Fresh Voices Poetry Competition

Fresh Voices Poetry Competition is an outstanding program that offers students the opportunity to write and perform 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 Young Poet’s Day Sunday, August 11, 2019. Winners must be available to participate in this public performance.
  • Winning poems will be printed in a chapbook published by Grayson Books and available for purchase in our Museum Shop.
  • Winning poets will have their work featured on Hill-Stead’s website in the online poetry journal, Theodate.

Submission Instructions

Important Dates

March 29     Deadline for submissions
April 24        Finalists will be announced via email and museum website
May 10         Finalists read before a panel of judges and winners will be announced
TBD               Performance workshop for the winners in preparation for readings
August 11    Winners read poems at the CT Young Poets Day at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

Congratulations to our 2018 Winners!

  • Vanecia Fultz – Rockville High School
  • Rachel Justice – Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
  • Sarah Lewis – Hall High School
  • Ellis McGinley – Arts at the Capitol Magnet School
  • Youssef Mezrioui – Rockville High School
  • Alex Nordlund – Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts

And thank you to our judges, Daniel Donaghy and Adriane Jefferson

Daniel Donaghy
is a Professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he has received the school’s Board of Regents Teaching Award and CSU Norton Mezvinsky Trustees Research Award. His poetry collections include Somerset (NYQ Books, 2018), Start with the Trouble (University of Arkansas Press, 2009), winner of the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence, and Streetfighting (BkMk Press, 2005), a Paterson Prize Finalist. He has received grants from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts as well as the Southern Humanities Review’s Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award. He grew up in Philadelphia, PA. Last year, he launched Here: a poetry journal, which he edits with his students.

Adriane Jefferson is an arts administrator who has worked in the performing arts sector and arts education for 15 years. She is currently an arts program manager and special programs coordinator for The Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts. Prior to that, she served as The Executive Director for The Writer’s Block Ink in New London, CT. In 2009 she received her B.A in Popular Music from Florida Memorial University. She went on to receive a Master of Arts degree in Arts Administration from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her career has been centrally focused on cultivating and developing talent within arts and entertainment. With her love for community engagement, Adriane has served as an arts consultant to artists, arts organizations, and arts-based after-school programs where she has helped them to design strategies to achieve their career and organizational goals.

Adriane used her background in performing arts and theatre to help structure the drama department at Alonzo Mourning Charities Over Town Youth Center and The Gibson Charter School. Earlier in her career, she worked as a talent agent on The Mike Sherman Show, a show that focused on the pop music industry and covered major music events such as The Billboard Music Awards and The BET awards. In 2005 Adriane created Rhyme Fest, a community event that used hip-hop as an advocacy tool for social change. Adriane is a long time affiliate of the Writers Block Ink. Outside of the role she played as Executive Director, she served as their Creative Director and Director of Programming from 2013-2015. She is now serving as a member of The Writer’s Block Ink Board of Directors. Adriane is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.

Previous Winners


Read the poems by the 2017 winners in the January 2018 issue of Theodate: An Online Poetry Journal.

  • Joyce Hida, Rockville High School
  • Sophia Durand, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
  • Rachel Horowitz-Benoit, EO Smith High School
  • Verne Mackoff, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
  • Sophie Spaner, Valley Regional High School


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., is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Drawn Parallels (, a chapbook, Dances with Masks and Mirrors (Finishing Line Press), and a recent, second chapbook, Swallowing Hard. 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, and Where Flowers Bloom. She has served as a contest judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and officer on several local poetry boards. Also a visual artist, JoAnne brings ekphrastic poetry to the annual National Arts Program in Hartford. With advanced degrees in communication, special education, and applied spirituality, she’s published an academic book for Cambridge University Press, presented research studies nationally, and taught writing in high schools. A community leader and justice activist, JoAnne writes poetry 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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