Fall Creative Challenge

Topic: Poetry Writing and Performance

Our Chapter Advisors have spoken; many Advisors requested the inclusion of a poetry challenge for students this year, and NEHS is more than happy to oblige! This year’s poetry competition focuses on the work of current US Poet Laureate, Ada Limón. In order to encourage students to consider not only the writing but the performance of their poems, we are asking participants to write a poem in a style of their choosing and then perform it. Both text and video recording of the performance will be uploaded as part of the application.

Ada Limón will be giving a webinar to NEHS students and Chapter Advisors providing a unique opportunity for competition applicants and fans to hear, first-hand, about poetry writing and the role of the Poet Laureate.


Winning students will be notified by email and will have their work published on the NEHS blog. All winning students will be candidates to receive prizes at the end of the year.


  1. Applicants must be NEHS student members enrolled in a school with an active NEHS chapter.
  2. A maximum of five chapter members may submit from each active NEHS chapter.

Submission Requirements

Student writers should read a selection of poems by Ada Limón. They should use their understanding of Limón themes and motifs to respond to one of the texts below by crafting a poem of no-more than one page in length that discusses at least one of themes and motifs included within it. They must then make a high-quality recording of themselves performing their poem. Written poems and video recordings must be submitted via AwardSpring.

Calling Things What They Are

I pass the feeder and yell, Grackle Party! And then an hour later I yell, Mourning dove afterparty! (I call the feeder the party and the seed on the ground the afterparty.) I am getting so good at watching that I’ve even dug out the binoculars an old poet gave me back when I was young and heading to the Cape with so much future ahead of me it was like my own ocean. Tufted titmouse! I yell, and Lucas laughs and says, thought so. But he is humoring me; he didn’t think so at all. My father does the same thing. Shouts out at the feeder announcing the party attendees. He throws out a whole peanut or two to the Steller’s jay who visits on a low oak branch in the morning. To think there was a time I thought birds were kind of boring. Brown bird. Gray bird. Black bird. Blah blah blah bird. Then, I started to learn their names by the ocean, and the person I was dating said, That’s the problem with you, Limón, you’re all fauna and no flora. And I began to learn the names of the trees. I like to call things as they are. Before, the only thing I was interested in was love, how it grips you, how it terrifies you, how it annihilates and resuscitates you. I didn’t know then that it wasn’t even love that I was interested in but my own suffering. I thought suffering kept things interesting. How funny that I called it love and the whole time it was pain.

Limón, A. "Calling Things What They Are," The Hurting Kind. Corsair Poetry, 2022, p. 47


At the cabin in Snug Hollow near McSwain Branch creek, just spring, all the animals are out, and my beloved and I are lying in bed in a soft silence. We are talking about how we carry so many people with us wherever we go, how, even when simply living, these unearned moments are a tribute to the dead. We are both expecting to hear an owl as the night deepens. All afternoon, from the porch, we watched an Eastern towhee furiously build her nest in the untamed forsythia with its yellow spilling out into the horizon. I told him that the way I remember the name Forsythia is that when my stepmother, Cynthia, was dying, that last week, she said lucidly but mysteriously, More Yellow. And I thought yes, more yellow, and nodded because I agreed. Of course, more yellow. And so now in my head, when I see that yellow tangle, I say, For Cynthia, for Cynthia, forsythia, forsythia, more yellow. It is night now, and the owl never comes. Only more of night, and what repeats in the night.

Limón, A. "Forsythia," The Hurting Kind. Corsair Poetry, 2022, p. 10

Submission Process

  1. All submissions must be made via the NEHS AwardSpring platform during the fall period by uploading a PDF format file of the poem written by the applicant, and by providing an open link to a YouTube video of the poem being performed by the author (the sound quality must be high).
  2. Applicants must complete demographic data questions prior to submitting their documentation.
  3. All student writers must include a brief biography and portrait photo.
  4. Applicants must agree that they are willing to provide a written report and photos detailing the impact the creative process and award has had on them, which can be used by NEHS to promote this and other competitions in future years should they win an award.

Evaluation Process

  1. All submissions will be evaluated by at least two NEHS evaluators.
  2. The written part of the submission will be evaluated against a rubric containing (but not limited to) the following categories:
    1. Message
    2. Use of conventions
    3. Form
    4. Technique
    5. Originality
  3. The audio-visual part of the submission will be evaluated against a rubric containing (but not limited to) the following categories:
    1. Voice and articulation
    2. Memory and accuracy
    3. Quality of presentation