High School Contests

Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize

The Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize recognizes outstanding work by student writers in the 11th grade in the U.S. or abroad. Contest judges are poets on the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty, which includes Michael Dickman, Paul Muldoon, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, James Richardson, Tracy K. Smith, Susan Wheeler, Jenny Xie, and Monica Youn.

Submissions for the 2019-20 contest are now closed. The next contest will open in fall 2020. Winners for the 2020 contest are posted below as of March 19, 2020.

To receive email updates about submission deadlines for the contest each year, please subscribe to our list.

Prizes: First Prize – $500, Second Prize – $250, Third Prize – $100

A note for high school teachers:

Thank you for your interest in the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 High School Poetry Prize. While we encourage the inclusion of poetry in the high school English curriculum, we ask you to please refrain from using the contest as an occasion to require all your students to submit a poem as a homework assignment. If you read the poems from the past student winners, you’ll see that they all carry a sense of urgency and necessity that is difficult to conjure when a student is obliged to submit a poem. Ideally, we hope motivated students will choose to enter the contest, and that they’ll come to see the writing and sharing of their poems as a joy rather than an obligation.

We’d also like to recommend the following poetry anthologies:

Poem-a-Day: 365 Poems for Every Occasion, edited by Tamar Brazis
20th Century Pleasures, edited by Robert Hass
The Best of the Best American Poetry, edited by Robert Pinsky


Sorry, the application period is now closed. No late applications will be accepted.

2020 Contest Winners

First Place:
Hannah Wehrung, “When I Say I Wrote the Birds”
Yulee, Florida

Second Place:
Lane Devers, “Hunter S. Thompson for Sheriff”
Interlochen, Michigan

Third Place (a tie):

Lucy Cai, “Sick”
Lexington, Massachusetts

Tyler Kellogg, “Hunting”
Greenville, South Carolina

Read the winning poems…


Honorable Mentions:

Jolin Chan, “The Three-Part Saga of Fran Li, 1982”
Irvine, California

Dylan Fritz, “American Politics as They Relate to Salamanders”
Greenville, South Carolina

Aniela Holtrop, “Arpilleras”
Freeport, Maine

Columbia, South Carolina

Omari ‘Imipono Kenyatta, “moke akshen”
Waianae, Hawaii

Bianca Denise Layog, “User’s Guide to Hat Shopping”
Interlochen, Michigan

Olivia Lee, “o-to be-an isopod”
Arcadia, California

Maya Savin Miller, “i write my father in jail”
Pasadena, California

Maia Siegel, “When the Marbits Globbed Together”
Roanoke, Virginia

Glen Rock, New Jersey

Diana Vink, “immortality and elizabeth”
Brewster, New York

Evelyn Zelmer, “Gentrify, Gently ”
Newark, Ohio




2019 Contest Winners

First Place:
Lara Katz, “of arc”
Weston, CT

Second Place:
Miracle Thornton, “praise dance”
Interlochen, MI

Third Place:
Layla Wheelon, “Self Portrait as Kudzu”
Charleston, SC

Read the winning poems …


Honorable Mentions:

Reagan Boyle, “WATER, WATER”
Massillon, OH

Victoria Choe, “Pissing in the Breeze”
Livingston, NJ

Malia Chung, “Seven Ways of Looking at Seven”
Milton, MA

Lhamo Dixey, “The Cup of Roses”
Berkeley, CA

Kathryn Lacey, “Mother”
Arlington, VA

Irvine, CA

Rachel Li, “Brooklyn”
Apex, NC

Ilan Magnani, “What I Know About Elephants”
Pittsburgh, PA

Veronica Moreau, “Breathing 101”
Wildwood, Alberta Canada

Lajadia Seawright, “Ohh Mahogany Mahogany Mahogany Ann”
Greenville, SC

Claire Shang, “Ears (Broken Ghazal)”
New York, NY

Magdalena Smith, “Underwater Among Minnows and Miracles and Dreams, or Was It Sexual Assault?”
Ithaca, NY

Cathleen Weng, “The devil / the gods”
Sioux Falls, SD

2018 Contest Winners

First Place:
Daniel Blokh, “To My First Language”
Birmingham, AL

Second Place:
Emily Tian, “Clean”
North Potomac, MD

Third Place:
Bronwen Brenner, “The Sickest Daughter”
New York, NY

Read the winning poems …


Honorable Mentions:

Jennifer Boyd, “Directions to French Quarter, New Orleans”
Hull, MA

Bella Coles, “Tangible Comforts”
Oakland, CA

Adam Krasnoff, “Subaru Forester”
Charleston, SC

John-Henry Lambert, “To Brooks”
Greenville, SC

Sydney Little, “Unlocked”
Newport Beach, CA

Unnathy Nellutla, “పిల్లి కళ్ళు – Cat Eyes”
East Hanover, NJ

Sophie Paquette, “Amalgamate—”
Bloomington, IN

Hayley Steves, “Royalty”
Greenville, SC

Corinne Vicario, “A People of Order”
Greenville, SC

Albert Zhang, “Erasure”
Marietta, GA

2017 Contest Winners

First Place:
Joseph Felkers, “Gunsafe”
Caledonia, MI

Second Place:
Darius Christiansen, “Blueprint of the South”
New Orleans, LA

Third Place:
Hadassah Amani, “Clutching Thistle”
Miami, FL

Read the winning poems …


Honorable Mentions:

Margot Armbruster, “Kerosene”
Elm Grove, WI

Jennifer Boyd, “Trapeze Song”
Hull, MA

Emma Crockford, “State Bird”
Middleboro, MA

Aidan Forster, “Bildungsroman with Distant Nation”
Taylors, SC

Jacqueline He, “Marilyn”
San Jose, CA

Christina Im, “Someday I’ll Come Back for Korea”
Portland, OR

Gina Kim, “suburbia”
Glenview, IL

Cristian Melendez, “Energetic Variance”
San Elizario, TX

Iggy Shuler, “Eating Panic Fish at Lake Marion”
Greenville, SC

Meredith Tamirian, “Love after a Breakup”
Allendale, NJ

Alisha Yi, “Afterword Theory”
Las Vegas, NV

Joyce Zhou, “The Way We Remained”
Naperville, IL

Abraham Zuraw, “Weird Sun”
Oak Park, IL




2016 Contest Winners

1st Place: Hillel Rosenshine – New York, NY
2nd Place: Emily Ling – Greenville, SC
3rd Place: Katherine Liu – Lincolnshire, IL

Read the winning poems …


Honorable Mentions:

Annabelle Crowe, “Christ of the Abyss”
Asheville, NC

Kathryn Hargett, “A man pushes my classmate in front of an eighteen-wheeler then takes communion”
Birmingham, AL

Allison Huang, “In the Wake”
Princeton, NJ

Karissa Kang, “In Mother’s Absence”
Andover, MA

Suzan Kim, “Dear H.S. Expatriate,
Cresskill, NJ

Irene Vazquez, “The Three Things She Was Most Afraid Of—Until She Wasn’t”
Houston, TX

Past Winners

* Note: The Princeton University Poetry Contest for High School Students was formerly called the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Secondary School Poetry Contest.

» Read the 2015 winning poems
» Read the 2014 winning poems


Past winners who have gone on to become Princeton University students include:

Daisy Bassen ’98 – “Winning the prize made me aware of the Creative Writing program at Princeton and showed me how warm and encouraging it is to young poets.”

Caitlin Crounse ’99 – “It confirmed my most cherished, outlandish suspicion: that I might actually be a poet.”

Jon Queally ’00 – “Winning this prize meant that there was the possibility that I had something of value to say.”

Efe Balikcioglu ’10 – “Receiving the prize encouraged me to pursue improving my talent in every aspect here at Princeton.”

Kat Kulke ’17 – “Winning the prize gave me a new faith in myself as a writer and opened my eyes to the vibrant writing community at Princeton.”