Alyssa Konopaski of Des Moines wins Highline College Poetry Contest

Expect Sadness like Rain” earned Alyssa Konopaski (pictured above) of Des Moines first place in Highline College’s 2019 Student Poetry Contest.

Konopaski was one of 53 writers who submitted 106 poems during the contest, a prelude to Highline’s seventh annual celebration of National Poetry Month in April.

“The poem was written shortly after my best friend moved back to Japan in order to show that any way people deal with sadness is valid,” said Konopaski, who earned $200 for winning the contest. She added that she wrote the poem “to remind myself that sadness is normal and natural, like rain.”

A resident of Des Moines, she has been writing poetry for about five years and earned honorable mention in last year’s contest for “forgive me if I do not care to be a gardener.

Konopaski is in her second year at Highline and studying biology. After she graduates in the spring, she will transfer to Seattle University, where she has been admitted as a chemistry major.

“The Poetry Contest committee really liked the title of this poem, the imagery, and the repeated final line in both stanzas,” said Deborah Moore, one of the contest judges.

Here’s her winning poem:

Expect Sadness like Rain
By Alyssa Konopaski

If you need to prepare, pack the umbrella
your friend left to you when she went
home to Japan. Wear a yellow raincoat to
contrast the grey skies and the clouds that
bury you. Remind yourself to stash an
extra pair of socks just in case you
underestimate a puddle and find your toes
soaked and your heart aching. You will
make it out alive and wet.

If you prefer it finds you unexpectedly, let
it search. It missed you. Enjoy the way it
drips down your forehead and tickles your
brow. Embrace the way your hair frizzes
and curls. Your damp jeans will stick
awkwardly to your skin as you walk; no
one is watching even if you feel their eyes
upon you. Waterproof makeup was never
your thing, so check the mirror afterward
if you must. You will make it out alive and

Second place, with a prize of $150, went to Anlorey Alvarado of Covington for “Flee.” This is Alvarado’s second year at Highline.

Third place and $100 went to Gabrielle Geiger of Tacoma for “Father.” Geiger is a second-year nursing student at Highline and will graduate March 20 and become an RN.

For the second year in a row, Tamar S. Manuel of Normandy Park earned honorable mention in the contest, along with a cash prize of $75. His entry this year was “The Color Yellow.” As a Running Start student last year, Manuel submitted “A Gambler’s Mouth.”

Six others received honorable mention and $75 each (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Anonymous: “calls from grandma
  • Tevlin Britten, Tacoma: “This Black Baggage
  • Joshua Hamilton, Burien: “The Food Runner
  • Dio Jean-Baptiste, Seattle: “Retrospect
  • McKenzie Loiselle, Des Moines: “Roslyn
  • Irene Tran, Auburn: “Break Away

The contest required students to submit poems that were no more than 20 lines and could fit onto an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. The winning poems will be displayed as broadsides during the months of April and May in the Highline Library Exhibits and Art Gallery.

Broadsides are loosely defined as single sheets of paper printed on one side. They were the most diverse form of brief, single-occasion publishing before the Civil War.

Although broadsides were first introduced in England, they became a prime means of communication in the United States. They were often posted in town squares.

Later, Harlem Renaissance, Concrete, and Beat writers claimed the broadside as a below-the-radar way to get their words out onto the streets.

Highline will honor contest winners and finalists with a reception and poetry reading April 9, 1:30 p.m., in the Library Exhibits and Art Gallery. The students’ poems will be on display alongside those of published poets Erika Brumett, Mark Doty and Ilya Kaminsky, all of whom will give readings during the month-long celebration.

All events are free and open to the public:

  • April 1–May 30
    Poetry Exhibit
    Highline Library, Building 25, 4th floor
  • April 6
    12–12:45 p.m.
    Susan Landgraf: Writing Workshop, “A Place Out of Time and Space”
    MaST Center
  • April 9
    1:30–3 p.m.
    Student Contest Winners: Poetry Reading and Reception
    Highline Library Exhibits and Art Gallery, Building 25, 4th floor
  • April 11
    12–1 p.m.
    Erika Brumett: Poetry Reading and Q&A
    Building 2
  • April 17
    11 a.m.–3 p.m.
    Opening Reception: “Poetic Visions: Artwork Inspired by Poetry”
    Highline Student Art Gallery, Building 16, Room 115
  • April 17–May 15: Monday–Friday
    9 a.m.–4 p.m.
    Art Display: “Poetic Visions: Artwork Inspired by Poetry”
    Highline Student Art Gallery, Building 16, Room 115
    (Enter through Building 16 office)
  • April 17
    11 a.m.–1 p.m.
    Mark Doty and Ilya Kaminsky: Poetry Reading and Writing Workshop, “The House of Memory: A Poetry Workshop”
    Building 2

Highline’s main campus is located midway between Seattle and Tacoma at South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South (Highway 99). The Highline Library Exhibits and Art Gallery (Building 25, 4th floor) is open Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; and Sunday, 2–9 p.m. Highline’s MaST Center is located on the Redondo Dock next to Salty’s in Des Moines at (28203 Redondo Beach Drive South).

The college’s annual celebration of National Poetry Month is sponsored by the Highline Arts and Humanities division, Highline College Foundation, Highline Marketing department, Highline Library, Highline Print Services, Student Services division and the Visual Communications program.

For more information, visit Highline’s National Poetry Month blog.

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