Thursday, May 20, 2004
Student Poets Reach Within
few riffs on vague or distant topics in the Parkmont Poetry Festival.
The 600 entrants
in the citywide contest chose subjects that were intensely personal
and relevant to their lives.
of Jefferson Junior High School wrote verses about the random murder
of her beloved brother. "God can have him later. I need my
brother at my side," she wrote.
of the National Cathedral School for Girls wrote of a time when
summertime is wistfully recalled "at the end of Eden and the
eve of fall."
Williams of Hart Middle School wrote about poverty and "the
tin cup which earned him a few cents each day of his miserable life."
They were among
the 40 winners of the Parkmont festival, which honors the writing
of poetry by public and private school students across the city.
Over the past
22 years, the festival has attracted thousands of contestants. Each
year, the poems are weeded down to about 200 by a panel of published
poets. This year, Cornelius Eady, an author of seven books of poetry
who is now teaching at American University, picked the 40 winners.
On May 8, each
student was asked to read his or her poem to an audience of more
than 100 friends and relatives at the private Parkmont School on
16th Street. The winners received a $25 gift certificate from Olsson's
Books and Records, a T-shirt and a booklet of the winning poems.
an English teacher at Jefferson Junior High School in Southwest,
said her students are highly motivated by the freedom to express
themselves that poetry offers. "They love writing poetry. They
are not intimidated by the grammar," she said.
her students topics. Anger was their favorite this year. The poems
they turned in seethed with anger over injured friendships and,
especially, betrayal. They wrote about things their teacher had
who is the executive director of the D.C. Creative Writing Workshop
based at Hart Middle School in Southeast, reads poems with the students
in her classes and asks them to distill the meaning of the work
in their own words.
start, their vocabulary really grows. They begin to use words on
the edge of their vocabulary. They know the meaning of these words,
but they never have used them" until they begin expressing
themselves in poetry, she said. Her students draw images from their
own lives, but some of them choose to write fantasy, she said.
poetry coordinator for the festival, said the contest started with
a smaller range of students and expanded to include both junior
and senior high schools as it became established. All schools in
the city are invited to participate each year, she said. It is one
of the few vehicles for public and private school students to come
changed over time as the city has changed, Lentz said.
"The subject of living and dying in D.C. has come up more in
the past 10 years," she said. "There are always some students
who write about beauty and nature. We used to see more of it. It
is a reflection of the time. They are writing about what they see
in the world."
the winning poems were chosen by District Extra editors for publication.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
D.C. Extra; T10, 536 words
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