Maddy Lee, Hale’s Award-Winning Poet

It’s not uncommon for high schoolers to say that they are interested in writing. However, very few will pursue that interest. Sophomore Maddy Lee is one of those few.

The Elaine Wetterauer Writing Contest is a contest open to all K-12 schools in the Writers in the Schools, WITS, partner schools. Both the contest and the WITS program are run by Seattle Arts and Lectures, a local non-profit group.

The contest gets its name from Elaine Wetterauer, who was once the Language Arts Department Chair here at Hale.

Lee began writing her poem on the Wednesday before the Friday it was due.

“First I was like, ‘Alright let’s do something easy,’ so I wrote a poem about a blueberry, cause, what the heck,” Lee said.

Lee’s path to winning the award is not something out of a storybook. It is plain, relatable, and real. Her prime motive for entering was not some grand aspiration, but simply the allure of honors credit.

“I wasn’t expecting to win,” Lee said. “One day during break my mom said, ‘Maddy you should check your email.’”

The poem wasn’t some long epic that had been revised and poured over time and time again. The first draft was written two days before the deadline.

“I actually wrote it during math class… It came from the heart, I didn’t have to think about it,” Lee recalled. “I decided to do it on being adopted… It’s kind of a touchy subject for me.”

The poem is a very personal piece. It deals with themes of abandonment, forgiveness, and hope. When she said it came from the heart it isn’t hard to tell that she was being honest.

The official recital of the poem was at Benaroya Hall on Jan. 18. The main event was Jesmyn Ward, the National Book award winner for her book “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” The theme of the writing contest was ‘sing, _____, sing’ in reference to that novel.

“Mr. Greenway scared me … he sent me this article that was about Jesmyn Ward being in Seattle and he said ‘It’s going to be packed,’” Lee said. “Mr. Greenway showed me a picture of what it looks like inside [Benaroya Hall,] and I freaked out.”

Once the auditorium was filled and everyone was quiet, Lee walked out onto the stage.

“Sing, Mother, Sing,” Lee began:



Sing, Mother, Sing

sing, Mother, sing

sing to me before

you leave me

sing about your tears

puddling up in your eyes

sing the high notes


sing the low notes

sing in the dark, abandoned

streets of China

sing the chorus

of guilt and sorrow

sing about the life

I will have

sing to God, praying

someone will find me

sing about how I will

never know you

sing the words

I will never understand

sing with the hope

that I will forgive you

sing, Woman, sing

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