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Herricks student wins international poetry contest

Joanna Lau, a senior at Herricks High School,

Joanna Lau, a senior at Herricks High School, won first place in the Social Justice Club Initiative's International Poetry of Resistance Contest. Credit: Herricks School District

A Herricks High School senior with a passion for poetry has won the top spot in an international contest.

Joanna Lau, 18, placed first in the International Poetry of Resistance Contest sponsored by the Social Justice Club Initiative, a student-driven organization that strives to nurture youths' capacity to lead lives guided by the ideal of service to humanity. The contest received more than 250 submissions from 12 countries.

Lau's winning work, "Between Dawn and Indigo," explored the life transition, or lack of it, associated with a person's 18th birthday. She won $500.

"I love how you can explore so much imagery with words," Lau said.

Submissions were evaluated by 10 judges who are members of the Social Justice Club, which began in Kansas City, and a local poet there, Annie Newcomer. The top 13 poems were sent to Joaquin Zihuatanejo, a teacher and poet who has won the Individual World Poetry Slam and the World Cup of Poetry Slam.

"The poem has such a fluid and song-like sonic quality," he said of Lau's piece. "It is simply an astonishing poem."

Lau, a flutist, is co-president of her school's Tri-M Music Honor Society and vice president of the National Honor Society. She recently won a Gold Medal and four Gold Keys in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her poetry and nonfiction and second place in the Brooklyn Poets' Whitman Bicentennial Poetry Contest.

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