Student:

Alyson Pierce.

School: Central Bucks High School South in Warrington, where she is a senior.

Achievement: Pierce, 17, of Warrington, has been named the 2007 Bucks County High School poet of the year in a a competition sponsored by Bucks County Community College. The contest is part of the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program.

Pierce, a runner-up in last year's competition, beat 190 entrants from 21 schools throughout the county. Her entry included three poems: "parental guidance," "like no one else," and "there's no sex in your -".

She won $400 and read excerpts of her work last Sunday at the college in Newtown.

Hearing that she won: "I thought it was an April Fool's joke because I got the e-mail on April 1," she said. "I didn't believe it. I started jumping up and down in the room, and my mother came in and she said, 'Stop making so much noise.' I said, 'You can't tell me that right now!' "

Her submissions: " 'like no one else' is about someone I know. She's such a unique person. She's a character, and I thought there should be a poem about what kind of person she is. 'there's no sex in your -' is about violence. There were a lot of things that people think are violent but aren't, and there are things that are strange that are violent. I talk about a glass of dark juice spilling across the floor. I think that is very violent even though it's not like a fist punching."

Poem she doesn't want published: " 'parental guidance' is about each of my two parents. My family is large and I have step-parents and stuff, but it's only about my mom and my dad. It's very truthful in how I see them, and I think that they would take it the wrong way.

"I love both my parents with all my heart, and they have been very good parents, and I think they might read it and think that they're not good parents and that's not what I'm trying to say. It's not a classic teenage-angst, I-hate-my-parents poem. It was a really overwhelming time in my life, and I was taking in a lot of surroundings. It's all through images, and I wrote everything I saw around me."

Her writing: "I've been writing pretty much my entire life. I wrote stories first. They were soft adventure stories. One was about a dalmatian who was a detective. Then, my fifth-grade teacher decided we were going to do a unit on poetry, so I started writing and I was like, hmm, I kind of like this.

"I adore poetry because it's a kind of expression that doesn't have many boundaries. So if you want to say something that seemingly makes no sense, but it makes sense to you, people read it and don't immediately throw it away because it's a poem. They take it and think about it."

Inspiration: "I will be feeling a certain way, and a line will come to me. Not too long ago, I was having a really rough time and the line 'people have seams' came to me. Sometimes you can split open and all the stuff comes out, but when you're sewed up, you look pretty and perfect and put together but sometimes you come apart and that happens. That led to a poem, 'pretty is a state of mind.' "

The future: "I'm going to Hampshire College or Sarah Lawrence to study either creative writing, physics or film."

What the current poet laureate says: "Her poems challenge the reader because the reader is never quite sure where the poem is going. It's precise and inventive, and the details are chosen with such care," said Marie Kane, reigning Bucks County poet laureate.

Kane is a teacher in the Central Bucks School District. She and fellow judge Patricia Goodrich, the 2005 Bucks County poet laureate and a retired Central Bucks teacher, selected Pierce as the winner after judging the anonymous entries of 20 finalists.

- Kristin E. Holmes

Student Spotlight

violence is a word you can taste

like your mouth when you've been silent too long

violence can be heard

echoing through the emptiness of everyone

shrunk back into their shells

like the sound of jeans ripping

like a door slamming somewhere far away in the house -

it's tangible.

it feels like the carpet underneath your bed

like running without shoes on

like eating frosted mini-wheats without milk

it's swift-like an entire glass of dark juice spilled across the floor.

violence is not a boxing match

(it's more private, where no one can see)

violence is not ears bleeding at a concert

(the space around it is always silent)

violence is not skinning your knee

violence is having your knee skinned.

on a quiet morning, violence is the cold

that surrounds you and forces you back inside

a picture frame falling to the floor - shattering

a broken flower pot on its side

hands with sharp fingernails and a strong grip

can you feel it?

violence catches in your throat:

a sudden scream

something sharp pressing slowly into your skin

being afraid to come out of hiding

the wheel slipping out of your fingers

sudden hands snaking up your shirt

feeling the blood drip slowly down your face and

knowing there's nothing you can do

violence is not being able to use your hands.

- Alyson Pierce

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