2022 International Poetry & Storytelling Festival

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Watch the entire event here:

Students from the Harrisburg area and overseas submitted short stories and poems on this year’s theme: “We Shall Overcome: Covid & Social Unrest”

Here are the Harrisburg area winners:

First Place

Melting Pot
Lunden McClain

Second Place

With and Without
Janice Baldwin

Third Place

Life During a Pandemic
Sahiti Kulkarni

Koa sat at her desk, trying to focus on Ms. Orwell’s rather lengthy lecture on verb tenses or something. She wasn’t paying attention. However, Koa was always a good student, with emphasis on ‘was’. She could grasp things very quickly and she was great at focusing on things that were important to her. Unfortunately, this year was different. This year, she was online for school. As her mind drifted off into space, Ms. Orwell’s words ran faintly in the background, and Koa had fixated her eyes on her reflection off her computer screen. 

She noticed the reflection of her bedroom as well. To note, her periwinkle-painted walls surrounded her. A light maple wood desk sat in front of her, and a pair of socks, a Nike sweatshirt, and a T-shirt were bunched up in the far left corner of her room, which she placed strategically so that they were not featured in her Zoom call. 

Yet there was one very important detail to be noted on, and that was the light blue surgical mask that had hung from her bed frame. It seemed like just yesterday she and her classmates received the “exciting” news that school was canceled for two weeks due to COVID-19. Little did they know, the situation would soon get way worse, and it would unravel into society’s worst nightmare, a global pandemic. 

“… see you all tomorrow!” Koa heard Ms. Orwell say in the background of her thoughts. She thanked her teacher and promptly clicked “leave meeting.” She then headed over to her twin-sized bed that sat against the opposite wall in her room and picked up her iPhone. She opened up the app Twitter which was one of her favorite apps recently because it let her read about interesting new ideas and topics and just let her unwind. However, right as the app opened up for her, tweets on recent protests and upset citizens bombarded her message feed. That was not the relaxation she had hoped to get out of this. She then moved over to Instagram, in hopes to be able to relax a little more over there. Unfortunately for her, her feed was overwhelmed with pictures of irresponsible teenagers not wearing their masks in public and arguments made by random people on social issues who were not educated on these issues. Being tired of all of this nonsense, she immediately turned off her phone. 

“What has our world become!” Koa thought to herself, angry to see the carelessness of some people. “Our society has experienced such a rough time the past few years and things like a pandemic have turned into something political.” 

All of this had left Koa in a slump so she thought, what better to get her mind off things than to go on a walk! She threw on a light jacket – it was still the middle of September, but there was a fierce breeze blowing outside – and then prepped Hallie, her black border collie, to get ready for a walk. Putting a blue surgical mask on, she headed out the door and began her walk. 

After a round or two around her quiet neighborhood, Koa set about walking back home when her phone buzzed. 

“Sorry Koa, but if you weren’t doing anything important, do you think you could run down to George’s and get a carton of milk? – Love you loads, momma.”

I guess I could make my walk a little longer, Koa thought. She then proceeded to ask, “What do you think Hallie? You up for it?” She laughed off the cute little tail wag Hallie responded with, texted her mom back, and walked over to the small yet beloved supermarket, George’s. 

Ding! The door rang when she entered the supermarket. She picked up the two percent milk, as per her mom’s request, then picked up her vanilla oat milk and went over to the cashier counter. 

Suddenly, a voice from behind the counter arose. “Koa! Long time no see, huh?” “Haha, hey George!” 

“Aye, lookie here Koa, boosted! Neat, huh?” As George said this, he pointed to his right shoulder. 

“I love to see it!” Replied Koa. 

She had recently helped organize an event to raise awareness of the importance of vaccinations. All of a sudden, another voice chimed into the conversation. It was Mrs. Ginger who to many, including Koa, was considered the neighborhood grandma. “Hey, darlin’!” 

“Mrs. Ginger! How are you doing?” 

“Ugh, just great, sugar.” She replied. 

“Hey, Mrs. Ginger! Oh, have you gotten vaccinated yet?” said George as he scanned the two milk cartons. 

“Oh, you see I would love to, but my son’s girlfriend was just telling me a whole bunch of scary things about getting the vaccine, and I just don’t know if it’s safe enough.” Uh-oh. Koa couldn’t let Mrs. Ginger get pulled into this misinformation. “Oh no, it’s nothing like that Mrs. Ginger! There are no severe side effects of it, you won’t become magnetic (I promise you that!), and there most certainly won’t be a chip inserted in you after you get the vaccine!” Koa was prepared for that response. She was so tired of the misinformation around the vaccine. 

As Mrs. Ginger stepped towards the counter to give George her things, she said “wait, really? Are you sure, Hon?” 

“Trust me, Mrs. Ginger. Trust me.” Koa added. 

“Hey, why don’t you check out the clinic tomorrow?” George mentioned as he placed Mrs. Ginger’s clementines in a paper bag. 

“You know what, I might just take that up! Thanks, cuties!” 

“No problem Mrs. Ginger, have a nice day! And make sure to tell your son’s girlfriend about the new information you learned today!” 

“Of course, peach!” 

As Koa walked back home, she was proud of herself. She was able to help someone, and as long as one person knows the truth, then everyone else will too.

Here are the overseas winners:

First Place

Conquering Covid
Arundhuti Biswas

Second Place

Covid 19 Experience
Abdellah Oumouh

Third Place

My Experience with Covid 19 Lockdown
Abdeljalil Ait Onjar