Earlier this month, students from around metro Atlanta created in the annual Atlanta Hawks Poetry Slam at the Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown. The students were charged with writing a pome with the theme “My Atlanta,” with a chance to win iPads, laptop computers, signed Hawks memorabilia and, of course, bragging rights.

For the first time, judges could not decide on just one first place winner, so crowned two – Joshua Lewis and Lauren Poe. Second place went to Corsha Driver and third to Max Cantor. Below are the winning poems.

My Atlanta
By Joshua Lewis

When you fall, do not lie and cry.

This is what Sherman inadvertently taught her with his neck ties.
She was once Terminus and now something much greater.
She grew from the flames meant to undo,
Only to become the furnace which now tempers her children.

She is a mother to many and a woman of great history.
A comforter of civil and home of the rights,
But what I’ve noticed about this woman
is that she is no stranger to survival.

She has seen and come to a dream almost fulfilled.
That is why on new relations she now builds.

My sweet Atlanta,
The survivalist who makes her future from her own abyss,
Because in this life you can’t wait nor afford for things to go amiss,
So I’m proud she was there to teach me this.
When you fall, rise up and bring a friend,
And know your legacy will know no end.
Don’t falter where your roads come to bend.,
Because you have wings and no not fins.
Why walk when your capacity is the sky with no end?
You are the child of Phoenix,
So go and be the light the sun watches.

My Atlanta
By Lauren Poe

The Atlanta that elicits images of Candy Ladies, D4L and Hood wide talent shows looking for the best hood dancers.
You see, my Atlanta, different from your Buckhead and Range Rover, is an extension of me.
No disrespect but I haven’t reached my pinnacle yet so that ain’t me.
Instead I have vivid memories of Westside hoods and Box Chevys.
The city that created me.
I am forever grateful for all that you have made me.
The old heads love to talk about Jelly Bean Skating Rink,
But Sunday nights Cascade is our thing.
A pulsating vein in the art of Hip Hop.
The A gave birth to Kings and Queens.
My city made it cool to dance again with the lean with it rock with it.
Contributing to the evolution of southern culture and now their ain’t no stopping it.
Red paint splattered from MLK to 1 Philips Drive.
Chucking up the deuce like I’m saying “Peace up, A town down” when I’m riding by.
And yeah we slipped up and missed out on our ring but true Atlantans know it’s still red and black over everything.

A Place To Be Free
By Corsha Driver

He came to Atlanta to be free,
his family didn’t accept what he wanted to be.
It was what he wanted, what he loved,
even though he disobeyed the One above.
Uncontrollable feelings–only one thing was appealing.

Crying and cutting and stressing – praying –
“I wanna die! I wanna die!” is what he kept saying.
I gave him a little advice, told him to think twice,
But with his mind made up, he was in the ER that night.

The bullying became serious, other people became curious.
Negativity, hatred, and betrayal made him furious.
He needed to get away as soon as possible,
But he knew that it would be a tough obstacle.

Making the decision to finally leave,
The thought of not being judged gave him a big relief.
Georgia State earning his doctorate degree,
To this day, my cousin thanks me
For leading him to Atlanta, a place where he could finally BE
with the man he loved, his soul restored in peace.

What does Atlanta mean to me?
Salvation of my family!
Jubilation of diversity!
Historically a rite of passage escaping inhumanity!
Atlanta dries tears of discrimination, prejudice, and animosity.
This is what Atlanta means to me.

My Atlanta
By Max Kantor

My Atlanta helped
Spark a revolution.
My Atlanta rebuilt
stronger and wiser
My Atlanta invented a drink
That was not only tasty,
But changed the soda world
My Atlanta began asking
“What’ll ya have?!”
And taking naked dogs
Out for walks.
My Atlanta was taken up
And Gone With the Wind.
My Atlanta spread its wings
And took flight
With Delta Airlines
And an international airport.
My Atlanta protects
The health of the world.
My Atlanta saw love, hate,
Violence and peace,
Marches for equality,
And a man who
Inspired millions
With a dream.
My Atlanta hosted
The world in ’96.
My Atlanta
Scored touchdowns
With the Super Bowl,
Nailed free-throws
with Final Four,
And skated
With the NHL All-Stars.
My Atlanta aspires for greatness,
Just like me.
Just like you.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.