Submit a poem telling us what home means to you.
As a proud member of the Content team here at Vocal, I, along with an industry-leading task force of judges, had the pleasure of reading how home feels to over 2,500 brilliant creators. With each stanza, a sharper visual appeared—articulating the deepest emotions of comfort, disdain, and longing; and with each line, a wider doorway—welcoming the Poets community in through the unique timbre of your written voices. Thank you for such a beautiful experience.
As the writer behind our #VocalSpotlight feature, I have been creating with and alongside you for a long time, and it's given me a deeper look into some of our top creators' lives. Naturally, with the conclusion of the Homecoming Challenge, I couldn't resist another opportunity to peer through.
The winning creators have already been announced, but let's recap:
First Place: "There's a Tv" by Morgan McCoy
Sometimes, if not most times, "home" changes with a broader understanding of the world. Future happenings tweak past occurrences and the feeling of home changes with the times. Morgan proposes that, maybe her home wasn't so bad after all.
I can hear the laughter
Rolling from my belly
Like film on cassette tapes.
I know exactly where we built forts out of old sheets
And I can smell the crackling of gas stoves
And hurricane chicken.
With its broken doors
And bar sealed windows
And I am possessed with the thought
Maybe there are good things painted behind the wall paper.
"Sometimes," Morgan continues, "I forget to address how / Hazy home feels." At some point, maybe it's up to the holder of memories to define them. Left unaddressed, the feeling of home could leave a melancholic weight on everyday meals, songs, and experiences. Perhaps Morgan is proposing that, with a small change of heart, that weight won't be so heavy; that the actualization of the past isn't defined by the past at all.
This is powerful. This is why she won the grand prize.
Second Place: "Rice and other small miracles" by Jesse Warewaa
Home, like the dishes in Jesse's poem, is what we can make it. Jesse writes from a first-generation perspective, one that worries for her migrant father's health and happiness. Too much salt, not enough opportunity, too much between his desired means and reality. "We make what we have enough," Jesse assured her father over meals through "child's smalltalk." Now, as she grows older, she knows:
There is a special ventricle,
I am convinced,
in the hearts of children born to
Activated by the scents and flavours
of foods from countries where we were
never born, the ventricle pumps
something of home
into our motherland-
or fatherland-starved blood.
When an immigrants 'what-ifs' and 'could-have-beens' shield the valor in what is, it's up to the first generation to see the triumphs. Jesse and her father shared modest meals at home—despite their limited resources, each meal was perfect every time. This feeling, tied to her father's native land, is Jesse's home; and it's more than enough—it's "love."
The way Jesse articulates the connection to her father and sees through his eyes is what set this apart. Her home is tied to a culture she was never directly a part of; and still, it defined her. It made her appreciate the flavors of generations past, and it won her the second place trophy.
Third Place: "Regeneration" by Colleen Borst
Not only did we learn something from "Regeneration," we felt a little different after reading it. If cells are constantly regenerating, what does that say about who we are; what we've experienced; who we know ourselves and others to be?
Does this mean I have already lost
more of myself
than I started with?
That my constant home
is, in reality, less constant than
I convince myself?
What pieces of me
have already been lost
due to changing circuits between neurons?
What pieces of my memories of you
have already been lost
with the half of my heart
I mean... come on. That's chilling. The creativity behind Colleen's execution of the prompt is special. "Regeneration" relates itself to home in so many ways. The deeper I dig, the more mind-blown I become. Well done. Well deserving of the third place prize.
Of course, everyone’s a winner in our eyes. To offer a little transparency around these challenges, it's not exactly easy picking the winners. There are multiple short lists made. The curation process is a long one, and that's not only because you deserve our full attention, but it's because of how hard it is to choose.
(Luckily, one of our next challenges has the largest payout to date, and the most opportunities to win.)
As for the Homecoming Challenge, here are the judges’ favorites that just barely didn’t make the podium:
"The Scent Alone" by Ess Lee
"A Town Meant for Passing Through" by Chelsey Burden
"city boy" by Dane BH
"Serendipity" by Maco
"Bunyip Ballad" by Josie
"shades of blue" by Emily Long
"Galiano’s Arbutus" by Charley More
Home begins as a place and becomes a feeling. When does that transition happen? I'm not sure; but one way or another it defines us. It defines the way we think about the past, the meals we eat with our loved ones, the way we come to terms with change—it defines the stories we share. Thank you again to all of the fantastic poetry submissions. The Vocal community never ceases to amaze me.
There was another Homecoming entry that didn't quite make the final cut, and that's the late Tom Bradbury's "The Wrong Side Of The Water."
Tom was such a gift to the Vocal community, and he is deeply missed. This was Tom's first submission to the Poets community. In honor of the great man whose words still entrance us all, here's "The Wrong Side Of The Water":
By far, my favorite part about what I do is connecting with creators—you're all just so uniquely spectacular in my eyes.
Congratulations again to the winners and runners-up!