New York, NY (May 2, 2014)—Marie Howe, State Poet of the State of New York and Corinne Evens, a philanthropist, in coordination with the Academy of American Poets, the New York State Writers Institute, and the New York State Office of Cultural Education, are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Poetry Unites contest for the best short essay about a favorite poem.  The winners of the contest, which was open to all New York State residents, are in alphabetical order:

  • Marita Boulos, literacy program coordinator from Rouse Points, Clinton County, NY, for her straightforward and eloquent prose that candidly brings John Donne’s “Song” into her village.
  • Rosanna Oh, from Jericho, Long Island, a student, for her deeply personal response to the humility and precision in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays.”
  • Matthew Powers, a teacher from Little Falls, NY, for the way he realistically invokes the incantatory and communal nature of poetry in Mark Strand’s “Lines for Winter.”
  • Paul White a healthcare provider from Cheektowaga, NY, for recognizing the talismanic power and healing capacity of poetry in David Ignatow’s “Sunday at the State Hospital.”

The winners will each be featured in short film profiles directed by Ewa Zadrzynska, which will be posted on as well as the State Library, and NYS Writers Institute’s websites, and may be broadcast by public television across the United States. They will be awarded a Certificate of Merit and invited to a celebratory film screening in October in NYC.
The jury selection members included:

  • Marie Howe, State Poet of the State of New York, 2012-2014
  • Jeffrey Cannel, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Office of Cultural Education
  • Nina Darnton, Author
  • Donald Faulkner, Director, New York State Writers Institute
  • Edward Hirsch, Poet and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets
  • Robert Pinsky, Poet, former US Poet Laureate and the Founder of Favorite Poem Project
  • Ewa Zadrzynska, Writer and Filmmaker

The Jury also awarded Certificates of Merit to six additional  participants:

  • Helen Ruggieri, poet, from Olean, NY, for her essay on James Wright’s poem: “A Blessing”
  • Louis Altman, a lawyer from Albany, NY, for his essay on Wallace Steven’s poem “The Sense of Order”
  • Philip McCallion, Ph.D. from Albany, NY, for his essay on Seamus Heaney’s poem “Digging”
  • Sharon de Silva from Schenectady, NY, for her essay on Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son”
  • Martin Mahler retiree from Brooklyn, NY, for his essay on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem: “Lament”
  • Ben Kroup, editor, writer, from from Waterford NY, for his essay on Kristtijonas Donelaitis’ poem “Metai”

Each of their essays will be published on the Academy of American Poets website,

The New York State Poetry Unites contest is based on a model that has been held successfully in Europe. Developed and produced by Ewa Zadrzynska for the Evens Foundation, the first “Poetry Unites – My Favorite Poem” contest was held in Poland in 2008, where it has since become an annual event. In 2012 the Evens Foundation extended the contest to other European countries.  So far the contest has been held twice in Germany, five times in Poland, and once in Bulgaria.

Ewa Zadrzynska, who produces the short films of the winners talking about their favorite poem said, “The project, which celebrates the integrating power of poetry, introduces the medium as an instrument of mutual understanding in the world. The goal is to promote poetry and poetry readers in the hope that their enthusiasm will be contagious to thousands, if not millions, of others.” 

Out of the 124 essay submission 18 were written about Robert Frost poems, and four on Mary Oliver’s. Edna Vincent St Millay, Langston Hughes, and William Butler Yeats poems were the subject of three essays each. Other poets chosen by the NYS residents were written by Elizabeth Bishop, Shane Koyczan, Wallace Stevens, and John Donne, among others. Among the 124 favorite poems of the NYS residents, only two were written in other than English language, and were read in translation. The poems were written by Polish Nobel Prize winners: Wislawa Szymborska and Czeslaw Milosz. Seventy percent of the submissions were from women. The youngest participant was 10, the oldest 95. The largest number of entries came from the Albany area and NYC.

Media Contact:   Ewa Zadrzynska / [email protected] / (917) 774-8834


History of the Poetry Unites Contest in Europe

In Europe, the Poetry Unites contest was developed and produced by Ewa Zadrzynska for the Evens Foundation. Ms. Zadrzynska, a US and Polish citizen, saw the films on poetry lovers on Robert Pinsky’s PBS program one day in the early 2000s. When she met Robert Pinsky during a Poetry Festival organized by Edward Hirsch and Adam Zagajewski in Cracow in 2004 she asked Robert Pinsky if she could bring the project to Europe. With his permission and with the financial help of the Evens Foundation she started the program in Poland in 2006.

The project consisted of the production of a series of five-minute films, shown on television, the internet, and in the cinemas, in each of which a particular poetry lover speaks about his or her life in the context of presenting a favorite poem. Initial broadcasts began on Polish National Television in February 2006 and have been continued once a week, till today. Screenings of the films took place in France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Israel, Hungary, and the United States.

Over the course of seven years, the public broadcasting network in Poland presented series of 85 films on Polish, French, Italian, German, Bulgarian, Belgian, American, Israeli poetry lovers from the ages of 6 to 94 to its millions of viewers. The films were all directed by Ewa Zadrzynska and financed by the Evens Foundation.

In 2008, the Evens Foundation launched the First Nationwide Poetry Unites – My Favorite Poem contest in Poland. The contest was opened to school-goers of all grades.

The contest became an annual event in Poland. In 2012 the Evens Foundation decided to extend the contest to other European countries.  So far the contest has been held twice in Germany, five times in Poland, and once in Bulgaria.

Concluding galas took place in Warsaw and in Berlin. The partner in Berlin was the Literaturwerkstatt Institution.

The State Minister of Culture and Media in Germany, Bernd Neumann, and the Polish Minister of Culture, Bogdan Zdrojewski, were supportive of the contests.

In 2013 Poetry Unites was launched in Bulgaria, Germany and Poland. From approximately 1000 entries 8 winners were selected. They all met in Warsaw in June 2013 during the Grand Finale. The films about the winners were premiered at the gala, and are currently being broadcast by National TV in Poland, Germany, and Bulgaria.