Monday, March 22, 2010

Student Poetry Writing Project

April is National Poetry Month when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools, poets and lovers of this form of the written word all celebrate poetry and its special place in American culture. This past week I volunteered to judge a poetry contest for students sponsored by Public Radio WDIY in Allentown/Bethlehem, PA and The Press newspaper. The entries came from students from three age groups: Elementary, Middle School, and High School. There were three other judges besides me: a school teacher, a representative from the radio station and an editor from The Press.

At first when a writer friend asked if I would be interested in the project, I didn’t think I would qualify. Even though I like poetry and have three novels published, I doubt I could tell the difference between free verse from blank verse, a lyric from a limerick, or an epigram from an epitaph. When I write poetry, I never worry about how many “feet” are in a line, only if it flows well and has (sort of) a rhythm. Somehow I managed to get a few of my poems published in a literary magazine called Potpourri. That was quite a few years ago, and I don’t think that publication even exists anymore.

When I arrived at the radio station to judge the entries, I expected the other judges would find my academic knowledge in poetry a bit lacking. I was wrong. They were a wonderful group. It was such a pleasure to meet and work with them on this project. The poetry entries were read and re-read, and passed around, as we eliminated them one by one. It was tough. The ones eliminated had to be agreed upon by the group. Finally, we came to the final top three for the winners. A difficult choice because we had so many grand entries. We selected winners from each of the three groups. I was very impressed with the student’s poems, their words used a variety of styles, created images and stirred emotions both happy and sad. Some poems had cute or cleaver twists, or added a fresh metaphor or simile.

All the students should be very proud, and I hope they’ll continue to write. You can teach a student to write well, but you can’t teach a student to be creative. That is a gift. I feel all the students who participated have a special gift.

The winners will read their entries on WDIY 88.1 FM Allentown/Bethlehem, PA on April 19, between 6-6:30 PM. The judges will be interviewed as well. It was an enjoyable experience for me. I look forward to doing it again next year.


Regina Carlysle said...

Pretty tough decisions there, I would think. I judged an elementary level essay contest once and though I knew who the winner was, hands down,it was fun to see what these kids came up with. the pic of the bench that looks like a book. It's soooo clever.

Kathy Kulig said...

Thanks Regina. I thought that pic was cool too. Yes, I was impressed with the kids' creativity.