of
The meadowlarks whose
Songs can be heard for miles around.
My friend and I will dance
Freely down the road
And trace our designs for
The future in the dust of the soft earth.
Sometimes we will find
A precious dragonfly
Hidden beneath the
Plates of dried sod
Formed after the soft country rains.
The secrets of the forgotten
Past are gently contained
In the glacier carved hills
Now used to graze cattle
And feed the ever growing world.
This is our secret,
The secret of Nebraska:
That the whole of
Eternity can be found
Within the sky, the wind, and the earth.

Hay Bales by Audrey Klinefelter

My sister smiles like how summer feels, shiny and expectant
We are performing for the geese, our stage the lake
The heat kisses my skin, creating freckles in its embrace
My hands itch as we climb to the apex of an abandoned hay bale
We come here every night to say goodbye to the sun
As it slips beyond the water
Everything feels comfortably sticky,
Like the glaze on cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning
Melted ice cream drips down our chins
The faint clunk of fish jumping in the water
Our bare feet b rushing against the prickly weeds
Sometimes we talk, but tonight we don’t
The smell of the earth mixes with her shampoo
We wade into the cool water to rinse off
I glance back to see our golden hay bales atop the verdant hill
Our Nebraskan throne

Where I'm From by Maggie Painter

I am from forgotten country roads
From skies as vast as the Sahara Desert
Where a cricket’s song whistles on the wind

I am from dirt ground in old jeans,
From sweetness of watermelon
Dancing on my tongue
Where lilac filled gusts kiss my nose

I am from Hallelujah and chestnut hair
Where we say please and thank yous,
And family is a perfect possession

I am from crabapple trees
Whose roots tangle in my own
Their branches clawing at my memory

I am from Bill and Diane
Cookies, kittens, climbing trees
Now lost to my sea of thought.

From those dead, deserted floor board
Memories of youth lay in the walls
Where it smells like a chest left to decay

Now I am from fresh new starts
Where new memories have grown
And more continue to come.

Winning Poetry - Poetry in the Parks

A normal breakfast with chapati by Advaith Namasivayam

Smash! Smash! Smash!
Dough smashing in the bowl
Full of flour
Lots of flour
Wheat flour
All purpose flour
Whatever flour!
Roll! Roll! Roll!
The chapati roller rolling the round chapati
Full of racket
A lot of racket
Tons of racket
Sizzle! Sizzle!
The unbaked chapati sizzles
You can smell the tastiness
A yummy smell
Steam rises in the air
Fans turn on
A lot of noise
Soon or later
The chapati is ready!
The noise of the chapati coming on our plates
Paneer on the side
Delicious cubes sitting on the plate
Tradition is being shared
A lot of tradition
Tons of tradition
Is being shared
Talk fills the room
Are being told
A lot is consuming
More and more
And more
And more
All of the chapati is gone!
The traditional bread
It’s gone!
The good thing is, we had an affectionate, good breakfast served

Zucchini Bread by Gabriel Holz

I smear the yellow white butter over a slice of soft zucchini bread
The knife leaving little indents in the butter
I place it and the other pieces on my plate all covered in butter spread
I cut the pieces into halves with the bread cutter.

I take a bite of the sugary delight
The crumbs all fall down my shirt and on my plate
It fills me with a happy enlight
It makes me feel so great.

It tastes like a pastry
lt feels warm and soft
It smells like a fresh cake
And makes me feel aloft.

I finish the plate
And hope it’s not too late
To get more of this that I ate
That my grandma has create.

Twin's Birthday by Chiana Tubbs

I was captured by the surreal environment of kids running around, screeching with joy, and bouncing on trampolines. It was my cousin’s birthday and I was approximately eight years old. Actually, my twin cousins were celebrating their conjoined birthdays at a trampoline park. Of course, we celebrated in Omaha, as the city is where all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles live. My family and I drove down that day to arrive early for the celebration. However, with my directionally challenged mother, we could not find our way to the building. Nevertheless, Google Maps saved us and helped us find our way to the trampoline park. We arrived at the park and I greeted my cousins with a big hug and a congratulatory “Happy birthday!” My cousins were excited to see us and informed us that we were just a little late. We may have missed the cake, the singing, and the actual celebration, but we didn’t miss the fun with the trampolines! Luckily, we arrived just in time for the fun part of the birthday. My siblings and I went straight to the trampolines and were met with kids screeching with joy, running around, and smiling with pure happiness. My twin cousins were overjoyed that we had driven four hours just to celebrate their birthdays. We loved that we had made them happy and we still try to drive to Omaha anytime we can to celebrate my relatives’ birthdays. On the other hand, my cousins also are willing to drive four hours to help us celebrate our birthdays. At the loud trampoline park, there was a cheesy, mouth-watering pizza that was sitting on the table calling my name. My family and cousins devoured the pizza then immediately returned to jumping on the trampoline. After jumping around for a couple of hours, we sat at the round grey tables and consumed the tasty, soft-serve ice cream. Later, after the celebration had ended, my family and I said our goodbyes and reverted to our hotel room. I have never forgotten the surreal environment of the trampoline park with the kids running around, screeching with joy, and bouncing on trampolines.

Natural Perfection by Taya Schmaderer

In and out, in and out
Brushing the once rugged rocks
Smoothing the edges
Making them almost soft
Rounded and perfect

One day
seeming as if nothing will be left
Ounce by ounce they break down
Meshing into one another
Fitting like perfect puzzle pieces

The dainty beach
Covered in perfect rounded stones
Each with a story of its own
Scars healed by time
Constant and consistent in and out, in and out

The sun
Baking the shades of grey
Reflecting the long past
No disturbances
Just natural perfection