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2023 Annual PGCMLS Poetry Contest

We are now taking submissions for the 2023 Annual Poetry Contest! This year's theme is heroism. Some examples include, but are not limited to "Who is your hero?" "What does heroism mean to you?" or even "Who is your favorite superhero?" – Let your imagination soar!

Special thanks to the Friends of Upper Marlboro Branch Library for their support of the poetry contest.

Submissions will be accepted from April 1, 2023-April 30, 2023.

Please contact Amy Jenkins at, with any questions.

Poetry Contest Registration Button

Lady Di

Ladi Di, Featured Judge

Sylvia Dianne Beverly (Ladi Di) is an Internationally acclaimed poet, presenting poetry In London, England, at the Lewisham Theater.  A collection of her work is housed at George Washington University's Gelman Library.  She is a member of A Splendid Wake, Gelman Library, George Washington University.

Ladi Di as she is affectionately called is a founding member of the poetry ensemble "Collective Voices”. She is a proud member of Poetson the Green Line, Poetry X Hunger, Poetry Poster Project and Voices of Woodlawn. Ladi Di celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Host Grace Cavalieri, reading on her show "The Poet and the Poem" at the Library of Congress Experience. Also, she is a founding member of the Anointed PENS (Poets Empowered to Nurture Souls)  Poetry Ministry, out of Ebenezer AME Church, an alum of Poets in Progress with Poet Laureate of District of Columbia, the late Dolores Kendrick. She is the author of two books (Forever In Your Eyes and Cooking Up South), both on Amazon. Recently her poetry appears in several International anthologies, Moonstone Press Anthology and as part of Mike Maggio”s 30/30 Series for National Poetry month 2021.

Ladi Di is also called "Love Poet". The late Dr. Maya Angelou is her hero. She is the proud Matriarch of her family. Celebrating Black History 2018, she and her family received posthumously for her Dad, a “Congressional Gold Medal” from the United States Marines.  She is a Poet of Excellence in Prince George's County 2020 and Literary Leader in Prince George’s County 2022. Poetry is her passion.

Sainey Ceesay

Sainey Ceesay, Featured Judge

Sainey Ceesay is the 2021 Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate. She is the Words Beats and Life 2020 Grand Slam Champion, A Joe's Movement Emporium Creative works alumni, a Kennedy Center Youth Council Member, and a facilitating teaching artist. She has performed nationally and across the DMV area for audiences like Brave New Voices, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Blues Alley Jazz Club, Planet Word, The Kennedy Center, and Busboys and poets. Sainey has also held the distinction of being the inaugural poet for the Mayor of Glenarden Cashenna Cross and the ceremonial poet for the Hyattsville Library Grand re-opening. She has appeared on BBC International news, NBC 4, Channel 9, PGCTV, Sojourn with words, the Poet Life Podcast, and WBL radio's “something to say”. Her poetry touches on mental health,  blackness, identity as a Gambian-American, gender issues, and social injustice. She seeks to find and build community through her poetry and to encourage others to write and share their stories. She is currently an arts concentration student at Prince George's Community College

Diane Parks

Diane Wilbon-Parks, Featured Judge

Diane Wilbon-Parks is an accomplished poet, visual artist, author, literary advocate, a Prince George’s County Poet of Excellence and Literary Leader. She has written two poetry collections and a Children’s Book. Diane is the founder of The Write Blend, a culturally diverse poetry circle, and a member of the Voices of Woodlawn. Diane was brought in as an Expert Consultant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation through a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. She celebrated the permanent installation of one of her poems and artwork as a permanent sign at the North Patuxent Research Refuge. Diane’s poetry has been featured nationally and internationally in newsletters, online magazines, in The Sailors Review - Zimbabwean Online Magazine,  Maryland Bards Poetry Review Anthology; International Anthology, “Singing in the Dark,”;  International Magazines, Wexford Women, and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. Her interviews are included in the 43rd and 44th Anniversary of Maryland State Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri’s the Poet and the Poem at the Library of Congress. Diane is a USAF Veteran and Sr. IT Program Manager. She resides in Maryland.

2022 Annual Poetry Contest Winners

The 3rd Annual Poetry Contest winners are below. 

First Place: The Joy is in the Afterparty

Elizabeth Wilson©, 2022

The joy is in the afterparty
Balloons still dangle
Some have popped
Anticipation over
Floor now needs a mop
Sticky soda
Cheeto crumbs
Trails of jujubes
The joy is in the afterparty
I’ve got all the memories

The joy is in the afterparty
Half-drunk bottles
Empty cans
Plates licked clean and plates still full
Pile them all up in my hands
Bouncy house now still
The band has stopped its play
The joy is in the afterparty
What an amazing day

The joy is in the afterparty
Table cloths all stained
The yard is covered in colors
Silly string must have rained!
Now silent
Children’s laughter only echoes in my head
The joy is in the afterparty
While I drop myself in bed

Second Place: Atom's Faith

Anthony Hillian, Jr.©, 2022

when the Siberian Traps erupted under my feet
the climate of the atmosphere drastically changed
the acid rain drowned me
CO2 foreclosed on my lungs
mass destruction buried my spirit
under indescribable heat

while the living body was held captive by great dyings
i wondered through many grim valleys
plagued with sickness and pandemonium
delicate hearts struck with such immense fear

but with faith the size of the atom
atoms forming images as small as the mustered seed
Earth kept orbiting around ur power
and u delivered me from all destruction
oh wonderful Star —
what ah celestial engineer u are indeed

u preserved my spirit within the dust
u taught me just how to persevere
the miraculous recipes u passed down to the ancestors
caused me to develop new language
and oh —how the living land
spoke words of radical devotion
and conjured new life to appear

so i’m gonna jump high
and i’m gonna clap my hands
i’ll skip blissfully and let out ah dazzling vicious dance
singing ah bold and joyful sound
it’s because of the Earth receiving ur mighty power
that the dead are no longer shackled to the ground
oh it’s ur splendid rays
that turn all my uncertainty in the gloomy skies around

it’s ur unprecedented knowledge that molds
the undiscovered fish deep in the Arabian sea
it’s because of the grace within ur vision
that i might one day have the opportunity to see—

what ah wonderful Star u are
i give u the highest glory
i thank u with ah thousand tongues continually

wonderful Star
i know ur awesome power
has come to preserve my life
throughout all eternity

Honorable Mention: Deposits

Sharon Lewis©, 2022

Nothing going on but COVID and the mortgage


Despite gale-force winds, snowfall, raining ice

before I could get to my little garden bed

to differentiate dormant from dead

to weed

something quite beautifully purple burst forth fragrant

from the Earth.

I don’t know the name of the flower that's arrived at 16504

proclaiming all kinds of others to come

promising Spring.

But maybe a hyacinth, salvia, or allium is here, and so am I, once more,

one more time, so far

at least.

Honorable Mention: 2022

Alyssa Hand©, 2022

The crocuses shyly and bravely emerge, wondering if the frost will nip them.
People re-enter. School. Shops. The open spaces. Unsure of what’s in the air.
The rain speckles the pavement, although it wasn’t forecasted.
A neighbor’s dog runs loose, hoping to find an admiring friend.
The Anacostia runs clear some days, shallow and glassy.
We have to get the bulbs in the ground. Or we won’t have flowers.

Honorable Mention: Toddler Joy

Keila Pits©, 2022

Whether you laugh or cry,
Whether you are focused on a particle of dirt or a bird in the sky
You are my joy.

No matter the kick-filled tantrum or endlessly singing your new favorite Disney anthem.
You are my joy

You can be happy, or sad. Angry, or just plain mad. The times that you want a big hug or when you don’t want mommy’s love.
You are still my joy.

You lift me up, you twirl my heart around and you complete me through and through. Highs, lows, and even middle of the road, it’s with you, each day is wonderful and new.

You are my endless, limitless, toddler and you are always my joy.

First Place: What I Think Joy Is

Aniyah Howard©, 2022

That summer morning when the
weather is just right.
When two close friends
are finally reunited.

Many things bring me joy,
it’ll be hard to fit it all into one

Joy is the color of yellow,
that warm and bright shine of

I think of joy as kids running around
in an open field.
Their laughter becomes saturated
and is now echoing throughout
the field of flowers.

I sit along a river; cool to the touch,
wondering, if I try diving in, then I might
be able to disappear, as if asleep
on a cool summer night.

Knowing that when the morning sun falls,
another, one much more wonderful,
will arise for me.

That is what I think joy is.

Second Place: Joy

Mia Gonzales Jackson©, 2022

Joy is a pot of pure happiness, just
beginning to bubble over

It's finding something special:
a shiny penny, tiny ladybug,
or bright green four-leaf clover

In luck itself or positivity,
in good fortune, success, or kind thoughts -
Joy is found anywhere
an open mind has sought

Mix sincere intent
and honest action,
along with humble appreciation
to make a grand recipe
for joyous moment creation…

Honorable Mention: The Joy My Brothers Bring Me

Rebecca Appiah©, 2022

Cracking jokes only they would understand
Memories of times only they would have known
For as long as I can remember we’ve done everything together
From playing pretend and building forts
To playing basketball on courts
Oh, the joy my brothers bring me
Growing up together in each others eyes
Being there for the laughs and cries
No matter how sad the time, we always lifted each other up
Sharing joy with each other no matter what
We’ve been through much together
We’ve fought and argued
We’ve screamed, saying, “I hate you!”
But in the end we all come back together
Forgiving one another
For we can never stay mad at each other
They bring me joy, and happiness
Although they irritate me so
I wouldn’t trade them for anything more
My annoying brothers that I so adore

Honorable Mention: The Joy My Brothers Bring Me

Rebecca Appiah©, 2022

The crocuses shyly and bravely emerge, wondering if the frost will nip them.

First Place: The Bird Watcher’s Joy

Naomi Wilson©, 2022

The Bird Watcher watches the bird.
His tail flicks back and forth.
He hunts always without a word,
Without ever setting forth.

He could try to catch a robin,
Could he ever catch the door.
He keeps on pacing, ever happy,
Though he must wait forevermore.

The Watcher’s eyes are behind glass,
Though it’s not a binocular-scope.
Are smiles on his furry face?
Or, is this hunt a silly hope?

Though he will never catch a thing,
And cannot say a word,
This fellow finds joy in just watching—
The Bird Watcher watches the bird.

Second Place: Untitled

Camille O'Roarke©, 2022

Joy is
so abstract,
yet solid.
It’s there,
even if at first, you have to dig.

You can find joy
in the simplest things.
your ice cream cone in summer, your tongue trying to catch all the drips.
How at night, the sun sinks below the horizon,
then comes back bold and bright

Joy is not looking back,
or looking forward.
Joy is
right here,
right now.
On this chaotic Sunday morning,
there is joy.

Joy is calm.
Joy is like the eye of a hurricane,
except it’s always there.

One last word–
joy is

Honorable Mention: Things That Bring Me Joy

Callum Bedford-Dillow©, 2022

These are things that bring me joy
A small spring, a simple toy.
But also I wish to see much more
There is joy outside beyond the door.
To the Zipline! It's adventure time.
To the rockwall! ...where I hope I don't fall.
Running and playing with the friends I've made,
sharing a snack and Gatorade.
These are the things that bring me joy
a small spring, a simple toy…

First Place: The Swing of Joy

Mary Wilson©, 2022

The swing is sailing
The swing is rising
The swing is falling
The swing is going
Forward: flying like a bird
Backward: like a weightless backflip
I glide
like a
Flying squirrel
Whooshing and whizzing
Legs pumping
I whirl
The swing
Flip in the air
and then twirl
to a

Second Place: My Old Elm

Lydia Wilson©, 2022

My old elm
is way above
Way above
the beetles
the ants
All the other trees

The curves of my mouth
Rise higher
As I climb

I’m at the top
Of my old elm
The JOY inside of me!
When I’m up in the top
Of my old elm

Honorable Mention: Joy is Summer

Tian-Ching Sheu©, 2022

A pool.
If you see
It, a breeze,
The bright
Green leaves.

Yours, mine,
New and

Hot cocoa
On a cold
Winter day
Or night.


With your
Friends, you
Laugh and
Are filled...
With joy.

And you are happy.
Joy is
Joy, Joy

Past Poetry Event Videos

Prince George's County Poet Laureate

Sistah Joy

Sistah Joy

Imani West

Imani West

Recommended Poetry for Kids

Recommended Poetry for Teens and Adults