Poetry Contest

Poetry ContestHilda Simmons Levitt

2021 Contest Winners

Congratulations to the following poets, whose work was selected by this year's judge, Nayelly Barrios. Thank you to all students who entered the contest! 

Grand Prize

Aileen Castaneda, “Grey House” & “Empty Crib”

Second Prize

Richard Frost, “Mama”

Third Prize

Richard Osuamkpe, “Anchor of Sorrows” & “Beginnings”

Fourth Prize

Alecia Gothan, “Coming Out” 

Honorable Mentions

Jennifer Maduabuchuku, “Sestina Poem: Ode to Natural Hair”
Kairi Montanez, “Him“
Allyson Murillo-Rankin, “A Thousand Faces on a Shelf”
Camila Justus, “Social Dilemma”

Due to ongoing COVID concerns, we were unable to hold a live awards event this year. To share the work of the outstanding student poets featured in this year's contest and that of our judge, we hope you will enjoy these recordings of their prize-winning pieces (presented in the order they're listed above).


A word from contest judge
Nayelly Barrios, who also shares poems of her own ...


The Hilda Simmons Levitt Poetry Contest, with more than $1,000 in prize money going to the winning poets, has been called one of the most prestigious in the state.


It was established in 1988 by the late Stanley Levitt to honor his wife’s memory, and her love of poetry and Midland College. Hilda Simmons Levitt graduated with honors in journalism from Louisiana State University where she also studied under poet Robert Penn Warren. In 1979, at the age of 62, Mrs. Levitt decided to pursue writing again. For the next seven years, until her death in 1986, she studied creative writing at Midland College.

The contest is now underwritten by Mrs. Levitt’s daughter Carol Schwartz, who lives in Washington, D.C.

2020 HSL Poetry Contest


Any full-time or part-time student registered in English classes at Midland College at any time in the past year is eligible to compete. Eligible students may submit as many as five entries, but no contestant will be awarded more than one prize. Prior Grand Award winners are not eligible.

Format Requirements

Your entry may be disqualified if you fail to follow format requirements listed below on this page.

Entry Deadline

The entry deadline is March 26, 2021


  • Grand Award: $600 and Award Plaque
  • Second Place Award: $400 and Award Plaque
  • Third Place Award: $200 and Award Plaque
  • Fourth Place Award: $100 and Award Plaque

    Note: Midland College reserves the right to withhold awards if entries are lacking in quality.


Nayelly BarriosNayelly Barrios is a Rio Grande borderlands native. She earned a BA in English from the University of Texas-Pan American, in Edinburg, Texas. While at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, she earned an MA in English and an MFA in Poetry. She is a CantoMundo Fellow. Her poetry has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Puerto del Sol, Notre Dame Review, and others.

She is a co-founder of Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley, an organization that advocates for immigrant rights and has received the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. When she is not writing, you will find her caring for her house plants, cooking, reading, and fighting the patriarchy."


Awards Celebration

The Awards Celebration is held each year to recognize contest winners. This year, the awards will be announced electronically by May 8th.


Selected writings from the Hilda Simmons Levitt Contest will be published in Tableau, an annual student publication produced through cooperation of the Departments of English and Journalism and may also appear on the Midland College website. The material published will be selected by the Hilda Simmons Levitt Poetry Contest Committee and approved by the President of Midland College.

Formatting Requirements

Each poem should be submitted on a separate page in a Microsoft Word (doc,docx) document using the following guidelines:

  • Use 1” margins on all sides.
  • Center the title, capitalizing important letters (follow standard MLA guidelines for titles) one inch from the top of the first page. Do not include your name or any other identifying information.
  • Double-space after the title and between stanzas. Otherwise, single-space throughout.
  • Place the title and the page number in a header in the top right corner every page.
  • Do not include your name anywhere in the entry.
  • Your filename should be the title of the entry.


Contestants may enter a maximum of five poems written in any form and any length.

The entry deadline was March 26, 2021.


Brendan Egan
(432) 685-4638


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