Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois Angela Jackson Announces Golden Poets Poetry Contest Winners

Press Releases
Laura Kenton

Read Time 5 minutes
July 11, 2024

For Immediate Release   

Laura Kenton
Phone: (773) 961 - 9040
Email: poet.laureate@ilhumanities.org

CHICAGO, July 11, 2024 - Award-winning poet, novelist, playwright, and Illinois Poet Laureate Angela Jackson is thrilled to announce the winning poems of the Golden Poets Poetry Contest she initiated to recognize Illinois poets over the age of 70.

“I have a passion to showcase how poetry is used as a voice of expression and empowerment. Poetry from seniors invokes a wisdom and a life’s journey from which we can all learn, said Jackson. “The selection process was an arduous task with so many deeply personal poems.”

Assisting Jackson with the judging were Whittney Jones and Joseph Dominic Saunders, appointed Ambassadors of Poetry, a program Jackson initiated at the beginning of her tenure as Illinois Poet Laureate in 2020 to allow young poets to conduct residencies and promote poetry throughout the state, making poetry accessible and engaging for diverse audiences. Newly acclaimed young Chicago poet Imani Elizabeth Jackson also assisted with the judging of the more than 260 poems submitted for the contest.  Each poem was judged in ten categories with a maximum total score of 100. First and second place winners received cash prizes of $500 and $250 respectively (there was a tie for 2nd place). The prize money was donated by Chicago area philanthropists Dr. Cynthia Henderson and Prentiss Jackson.

  • 1st Place Winner ($1,000) – Stronger Values by Cathy Safiran (age 75)
  • 2nd Place Winner ($250) – Sulphur Cosmos (The Friendship Flower) by Judith Dubin (age 85)
  • 2nd Place Winner ($250) – Memoir by Adagio Micaletti (age 86)

“Stronger Values has a direct beauty. It is engaging and musical. It says a great deal and is deserving of first place,” comments Jackson. “I appreciate the pacing of Sulphur Cosmos (The Friendship Flower). The quiet conversational quality is as the bonding it represents. It has a wonderful surprise at the end. Also deserving of recognition is Memoir which is fascinating in its juxtaposition of nouns and images. It creates a memoir of images,” said Jackson. 

The Winning Poems

Cathy Safiran, (age 75)

Stronger Values

This cold winter day just like 

a hundred and fifty years ago

the sun still bestows warmth

reminding us winter will be gone soon

the earth will again awaken and renew.

Walking Strong, my wife of many years,

once sat on a buffalo hide in a sheltered

place away from the wind in warm light 

softly singing the gentle songs that comforted

our children when they were small.

I remember the day she finished the headdress

I wore when they took me to Washington D.C.

One autumn my wife gathered eagle feathers

steamed them over the cooking pot

shaped them into crisp perfection

with her strong fingers.

In the full moon before the coldest month

she wrapped hair of the tatanka around her hands

keeping them warm as she stitched trade beads

onto a headband with ancient designs

having meaning for our people.

the people you call Lakota Sioux.

I still watch from afar

but do not understand

why one would buy this headdress

I wore many many years ago when

I was young and strong.

I want this person to tell me

why he treasures objects

but not the people who made them.

I would wish to sit with this person

tell him the story of my wife, Walking Strong.

Judith Dubin (age 85)

Sulphur Cosmos
(The Friendship Flower)

I love the way the conversation

starts with new roofs – metal or shingle –

then falls into the squirrels

who won’t walk on metal and

whether they’re brown or black this year

and then to the feed corn

and what a shame it’s GMO.

Sharing elder wisdom

two strangers growing side by side

while we stand in the church parking lot

waiting for our shuttle

to Lifelong Learning

the early Spring air turning

our words to mist,

wrinkled hands in denim pockets.

No thoughts of struggle now

no matter longevity or the

disgrace of illness

We’re daring the mystery

taking lessons from the Cosmos

that dance on fragile slender stalks

and just like them,

for as long as we can

we’ll bask in sulphur sunshine

and reach up to touch the sky.

Adagio Micaletti (age 86)


Risk to write 


Owner of thoughts,

a thumbprint of lines,


words―dark, disparate, 

disheveled reflections. 

Pathways of my brain untamed



Refuse to unleash my spice

cast nice.

Scandalous to be flawed 

pagan on the page. 


Aphrodite lying fallow,

ego in the spotlight, 

exposed, naked as opposed to bare. 

Dare to bear.


One strophe memory’s encoded 

refrain―boundless Bosch— 

repeats the chorus. Expose, question,

quarry the need to know.


A phantom dive to mine—betrayal, loss, 

ridged by guilt―true and blind.

Decompress. Resurface. Express.


One life in time.


Who, what, why, 

dig a fossil riddle deep?

Quell my quest—

lest I weep.


Spur of the past gnaws my core.

Wisdom, shrewd chanteuse, veils the door

endures the tithe of heartache—watches

errant angels soar.


Passion, courage, curiosity—masculine vs. feminine in me.

Does the fallen apple write about the tree?

Repress Pandora’s box? 

Turn the key!

About Angela Jackson

Jackson is in her fourth year of her gubernatorial appointment as Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois. The Chicago poet, playwright and novelist is the fifth Illinois Poet Laureate. She has three published chapbooks and four volumes of poetry. She has received numerous honors for both fiction and poetry, including the 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Black Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award from the Black Ensemble Theater, the Pushcart Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. Her poetry collection All These Roads Be Luminous (1998) was nominated for the National Book Award, her debut novel, Where I Must Go (2009) won the American Book Award, and It Seems Like a Mighty Long Time (2015) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry among other awards. Jackson’s recent awards include the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the African American Arts Alliance’s Black Excellence Awards, the Poetry Foundation’s 2022 Ruth Lily Poetry Prize Award, most recently, The African America Literature and Culture Society’s Darwin Turner Award in recognition of her contributions to literature. Jackson also participates in the Illinois Humanities’ Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards program and currently serves in residence with Illinois Humanities. 

About the other Judges

Whittney Jones
Jones is the author of The Old Works (The Heartland Review Press, 2019), a poetry chapbook. Her poems have been published in Blackbird, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, and RHINO, among others. She was winner of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award in the 2014 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition.

Joseph Dominic Saunders
Saunders is a talented poet, teacher and mentor to youth of all ages throughout the City of Chicago and beyond. As an Ambassador of Poetry, he goes beyond conducting numerous residencies throughout Chicago exposing youth to various poets and encouraging them to create their own poems.

Imani Elizabeth Jackson
Jackson is a young award-winning new poet working across various disciplines. She is the author of Flag (forthcoming from Futureppoem, September 2024) and the chapbooks Context for arboreal exchanges (Belladonna 2023) and saltsitting (g l o s s, 2020). Among her awards are a 2023 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, Futurepoem’s 2020 Other Futures Award and the 2020 CD Wright Prize. 

About Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.

About the Office of the Illinois Poet Laureate

The modern office of the laureate was established in seventeenth-century England. Then, the laureate's primary duty was to sing the praises of royalty and to celebrate their state occasions, to be, as it were, a court poet. Thankfully, that role was abolished in the early 1800s. In America, our state and national laureates have been asked to devise their own programs for promoting the art of poetry among the populace.

In Illinois, the office of the Poet Laureate hopes to undertake projects that will make poetry more available and more accessible to people in their everyday lives. The notion here is similar to that of poet Marianne Moore, who remarked that reading poetry, even "with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in / it after all, a place for the genuine." An ambassador for poetry, the Laureate promotes citizens' awareness of poetry as well as heightens their appreciation of the art form. In sum, the Laureate strives to forge a meaningful communion between poetry and the state's populace.

Learn more

From the Office of the Illinois Poet Laureate