The Pulitzer Center congratulates the 2022 Fighting Words Poetry Contest winners and finalists!
These sixteen exceptional poets, whose work and bios appear below, were selected from among some 950 entrants in eight countries, 27 U.S. states, and Washington, D.C. Each poet builds lines of solidarity through their work, using their own powerful voices to uplift urgent, underreported global issues and the people most affected by them.
(* = poem is accompanied by an audio recording)
One Bullet, One Hundred Sets of Hands by Jamar Jackson*
10th grade, Kenwood Academy High School, IL
Comments from judge Jasmine Mans: There are patterns that the writer created that lead us through the story, patterns which hold the story. Repetition allows us to subconsciously count. Counting, in this poem, becomes weight. Counting becomes the uncontrollable variable. As writers, we search to find ways to talk about this same, ever present thing called death. This writer doesn’t make the harshness easier to bear, but allows us a new curiosity.
as another day breaks by Grace Liang
10th grade, The York School, Canada
Comments from judge Jasmine Mans: I love the writer’s use of descriptive language. The personification throughout the poem is fresh and stark. This writer told a story of pain with clarity and color. They wanted us to see the truth. This storytelling was captivating, and weighty. It holds both truth and beauty.
time travel by Nicola Rodriguez*
11th grade, Bear Creek High School, CO
Comments from judge Jasmine Mans: I marvel at the use of language in this poem. Time is gathered, here, by short, fragile, and vulnerable moments. This is what I believe poetry seeks to do, it gathers and weaves the small moments into life’s narrative. Both the sun and ocean are big, literally, and in theory. In this writing, both the sun and the ocean are things to be held, they are intimate. I feel close.
There Is a Forest by Sabrina Wang
6th grade, Worcester Academy, MA
Forms of Flesh by Evan Li*
10th grade, Charlotte Latin School, NC
To Today's Confederates by Logan Tenner*
10th grade, Terra Environmental Research Institute, FL
una grieta en la tierra by Daniel Liu*
12th grade, Lake Highland Preparatory School, FL
Symphony of the Sea by Annie Reeder*
9th grade, New Tech High @ Coppell, TX
More Is Not More by Fiona Lu*
11th grade, Hillsdale High School, CA
The Sparrow's Home by Grace C. Zahn*
4th grade, Meadowbrook Elementary, WI
War of Shadows by Ananya Venkateswaran*
8th grade, American Community School of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
My Birthday Song by Lynlee Graves*
9th grade, New Tech High @ Coppell, TX
Smart City by Irene Jin*
8th grade, Guy B. Phillips Middle School, NC
What if a third wave comes? by J Valverde Pacheco
10th grade, Monteverde Friends School, Costa Rica
The Eye of the Storm by Blakely Kriegler
5th grade, Bertschi School, WA
melting softly by Charlie Johnson
9th grade, Carrboro High School, NC
This contest is the result of Pulitzer Center education programming. Between March and May, education team staff led virtual workshops for over 800 K-12 students around the world, and teachers have guided student writing independently using this workshop guide. Fighting Words asks students to consider how journalism and poetry can be effective responses to current events and write poems in conversation with underreported news stories. The next Fighting Words Poetry Contest will open in March 2023. Stay up to date on education opportunities and resources by signing up for our weekly education newsletter.
Entries were judged based on the success of the poem on its own terms (craft, linguistic style, emotion, etc.) and successful inclusion of lines quoted from a Pulitzer Center story. All student information except grade was removed from the poems before being presented to the final judge.
In addition to Jasmine Mans, thank you to our semifinal and final round judges: Maryel Cardenas, Fernanda Buffa, Elliott Adams, Alex Waddell, Hayle Wesolowski, Sarah Swan, Donnalie Jamnah, Mark Schulte, Sushmita Jaya Mukherjee, and Hannah Berk.