Poetry Contest

NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts
2018 Mental Health Poetry Contest


Theme: “What is your song?”



Click here to download all Top Ten Poems

1st Place:     My victory song by Megha Sood

2nd Place:    More Than Words by Laurie Goldman

3rd Place:     Symphony by Maria del Carmen Rodriguez

4th Place:     Freedom by Brenda Vaughn

5th Place:     My Song (1) by Kelly Brennan

6th Place:     Cosmic Masterpiece by Sacha Batra

7th Place:     My Freedom Songs by Nicole Spector

8th Place:    “notes of silence” by Deesha Arabatti

9th Place:     Flirting with Suicide by Edward W. Fashole-Luke

10th Place:    My song (2) by Jaime Chaifetz


Voter comments:

I really appreciate that these 3 poems, while following the rules of contest of course, show great originality and deviation from the usual- as if NO ONE else could have possibly written them, and they do not rely on inferred cliches or common rhyme schemes to do the real work of imagery. That is important. Thank you.

All wonderful. Congratulations and Best Wishes to all who submitted!

All of the poems were strong it was hard to choose.

Very creative poems and so heartfelt.

Emotions are beautifully expressed by the poets – impressive and moving! THANK YOU for running this contest.

I was impressed with all of them. 

I voted according to the emotions that these poems left on me. It is shame I can’t put them all on the first position. All of them are quite good.

I love the poem written by the writer!! Always beautiful, affectionate and well connected with the readers!!

Wonderful opportunity to share talents!!

Just Wow! I feel so much connected.

Amazing writing!!

Wonderful idea!



NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts
2017 Mental Health Poetry Contest

Theme: “the process or processes you use to help you make it through the tough times”


Click here to download all Top Ten Poems

1st Place:     “You Heal Me, O World” by Joyti Singh

2nd Place:     “I Sit by the Sea” by Verdie Eaton

3rd Place:     “A Hero of My Own” by Daniel Shao

4th Place:     “How I Cope” by Annie Glynn

5th Place:     “The road to healing” by Kelly Brennan

6th Place:     “Never Stop Letting It Out” by Jennifer Bristol

7th Place:     “As the ink pours out on paper” by Agnes Abdelwahabe

8th Place:     “Ten minutes” by Swati Ambole

9th Place:     “A Motorcycle” by Ariana Landeira

10th Place:     “H.A.L.T” by Jeffrey Varanyak


Voter comments:

It was really difficult to choose a winner. The poems are beautiful stylistically and more so metaphorically. It made me smile to read them. They are all winners!

All these heartfelt poems were so poignant. I had difficulty choosing only 3. I think all of them should win First Place.

So much creativity each and every one of you. To me, all of you are winners.

Beautiful, creative, and very moving.

Great and courageous heartfelt poems.

All the poems were wonderful as well as inspiring.

Enjoyed them all! It is so healthy to put everything down on paper.

All of the poems are great and give food for thought. Thanks!




NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts
2016 Mental Health Poetry Contest

Theme: “Positive aspects of having dealt with mental health challenges”


Click here to download all Top Ten Poems

1st Place:      A Brighter Day by Nora Weiss

2nd Place:     Thanks by Sneha Bolisetty

3rd Place:      The Upside of Mental Health Challenges by Annie Glynn

4th Place:      Never Did I Think” by Stephen R. Garvey

5th Place:      Seed by Mercedes P. Kobrin

6th Place:      Joy Division by Laurie Goldman

7th Place:      Untitled (you are not alone) by Patricia Korsak

8th Place:     “Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) The Good Stuff by Valerie Ryan

9th Place:      Untitled (a gentle touch) by Melanie Aaron Pappas

10th Place:    The Never-Fading by Melissa Seymour


Voter comments:

Great idea, all poems are wonderful and expressive and raw.

All of these poets will receive a blue ribbon. In their own way, each poet conveyed their feelings both beautifully and thoughtfully. Thank you, NAMI NJ, for holding this poetry contest.

These poems speak to the heart. Most of us experience disfunction/mental illness within our families. These poems help us to see the struggles those suffering and living with these issues have to endure.

It is so good to see these struggles and triumphs put into words.

Congratulations to all poets for the marvelous efforts. Some verses brought tears in my eyes. All poems are great and soaked with thoughts of what this illness is about and, hopefully, someday there will be a curative solutions.

All great submissions this year, very hard to choose. I love this type of contest – it’s inspiring and enlightening to hear from our friends with MI.

Beautiful means of acknowledging all the talented people around us.

Hard to make a choice when they are all so very personal and well written!

All of the poems are from a deep place and I thank all of the poets for sharing.




NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts
2015 Mental Health Poetry Contest

Theme: “Your note from a healing journey”


Click here to download all Top Ten Poems
(listed in alphabetical order by poem title )

1st Place:      “I KEPT WALKING” by Jyoti Singh

2nd Place:    “Healing Journey” by Jennifer Freund

3rd Place:     “The Hourglass” by Colleen Wermuth

4th Place:      “Untitled” by Shanna Milligan

5th Place:      “Clarity Soothes the Loudest Noise” by John Di Stasio III

6th Place:      “Untitled” by Steven Kotopoulis

7th Place:      “As the White Dove flies” by Usha Chatty

8th Place:      “Misophonia” by Maithreyi Ravula

9th Place:      “Dark Clouds and Rainbows” by Shirley A. Todd

10th Place:    “Unclaimed Freight” by Janet Lynn Berkowitz


Voter comments:

 “With a son who has bi-polar, who has suffered for 20 plus years, these poems remind me of his journey….many of these feelings are mirrored in his writings.  But it is the message of hope that drew me to these.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the poetry on this site.

What a tremendous selection of poems…heartfelt, strong, soft, sorrowful and uplifting. I applaud each and every one.  May those reading the poems, who are on their own journey, be touched by what they read and be inspired to seek the road of recovery.

Putting feelings into words is hard enough; putting troubled feelings and thoughts into verse is harder still. I applaud all who made the effort.

Beautiful poignant poetry…truly makes us reflect inwards…very difficult to choose Top Three…they are all winners!! 

Captured not only the darkness but hope.

It gives me hope for my son who suffers from depression – that most of these poems talk about recovery.

Reading these poems reminded me that pain is part of healing.

They brought tears to my eyes.

I pray that each of you will continue your journey in a positive way.

Excellent event to encourage expressions of the feelings of the authors, and to provide the readers some insights into their difficult journeys.

I wish I could hug each contestant. They are loved and their creativity is a beautiful way to share themselves with others. You are not alone. Everyone is fighting their own battle. Love and peace to all.




NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts
2014 Mental Health Poetry Contest


Click here to download all Top Ten Poems
(listed in alphabetical order by poem title )

1st Place:     “Untitled” by Kelly Brennan

2nd Place:    “Recovery” by Valerie Brown

3rd Place:     “HOPE” by Patricia M. Cannon

4th Place:     “Black Bird” by Stewart Charles

5th Place:     “Untitled” by Virginia Erazo

6th Place:     “Different” by Jennifer Manning

7th Place:     “Skydiver” by Suzanne Mills

8th Place:     “Untitled” by Hannah Morris

9th Place:     “Untitled” by Carly Rizza

10th Place:    “I never told you” by Rebecca Yu


Voter comments:

“All poems were remarkable.”

“I was so impressed with each one that it was difficult to decide. It takes a lot of courage to open your feelings to total strangers and do it in a creative way. I think each one is a winner! Congratulations to all who participated!”

“Beautiful and heartfelt, some strong emotions no doubt.”

“Great idea in continuing this form of art’s expression. The founder (of NAMI NJ Expressive Arts Program), Dara Axelrod, would be very proud that the seed that was planted has continued to grow.”

“Each poem was so well done and showed the pain that the mentally ill suffer. How difficult it is to cope with these illnesses as the patient and as a friend or family member. Thank goodness NAMI is here to help… This contest was a great idea and a chance for the poets to put into words the feelings and challenges, emotions and work that these illnesses bring. It is also a way to speak out to the community and explain what getting involved can do. It can help save a life. What a prospect. How very beautiful.”

My sister lives with schizophrenia. The poems presented help me to understand what maybe her struggle. Thank you.

“Congratulations to all of the poets who have shared their work and truly captured the essence of some of the significant themes relating to mental health.”

“I enjoyed reading all 10 poems. I would encourage all those who I did not pick as “winners”, together with those who I did, to continue writing. In my experience, it is the writing process itself, which is highly cathartic.”

For more information on the contest, please contact Jacquese Armstrong, Coordinator of NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Expressive Arts Poetry Program, at poetry@naminj.org.