Rivers of Our Lives: Winning Poems from the To the Stars Poetry Contest

I am thrilled to announce the winning poets in the first week of the To the Stars poetry contest: Serina Hearn (in the professional poet category) and Tayler Klein (nonprofessional poet category). Here are their winning poems in this week’s contest: Rivers of Our Lives. Enter your poem in next week’s contest, Mythic Kansas. This contest is open to all Kansans, and winners receive a copy of To the Stars: The Ad Astra Poetry Project edited by Denise Low and with writing exercises by me, plus publication of their poems on this site at the the Kansas Arts Commission website.

Professional Poet Category Winner:

Serina Hearn


Having fled too long
loaded with dress sizes too small,
memberships redundant,
points of reference obsolete.
Eventually, time’s river
swollen and greedy
took memory’s favorite doll,
names of friends, places;
forgetting made myself easier,
one breath at a time
was all I could

NonProfessional Poet Category Winner:

Tayler Klein

I thought I knew rivers
when I was small, and watched the Missouri fade
to an undetermined point on the horizon.
I knew it would slowly course into the belly
of the Mississippi
and its waters
would become the Mississippi’s waters.

In the presence of the Gateway Arch
it would disappear into nothing,
all signs of the untamed west forgotten
within the long blue strands
destined for the ocean.

I was sorry for it, the Missouri,
sorry for its muddy mess,
its dirty floodplains,
its shape held together by rusty bridges
that whistled and creaked in the wind.

But now I think of my mother,
and how if I’d truly known rivers
I would have understood as she held me to her stomach
and let me dip my toes in,
and wet my head with cupped hands –
This muddy mess of a river
still courses through the body of the land,
and its fibers are braided into my hair.