The French philosopher Voltaire once said, "Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls."
The annual poetry contest sponsored by the Payson Unified School District is now history, and the results attest to Voltaire's wisdom. While most of the entries were clearly the work of novice poets, the winning poems reflect a thoughtfulness, sensitivity and creativity on the part of their authors that too often seems to fade in the process of becoming adults.
Writing on a wide variety of subjects, the poems convey the hopes, dreams and fears of today's young people.
"Crocodile," a poem that earned second-grader James Potvin second place, is a good example:
Swimming, biting, climbing
He eats other pets
Third-grader Shannon Eccles took second place with this playful poem:
THE TIME I LOST MY SHOE
One morning I woke up and couldn't find my shoe.
Once I knew I lost it, I was feeling pretty blue.
There were shoes under the bed, but there were only four,
None of them would match, and then I found some more.
I couldn't pair them up, maybe I should just give up.
Oh what about school, I will look like a fool.
Everyone will laugh because I just have half.
Suddenly I saw a shoelace sticking out from the couch.
It was hidden inside a little pouch.
I took it out and put it on,
Then I grabbed my stuff and went along.
First-grader Teanna Lopez took first place with a poem about her deceased grandmother:
Chocolate chip cookies,
Brushing my hair,
Five big goldfish,
Playing tag in her yard,
Peaches on her backyard tree,
My grandma is dead now
But we still get her peaches,
And I have a picture of her.
In four simple lines, an anonymous fifth-grader, spoke volumes and took a third place:
Clouds so high in the sky,
so peaceful below the clouds.
The smell of water going by,
the feel of coldness through the crowds.
There was a time when story poems like Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" were required reading for all school children. Today they seem to be a lost art, but in a poem that took second place, sixth-grader Chris Carroll spins a compelling yarn:
THE WOLF AND THE LUMBERMAN
Somewhere in the forest dark,
I heard a very scary bark,
As I continued on the path,
A wolf came running full of wrath,
A lumberman standing near,
I think he was looking for deer,
Started shouting at the beast,
Which didn't stop him in the least,
As I became consumed with fear,
I saw the wolf start toward the deer,
And jumping up into the air,
He cleared a fence without a care,
The lumberman was finally noticed,
The wolf ran back into the forest.
The winning entries from the higher grades are more introspective and questioning, while taking on subjects that are often multi-faceted and sometimes downright convoluted. The three winning 12th-grade poems are good examples, including this introspective entry that earned senior Quinn Siniaho a second place:
To be confined within myself
Is not my favorite doom.
For the many voices in my head
My madness to consume.
"Where were you when I needed you?"
I said to one not there.
I thought I heard a whisper,
But could only see thin air.
"Why will you not answer me?"
I was given no reply.
Who really holds the power of
The ones we keep inside?
Just when I thought I was alone,
The voice said, 'I am here.'
"Hush," I said. "Who needs you now?"
And why did you appear?"
'Calm yourself,' it said to me,
'Things aren't what they seem.'
"Why did you leave me alone?
I thought we were a team?"
'I was there,' the voice replies.
'I heard you and your plea.
You couldn't see but you could hear;
The one that cried was me.'
In her third-place poem, "Questions for Juliet," senior Laura Perham borrowed the sonnet form that Shakespeare used so well to ask questions of one of his most endearing characters:
QUESTIONS FOR JULIET
The girls of the world are dying to know
From the maiden fair they call Juliet,
What made you behave and react just so
In regards to a boy you had just met?
What made you proclaim that your love was true?
Why did you believe this blind affection?
Why'd you drop Capulet for Montague
And deny all your family connection?
Why swear all fortunes at his foot you'd lay
And follow him as Lord through joy and strife?
Then finally the greatest price you'd pay
And for the want of his love end your life.
All based on a glance as quick as blinkin'
We ask you now, "Girl, what were you thinkin'?"
In "Affliction" a poem that earned her first-place honors, senior Marilynn Piggott poignantly addressed a painful subject:
Incandescent woeful pain,
Embrace the night
And say my name.
Blood stained fields enclose my mind
Standing (enduring) there in the tall grass
Arms outstretched for the skies
I only want to feel the rain
Running down my face like sweet
The bloodstains now become diluted
I move forth into the sun
Caressing the blades of grass
Washing away the pain.
Like most art forms, poetry is subjective, but this final poem has a quality a kind of wildness that isn't normally associated with poetry.
It is a quality that poet Robert Frost said made all the difference.
"If it is a wild poem," Frost wrote, "it is a poem."
This poem by Tianna Golliglee, which won first place in the sixth-grade competition, makes a hopeful and positive statement about many of today's young people about their energy, their enthusiasm and their curiosity for life:
THE LION IN ME
There is a lion in me,
With fur like fire and eyes like night.
It runs with the wind and soars through the sky.
It lives in my heart and makes me free.
That is the lion in me.
Student poetry winners
First grade: First place "Grandma's House" by Teanna Lopez; second place "The Flower Patch" by Sarah Cluff; third place "Little Snowman" by Kelsey Thomas.
Second grade: First place "A Cabin" by Lauren Nossek; second place "Crocodile" by James Potvin; third place "Rain and Sun" by Caleb Laird.
Third grade: First place "A Dragon" by Amanda Perez; second place "The Time I Lost My Shoe" by Shannon Eccles; third place "Bikes" by Weston Murray.
Fourth grade: First place "Rain Desert" by Ben Paric; second place "Now I Know" by Amanda Finley; third place "Chelsey" by Chelsey Gaskill.
Fifth grade: First place "The Perfect Girl" by Jami Flake; second place "Rain" by Virginia Claiborne; third place "Cloudy Thoughts," anonymous.
Sixth grade: First place "The Lion in Me" by Tianna Golliglee; second place "The Wolf and the Lumberman" by Chris Carroll; third place "The Sky" by Ashley Sokol.
Seventh grade: First place "The Trail of Tears" by Megan Miles.
Eighth grade: First place "The World I Belong To" by Kortney Johnson; second place "My Spot" by Sheldon Walker.
Ninth grade First place "History of the Past" by Brad Wilembrecht; second place "Dream" by Candice Durbin; third place "My God, My Life, My Love" by Elizabeth Goodale.
10th grade: First place "The Glory of the Red" by Joshua Sprinkle; second place "Colors" by Nina Lubbers; third place "What is Love" by Terra Bell.
11th grade: First place "I'm Different" by Andy Ladewski; second place "Be Yourself" by Daniel Kitchen; third place "Alone" by Lucas Dixon.
12th grade: First place "Affliction" by Marilynn Piggott; second place "Shadow" by Quinn Siniaho; third place "Questions for Juliet" by Laura Perham.
Spanish category First place "Las Palabras de mi Madre" by Leticia Diaz.