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MUSC Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest Page

View the video from our 2021 Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest Virtual Awards Ceremony

from Friday, April 30, 6 pm EST   

Consent has been obtained from all individuals featured in the video.  Closed captioning available.

We are pleased to announce the 3rd Annual MUSC Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest & Awards Reception.  This annual contest honors acclaimed Charleston native, teacher, and "Grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement" Septima P. Clark (1898-1987) for her dedication to service, education, and equality. As a recipient of the 1979 Living Legacy Award from President and 2002 Nobel Prize Winner Jimmy Carter, she was known for developing literacy and citizenship workshops to promote civil rights and equality.  She was also recognized by the State of South Carolina in 1982 with South Carolina's highest civilian award known as the Order of the Palmetto.

This is the third year for this collaboration with Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker. The contest theme is "Life During COVID-19," and poetry submissions will be accepted from elementary school (grades K-5), middle school (grades 6-8), and high school (grades 9-12) students across the state of South Carolina. This year all participants have the option to submit poems to the MUSC COVID-19 Archive: Documenting Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic thru the Waring Historical Library on campus.  The 2021 submission due date is March 15th.  Finalists will be invited to read their poems as part of the online Awards Reception on Friday, April 30, 2021 at 6 pm EST.  Finalists for each category will be announced in late April 2021. First place prizes will include a Chromebook, hover board, and bicycle. Advanced registration is required, and the event link will be emailed 24 hours prior to the event to those who register. For questions or more information, please contact Dr. Cristina Smith at or call at 843-792-0701.

Click here for Submission Guidelines and Form

What's New on Our Website (Updated May 2021): 

Poetry Contest Finalists for 2021

2021 Contest Finalist Poems

Congratulations to our 2021 Winners who read their poems at our Virtual Award Ceremony on Friday, April 30, at 6 pm EST:

Elementary School:

Adair Dombrowski


The soaring wall that separates us
That shields us from sickness
That tears us apart
Failing to do its job
As the community falls
Into the bottomless pit
Remedies are slow to come
People everywhere are getting sick
Policies being neglected
Masks fall beneath the nose
Another life cast away
Families grieving across the Web
Social-distancing in their home
Students studying on Zoom
The earth seems so detached
We’re watching as it slips from its axis


Marie Ray

“Mixed Feelings”

The masks around me are a blur of color.
I feel enclosed in a jar of virus, with the lid sealed tight.
Playgrounds’ gates are locked and empty.

In my room, alone, I see pictures of my recent life that I have drawn.
Each picture feels cold and empty, and they remind me of those isolated playgrounds.
But, somehow, those pictures feel a little better, because before Covid, I had never been a fan of all the noise and chaos.

Days seem to drag by, yet, the hours pass quickly.
Like being trapped on a stormy sea, with the waves going up, down, like good things and bad things.
Then, the waves turn over the boat, and it’s all too much, and soon I’m drowning in an ocean of fear, worry, germs, and masks.

As I’m drowning, I realize I need air, but instead of air, I need freedom.
Freedom from being locked inside my house, with no way out unless I stay six feet apart and wear a mask.
Then fear comes knocking at my door, like a snake about to attack, because I don’t want to stay locked in these doors forever, but I don’t want to travel into the world outside my house, because that is where the virus waits for me.

But then, the fear fades, because I start to imagine life without Covid.
When that sneaky virus slithers away, defeated
To watch and smile as that sneaky virus slithers away into the mist, and to no longer feel those mixed feelings that formed because of Covid.


Robert “Vince” Mathison

“Where I’m From Living During COVID”

I am from a place I can't go back to; This year on the Island has felt like a new life, that I am still waiting to begin;

I am from the place where the piano stands, also where the TV sits; I have Legos on the shelves, and books and crackers on the coffee table,

I am from missing my Cousins and Aunts in Brooklyn; They have had a scary year; But they got a puppy to love them, and chase all of their cats;

I from "wear your masks," "did you get vaccinated?" or "be careful, stay six feet apart;" I wonder how soon I can forget them;

I am from the steaks my dad cooked on the grill, and noodles my mom made with salty, slow cooked ribs, My Grandma's pies on Christmas and Thanksgiving; the ice cream hidden in the outside fridge;

I am from watching YouTube all day, and getting kind of bored; I used to play Monopoly with my little brother, but he won't play with me any more;

I am from my brother, who I absolutely need, because he's always there to play with, and fight with, or to keep secrets with from Mom and Dad;

I am from the past, when I could play, and right now, I'm wishing I could go to recess, and play tag; in the future, I will.

Middle School:

Cora Miller

“Ode to the World Changers”

This poem is for the life savers
This is for the frontline workers risking their lives for others
Dressed in doctor’s aprons and masks with shields these people are the ones
Who help us get through tough times and
Are simply, masked and dressed in this attire to help others
This is for the doctors and nurses caring for those who need it most

This poem, this lecture, this speech is for the teachers and the educators who are
zooming and dealing With internet and classroom assignments
And students emailing them every second
This is for the parents who are having to figure out what to do with their children
Because they can’t go anywhere
This is for the students learning through a computer that can not talk nor teach
Yes, this poem is for the students who are trying to simply pass their grade

How have we made it this far
Well we haven’t made it exactly
For this poem is for the protesters who dream of change
This is for the leaders like Ruth Bader Ginsberg longing for change and justice
This is for those who believe it is worth shouting through a mask to fight for
those who could not breath
George Floyd and Breonna Taylor
We long for change like a dancer longs to glide across a stage
This poem is for the people who know that our world needs to change
We shout we speak we stand up and hold signs
This is not the beginning and unfortunately not the end but we know it will come
One day to those who need it most

This poem is for the creators
This is for the related arts teachers
And the educators
This is for the business starters
This is for the painters and sketchers creating beautiful, colorful pieces of art
This is for the band and musical teachers who are teaching how to play an
instrument through Zoom
This is for the mural painters

This is for the entrepreneurs who are coming up with ways to make the world a
better place
Even in a pandemic

So this is for the frontline workers
And life savers
This is for the teachers
The justice seekers
And the creators
This poem is for the world changers


Christina Crowell


It spreads like a glass of water
Tipped over
Grief everywhere you look
Death swoops down
Plucking lives like strings on a guitar
The streets are empty
The earth is healing
Live is coming and going.
Tears stain our faces
Loved ones are lost
Our home is where we know best
Not anymore.


Callie Ingram

“The Strength of Song”

The sun stalks the empty roads,
The bustling city, gone quiet.
Even the airports had slowed.
Businesses grapple, without one single client.
The better becomes worse, and only the worse forebodes.

But somewhere, in a small cottage,
A voice cries out with heavenly song,
Her voice determined, and full of homage.
Her chest breathes a sigh of hope, bold and strong.

Hundreds of ears turn and listen,
Embracing her hope,
Watching a new day glisten.
Instead seeing themselves in prison,
They realize it's only a pause, nothing is really gone.
They learn to adapt and love themselves
To live in the moment, and take to the new dawn.

High School:

Kendall Wilson

“Resurrection of Earth”

For the first three months, I took walks. Often.
After a while, the wind became predictable.
I timed it perfectly so that the tree branches waved at me.
Sometimes, stopping to let this soft shell lay down, against the
paved roads of my neighborhood. It is an act of surrender
to nature. Though the skies are clear, It is the season of
unfathomable storms. When the cars come, this body moves to the
Soft crumbs of Earth. I'll play savior now, like the entire weight of the world is on my back.
This dirt must be filled with a million roots, I say to no one.
And in my hands? A leaf. Its roots are entangled with every other root that has ever been.
So, indirectly or not, I am connected to the plant someone else is holding.
We are clinging to each other, though we have never met.
Nature's way of holding us. I sob silently into the Earth.
The plants thank me. My hair swirls about, these unruly tendrils.
As the tears pool into these soup-bowl collarbones,
The hair sticks to the skin. Roots, I say to the sky.


Lewis Lee

“Sounds Outside the Window”

Dawn cracks through the night sky
like blood flowing through a freshly opened wound
and there is a ghostly silence fallen across the world,
as if angels no longer sing and the spirits of the universe have turned their backs to us.
From behind my bedroom window,
I hear another gust of wind passing over blades of grass
like a field of tombstones, reminding me
of the fireworks that once flew alongside the stars last summer.
I know that tonight I will hear the rain dance along the pavement
like the children I used to hear playing outside my window,
their laughter, a song that resuscitates a world that is drowning.
This morning I looked outside my window, the sill now collecting dust.
I saw the swaying trees in the wind like grasping hands
reaching towards the heavens above, screaming, shouting, proclaiming
"We are still here."


Bethany “Autumn” Rouse

"The Real Pandemic"

The world has become loud
People shouting, crying, joining the crowd
In all of this, I look for one sound
Truth. Just truth. Every day I seek for this
The illness, the whispers, create a mist
A foggy cloud of emptiness
All I ask for is truth. Just truth.
Everyday I look out the window
And what I see is sad people, broken people,
Desperate for something, something to hold onto,
People that just want to know
Fact from fiction
Lie from truth
The true pandemic is revealed
Isn't that sad?
That the world has fight to find truth

MUSC Septima P. Clark Awards Ceremony RSVP Link

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Poetry Contest Virtual Awards Reception on Friday, April 30, 2021.

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