Govie Writing Awards - Jan Bailey Prize for Poetry Winners

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The Govie Writing Awards 2021 Winning Poetry

The Govie Writing Awards is a state-wide contest for South Carolina students in grades 6-12 sponsored by the Creative Writing Department at the SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. Poetry entry awards are named after the department's founding faculty member and author Jan Bailey. Read more about the Govie Writing Awards.

Congratulations to the following winners of the Jan Bailey Prize for Poetry!

Winner - High School Division

by Emily Allison

she was sugar-fed marble,
thick slices of poppy-filled
pastures, spirits of champagne

and ambrosia nectar,
fermenting under a cream-stuffed
moon and yeast-risen stars.

i yearned for her, begged
to aphrodite in the egg-washed sky
to flush her cheeks to rosemary,

soften her stomach to bread.
she was milk smoothed
over a brazen tongue, dipped in cinnamon,

curdled in freckled almonds
plucked from their tree limbs,
spilt into saffron-steeped liquid.

i swept her crumbs into me,
licking the honey crust from my fingers,
my cherry-pie stomach rupturing.

Emily Allison is a writer based out of Greenville, South Carolina. She is currently a sophomore at the Fine Arts Center for Creative Writing, as well as Greenville Senior High School. When she is not hunched over a journal, you can find her performing onstage in her local community theatre or memorizing poems for Poetry Out Loud, where she is the current reigning 2021 South Carolina state champion. She wants to thank her family, her friends, and all of her past and present teachers, including Creative Writing instructor Sarah Blackman, for not only encouraging her to continue writing, but also for giving her something worth writing about. 

Winner - Middle School Division

Blossoms of the Silent
by Riley Mann

I am from late nights full of noise,
echoes bouncing off the concrete walls,
my brother and I,
only little creatures then,
trying desperately to keep up,
our chubby fingers plinking out melodies unheard of.

I am from the cream-colored moonflowers weaving their way
up the fire escape, petals closed up with secrets
that they will only whisper to the blackness of night.
From the lights rolling down onto me,
the wavering first line,
from the confidence I gained as the words left my mouth.

I am from the birds soaring the skies,
their wings spread wide,
and my imagination that let me become them.
From the wings I formed that let me glide above the clouds,
and the heartbreaks and mistakes that helped me rise again.

I am from the imaginary rockstars my friend and I believed we were,
from the artist I hope to be.
I am from the puzzle of myself I am slowly building.

Born on the Upper West Side of New York City, Riley Mann lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greenville, South Carolina with her parents, younger brother, and cat. She attends League Academy, where she is a student of ELA/Communications teacher Sarah Monson. Riley enjoys visual art and video games along with writing. Her favorite book genre is dystopian fiction, and favorite authors include Jeanne Birdsall, Jacqueline Woodson and Veronica Roth. 

Honorable Mentions

Patricia Manley - High School Division

Crooked Umbrella

Rain slips off low-dipped trees,
Slinking down shimmering sidewalks
To go wherever sewers congregate.
I have to go too, I’d like to join the party, but
When I step outside they all shout at the new dog.
The sound is a bell, I am the tower.

Tatter-cloth face and broken-needle teeth, like
Old dogs that teach new dogs old tricks.
New dogs sigh when they see the only umbrella in their house
Is broken in three places.

Maybe I can make it to the end of the street
With only a wind chill,
If I’m quick enough.
The image slips as fast as I do,
There’s no doubt, I know I’ll
Crack if I resort to it.

It’s just a crooked rod,
And I could hold up the runner.
Nothing’s as bad as I make it seem, like when
New dogs teach old dogs how to be new again.

When I held up the umbrella in my new coat
That I didn’t want to get soaked through
To my new dress, new face, new eye,
I thought that’s a helluva lotta lightning;
Some things are just awful scary.

Would the place at which I need to be open the door
To find a pile of soot dirtying their shoes?
At least I got there, you could say
I made it in a flash.

When new dogs walk down lightning streets,
We counter fear with laughter.

Patricia Manley attends the Fine Arts Center in Greenville where she is a student of Creative Writing instructor Sarah Blackman.

Anya Sexton - Middle School Division


The tension in the air apparent,
small hands to the familiar instrument, 
Simple black and white keys, “simply divine.”
Spirits follow the October chill, pausing to watch among the living.
It must be strange,
unknowingly being able to captivate an audience
of past, present, and future.

Maybe we are the beautiful symphonies, 
an artist’s time and heart intertwined with the notes and melodies,
reverberating throughout music halls and theaters,
or the songs hummed quietly to loved ones during cold, rainy nights,
drowning out the worry and willing the sun to peek through gray clouds,
or even angelic hymns sung with faith and hope,
extending towards the heavens themselves.

Though it was centuries ago,
some swear they can still hear the remnants of songs.
The way the music must’ve echoed throughout the corridors,
the way people stared.
Perhaps they are here, still.
The way the birds chirp in the morning,
the way the autumn breeze allows the leaves to fly, if only for a moment,
and when we hear his sonatas,
like the pitter-patter of raindrops against a window,
We are no longer in the present,
our minds travel to the past.
To some palace in Austria,
where a six-year-old prodigy plays a note,
and a masterpiece unravels at the touch of his nimble fingers.

Anya Sexton is an 8th grader at GREEN Charter School, and lives in Greenville. She attends the Fine Arts Center for Creative Writing, receiving mentorship from instructor Adrienne Burris and enjoys writing poems and short stories. Some of her favorite books that she often draws inspiration from are "Honey Girl" by Morgan Rogers, "Salt to the Sea" by Ruta Sepetys, and "Last Night at the Telegraph Club" by Malinda Lo.