Arts & Entertainment Schools

High School Poet Of The Year Winner Named

A celebration will be held in May.

Cecelia Shine. Credit: Submitted

The winner of this year’s Bucks County High School Poet contest was named on Tuesday.

Cecelia Shine, a senior at Neshaminy High School, took the top prize in the 2024 contest, officials at Bucks County Community College announced.

The competition is in its 37th year and is part of the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program, which hosted by the community college.

Shine came out ahead of more than 100 submissions to clinch the title along with a $300 prize. Her win will be celebrated at the annual Reading + Celebration event, scheduled for Saturday, May 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in room 142 of the historic Tyler Hall mansion at the community college’s Newtown Township Campus.

Shine’s submissions for the contest included poems titled “one heart too many,” “The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine,” and “it might be just a dream.”

The local student’s entries captured the attention of this year’s judges, current Bucks County Poet Laureate Tara Tamburello and former laureate Tom Mallouk.

The competition also recognized talents from across the county.

Jack DeBoyace, a sophomore from Central Bucks High School East, was named first runner-up. Second runner-up honors went to Kade Booker, another senior from Neshaminy High School. Olivia Cao, a senior at Central Bucks High School South, was the third runner-up.

The runner-ups will join Shine in reading their works at the May 4 celebration.

Due to a donation from Gary Kephart, a Levittown native now living in Fort Collins, Colorado, each runner-up this year will receive $100. Kephart’s support is making the May 4 event possible, including awards and refreshments.

For additional details, interested locals can contact Dr. Ethel Rackin, a Professor of Language and Literature at Bucks County Community College, who also directs the Wordsmiths Reading Series and the Poet Laureate Program. She can be reached at

Shine’s winning poems:

one heart too many

one day the doctors told my mother i had two heartbeats. they said this

with a downturned wince and a crinkle between their brows,

like a sheet of paper which can not be unwrinkled, can not

be made perfect again. when i was born,

it was with double the blood flow, double the oxygen, double the fear. when i was born,

my two hearts beat a rhythm that echoed through my skull and gave me something

to march to, a hopeful anthem to keep me moving, to keep my bones from crumbling

and cracking under the weight of my organs, the overproduced instruments humming too loudly,

beating too quickly, working too well. when i was born,

it was with extra love built in; extra love for gifting neighbors, gifting mailmen,

gifting worms that wash up when the rain pours down. when i was born,

it was with too many feelings, too many obstacles, too many faults.

doctors said i was a miracle; my mother said that thats just life.

i dont know how my two hearts are functioning, how their pulse

is strong enough, suitable enough, for my long limbs, but they are.

they are calling to each other and answering back, creating a song that

wakes me up in the morning and puts me back to sleep

when i need it to. i have two hearts, and theyre surviving and theyre thriving

and theyre dying one second

at a time, but theyre mine,

theyre mine.

my god, arent they mine?

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

All of a sudden I am an ant in a city of marble and stained glass,

cemented in porcelain skin, thin like bible paper

in an old friend’s cabinet. Technicolor light showers in

from crystal windows, swaddles me in beacons of river

and sky, paints over me with patterns of rainbow shine.

I am becoming unbreakable, like my bones are rooted through tile,

like my existence is sanctioned between these tall walls.

My weight is somehow pardoned 

because every statue and pillar above, every arch

and emblem is grand like my heart, is grand like the sea

and bluebirds chirping in boiling heat. Candlelight darts along

the wrinkles of a praying woman on her knees. This place of worship

was once on fire and then rebuilt, remade, rebeautified, and I realize

there is a cathedral hiding inside all of us, a religion resting

right under the skin, and I realize that I am no stranger here.

No one ever could be.

it might be just a dream

now and then when my hurt

clouds over and fizzles at the sides,

i see another version of me

flickering between my outline,

proclaiming herself just to

w i t h e r       away again.

and for one meaningless moment,

we become the same person, and

each of my steps leaves a footprint

of purpose behind, and my tears

feed flowers by the front door,

and my hands don’t leave scratches

where lovebites should be.

and then she is gone, and i’m

missing her, and every footstep

is almost as heavy as the last,

and i’m trapped within this vision

of other me on the opposite end

of a black hole, and i’m hoping

she is as happy as i know her to be.

maybe one day i’ll understand her

beyond fleeting meetings, beyond

superficial thoughts. maybe

i’ll know her well enough to engrave

the shape of her smile to the back

of my eyelids, and to see it reflected

on my own forsaken face

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