Since last week, I've been working on a chapbook for the winners of this year's annual poetry contest at the Boys & Girls Club where I work. The theme was Summer Sensations, and there were the requisite pool party, barbecue, and picnic entries, as well as various odes to the sun. Some are just lists of summer activities, with a smidge of description tossed in to satisfy the poetry requirement.
It's challenging to teach children to think like poets, not just to fill in the blanks in an existing poetic form. Their versions of free verse are often point-blank and clunky, but there are "Wow!" moments of unexpected beauty and even wisdom. An autistic child wrote, "I can feel the sun flat on my face/It's like a kiss/Just too good to waste."
That's it. A three-line poem. Ain't it great?
Another child wrote a trio of haiku, each describing a different aspect of summer.
Two young brothers who had never written poetry before dictated their poems about a favorite uncle who visits every summer--one brother won third place, and the other received an honorable mention--and another boy rhymed about his first time diving off the 10-foot board (first place).
First place in the teen group was a short free-verse embrace, a description of Mom, candles, and ice cream in a twilight backyard.
After this chapbook (which will be given to the sponsor, the judges, and to each winner at the awards ceremony on Saturday), I have grand plans for an anthology of kid literature, artwork, and photography. We have cartoonists, photographers, storytellers, poets, all in miniature and going to elementary school. I wonder who among them will grow up to produce newspapers, glossy magazine ads, absorbing fiction, National Geographic adventure articles.
It's cool to witness the future in action.