Fresh Voices Poetry Competition

Fresh Voices Poetry Competition offers students the opportunity to write and prepare poems suitable for presentation and publication. Since 1993, student poets from all corners of Connecticut have entered this competition and mentoring program.  The Fresh Voices Poetry Competition is now open to all New England high school students.


  • Winners will read at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
  • Winning poems will be printed in a chapbook published by Antrim House Press and available for purchase in our Museum Shop.
  • Winning poets will have their work featured in Hill-Stead’s online poetry journal, Theodate.

Important Dates

  • April 28       Finalists read before a panel of judges (not open to the public).
  • May 1          Winners announced via email and the website.
  • August 14  Performance workshop for the winners in preparation for readings.
  • August 16   Winners read poems at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival.

Congratulations to our 2017 Fresh Voices Poetry Competition Winners:

  • Michelle Chen
  • Sophia Durand
  • Grace Gonzalez
  • Joyce Hida
  • Mechelle Horelick
  • Rachel Horowitz-Benoit
  • Abigail Howard
  • Nadia Jalal
  • Samantha Lewis
  • Verne Mackoff
  • Kimberly McGuire
  • Quinn Miller
  • Sydney Parrott
  • Mae Santillo
  • Sonali Singh
  • Sophie Spaner
  • Michael Williams

Many thanks to our readers, John Stanizzi and JoAnne Bauer; and our judges, David K. Leff and Steven Ostrowski and Susan Ballek.

Cover Fresh Voices Poetry Competition Chapbook

The 2016 Fresh Voices Chapbook is now available in our Museum Shop. To purchase, visit Hill-Stead museum, or contact our shop by telephone (860.677.4787 ext. 112) or email (

Previous Winners


Read the poems by the 2016 winners in the January 2017 issue of Theodate: An Online Poetry Journal.

  • Owen Elphick, E.O. Smith High School
  • Chloe Ezzo, Kingswood Oxford
  • Leah Nashel, Westover School
  • Jossary Padilla, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
  • Abbey Rose Popolizio, Haddam-Killingworth High School


Read the poems by the 2015 winners in the March 2016 issue of Theodate: An Online Poetry Journal.

  • Cole Adams, Kingswood-Oxford
  • Avery Christensen, Rockville High School
  • Khadija Hussain, Wilber Cross High School
  • Joscelyn Norris, Westover
  • Kaleigh Perkins, Rockville High School


Read the poems by the 2014 winners in the February 2016 issue of Theodate: An Online Poetry Journal.

  • Shana Blatt, ACES Education Center for the Arts (New Haven)
  • Colleen Feeney, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
  • Sophia O’Brien-Udry, ACES Education Center for the Arts (New Haven)
  • Taite Puhala, Westminster School (Simsbury)
  • Wenell St. Hill, Great Hartford Academy of the Arts


Read the poems by the 2013 winners in the February 2016 issue of Theodate: An Online Poetry Journal.

  • Julia Alexander
  • Horlando De los Santos
  • Trey Geisman
  • Hayley Kolding
  • Essence McDonald


  • Alexandra Asal
  • Sophie Dillon
  • Shameil Dias
  • Amanda Goode
  • Shannon Haaland
  • Ellie Woznica

2017 Judges

John L. Stanizzi’s full-length collections are Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallalujah Time!, and High Tide-Ebb Tide.  He’s had poems in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, Connecticut River Review, New York Quarterly, Tar River, Rattle, Poet Lore, Hawk & Handsaw, and many others.  John’s work has also been translated into Italian and appeared in Italy’s El Ghibli, and in the Journal of Italian Translations Bonafinni.  His translator is the poet, Angela D’Ambra.  His next full-length collection, Sundowning, will appear in 2018, published by Finishing Line Press.  John has read at venues throughout the northeast, and he teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Connecticut.  He lives in Coventry with his wife, Carol.

JoAnne Bauer, Ph.D., recently published her full-length poetry collection, Drawn Parallels (, as well as a chapbook, Dances with Masks and Mirrors for Finishing Line Press. Her poems have won prizes in state contests and been accepted into international, national, and regional publications, including: Caduceus; CT River Review; Journey to Crone; Poets Against War; seed packets; Theodate; YouTube; and Where Flowers Bloom. She has served as a contest judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and as an officer on the Boards of Riverwood Poetry Series and the West End Poetry Society, as well as convener of ekphrastic poetry for the annual National Arts Program in Hartford. She has served as a national poetry contest judge and an officer on local poetry boards. She is currently completing her second chapbook. JoAnne writes to transform life events into vignettes of resilience.

David K. Leff is an essayist, Pushcart-nominated poet and former deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.   He is the author of five nonfiction books, three volumes of poetry and a novel in verse.  David has been on boards of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association and the Connecticut Maple Syrup Producers Association.  He was chairman for the Collinsville Historic District Commission for about two decades.  He is the Canton, Connecticut town historian and town meeting moderator and served for 26 years as a volunteer firefighter.  Recently he was tapped by the National Park Service to be poet-in-residence for the New England National Scenic Trail (NET).

Steven Ostrowski is from Staten Island, New York and earned an MFA in Fiction from Brooklyn College and a PhD from the University at Albany.  Currently, Steven teaches fiction and poetry writing courses at Central Connecticut State University, in addition to training English teachers.  Steven directs the Central Connecticut Writing Project, which is a site of the National Writing Project.  His chapbooks are  In Late Fields (poems), from Bright Hill Press; Birds, Boys, God (poems) from Finishing Line Press; A Pile of Crosses (stories) from ELI Publications; and Seen/unseen (poems, co-written with his son Ben Ostrowski) from Cervena Barva Press.


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