In collaboration with the Germantown Community Library, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Public Works department, the Public Art Commission launched Word Travels, an annual sidewalk poetry contest earlier this year.
New, aspiring or professional writers of any age, living or working in Germantown, were invited to submit a poem or song lyric of up to 150 words with nature as the theme.
The selection committee was made up of literary professionals, library staff and community representatives.
After the daunting task of reviewing over 120 total poems, the selection committee named six finalists and six runner-ups.
The finalists will receive a small monetary award and their poems will be installed on sidewalks in city parks and along trail systems starting early this fall.
All entries submitted in the Word Travels contest will be printed in a poetry book that will be displayed at the Germantown Community Library and participants will receive a copy.
The finalists and runner-ups of both the adult and youth categories are as follows:
• Adult Category
1st Place: Audrey Rollen
Audrey Rollen grew up in Germantown loving the arts. She went to Houston High School and found her calling in the HHS Avatar, the school’s Literary Magazine, rising to Editor-in-Chief her senior year.
It’s there that she was able to explore her love for literature and poetry and hone her skills, and she’s now pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree at LSU in English Creative Writing.
Her poem “Summer” was written as a reflection of her experience at a summer camp she had attended for many years and eventually became a counselor at.
She considers the poem somewhat of a love letter, as she’s been unable to return to that camp for a long time. She chose the Welsh poetic form of rhupunt (pronounced ree-punt) for its roots in pastoral oral tradition and simplistic, meaningful structure.
• 2nd Place: Janette Kennedy
Janette Kennedy MAEd, MFA, is a writer and mom who lives in Germantown and currently teaches writing and literature at Christian Brothers University.
She has taught students of all ages and loves to nurture creative expression and reflection. She is fascinated by poetry’s power to disrupt our experience and create fresh new adventures, connections, and insights.
In “Fibonacci Wake,” her awestruck wonder at the Fibonacci spiral inspired her to use it to explore the complexity of being a human part of the natural world. Her first poetry collection is scheduled to be released in December of 2022.
• 3rd Place: Denise C. Kerlan
Denise Kerlan was born and raised in Lewisburg, TN, but spent a large portion of her childhood visiting Memphis, especially Germantown, where she visited her grandparents and extended family.
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Tennessee, Denise moved to Memphis where she met her future husband. Following his medical training in various cities, they were excited to return to Memphis where they have been residents of Germantown for the last 15 years.
A long-time writer, Denise decided to formally pursue her passion for poetry at the University of Memphis where she is a first-year MFA candidate in creative writing.
Her poem “Palettes of Gray”, is her first-ever contest submission. She is honored to debut her work on a sidewalk in the city she grew up loving and now calls home.
• 1st Runner-Up: Scott Rollen’s “To the Dragonfly”
• 2nd Runner-Up: Lynn McLargin’s haiku
• 3rd Runner Up: Nancy Hughes Coe’s “FAREWELL”
• 1st Place and 3rd Place: Adele Ferguson
Adele Ferguson is a senior at Houston High School.
She has been a resident of Germantown since 2015 and also attended Houston Middle School.
She is an avid reader and has always pursued creative outlets, particularly art and dance, and most recently, writing. She credits her teachers at Houston High with developing two of her literary loves: etymology and Latin.
Her poems (“Morning Song” and “Sunset Service”) for this contest were inspired by sitting outside and enjoying two of her favorite moments in nature: the sunset under a large tree in her grandparents’ backyard, and the birds that flock to her patio at home.
• 2nd Place: Niyantha Kaushik
Niyantha Kaushik is a soon to be freshman at Houston High School. Niyantha enjoys poetry, art, traveling, and interacting and meeting with new people.
Germantown has been instrumental in her development during the crucial formative years of her life.
She enjoys unwinding by spending time on the city’s numerous trails. This, in addition to the serenity and vibrance she experiences while visiting our country’s National Parks, served as inspiration for her poem, titled “Alive!”
• 1st Runner-Up: Mia Mittag’s “Moonbeam”
• 2nd Runner-Up: Misha Agrawal’s “Look.”
• 3rd Runner-Up: Kairavi Gardé’s “Nature is the home of us all”
Word Travels is funded by Mitch Major Memorial Fund and was established in 2021 in memory of highly esteemed Germantown Performing Art Center (GPAC) board member and Germantown resident, Mitch Major whose fondness for literature shaped his entire life.
The Mitch Major Memorial Fund will be dedicated to sustaining Word Travels – the annual sidewalk poetry contest inspired by Mitch’s love for the literary arts, his passion for lifelong learning and the joy he took sharing his discoveries in the world of the written word.