POeT SHOTS #1 - Ray Greenblatt on "Hanging Out with the Judges of the Young Poets Contest"

After the presentation when all the families have gone home, we "older poets" --the judges-- sit around talking. We marvel at an idea or phrase or entire poem that has impressed us. It's like catching sight of a stunning meteor or being at a play-off game to witness a home run with bases loaded. Yes, we care about poetic things like that; and hope our young poets will too as they grow up. Let me offer a few examples.

Notice how fresh and different these poem titles are: PENCIL TIP (Caroline Lenderman, Grade 2), CAKES AND SNAKES (Gabriella Cipriano, Grade 2), SUPERIOR SANDWICH (Hayden Dash, Grade 4), PIANO KEYS (Ciara Trigg, Grade 7) , THE INQUIRING KIWI (Gavin Karutheim, Grade 8).

Some young poets have used highly respected traditional forms: STARS (Nathan Hoist-Rightley, Grade 6) is a Haiku; FLOOR 51 (Amelia Winger, Grade 9) is a Pantoum;  and CLAWS (Ethan Pennington, Grade 5) reads like a Ballad with regular rhyme and stanzas running to 52 lines!

Now let's look at some moments in these notable poems:

Some lines seem to be highlighted with originality--"Regrets set fires in my heart, burning me from within" BEHIND YOU (Theresa Hencinski, Grade 9) and "Royal/Are these pathways/Stained with aching promise" CASTLE CLIFF (Alexis Petzak, Grade 12).

In AN UNREQUITED ORCHESTRA REVERBERATES (Grace Fan, Grade 11) lines incorporate musical language--"She wonders about him/staccatoing across the staff," Trailing up her metronome,/she rips ambiguous notes,/stressing her high-pitched fever," and "Melody crushed by symbols/crashing into mezzo piano."

MODERN DANCE (Lily Pollock, Grade 7) employs a very mature vocabulary about Dance: "An exquisite illustration of energy and passion/from sorrow to bliss to rage,"  "fluid and harmonious," unleash all you have inside," stomps crescendo into power," "ignites bone dry tinder,"  "the grandeur of the human form," "the dance floor/is your easel/and you paint it with your feelings."

Then there are some very direct lines that wring your heart with emotion: "Modest tiny gold crosses/Rattle like tin cans around her neck," "We share half smiles instead of words,/ Lovely in their quietness/At any moment I will storm," "My father wore his family like a winter coat," "My mother wears her grief like jewelry./I wear them both like mirrors." SEVENTEENTH BIRTHDAY (Natalie Fairfield, Grade 12)

Do the following poetic openings make you want to read the entire poem? We judges thought so:

"Your face is a house
Your eyes are the windows
Your nose is the gateway
Ring ring the tip of your nose
Is the door bell"
FACE TO HOUSE (Michel Spigarelli, Grade 3)

"I am happiness who are you?
I light up people's days
But only for a little while.
For, my magic only works
Until my brothers Anger and Sorrow take it away"
HAPPINESS (Alyssa Hayes, Grade 7)

"Zephyrs sweep the sails aloft in frenzy,
As the ocean with an aquamarine gleam leaps to the shoreline"
SAIL WITH THE WIND (Bethany Ho, Grade 8)

"The everlasting tattoos of the sky
Decorate the once dead night"
ETERNAL GLISTENS (Samantha Margolis, Grade 9)

"The substance in my mouth
Used to taste of honey
Sweet words rolled off my tongue
And now stick like glue,
Keeping my thoughts inside"
GROWING UP (Kaitlyn Anderson, Grade 10)

I will conclude with what is always a major challenge for the best poets--how to end a poem! Here are some strong conclusions to these poems:

"School will help
your brain update"
SCHOOL (Jacob An, Grade 2)

"Auroras shine
in the darkest winter,
burning the sky
with their fire."
TUNDRA (Anders Powell, Grade 3)

"My heart  has tricked my eyes
Into seeing even the most misshapen lines
As evidence of a master piece"

"Slake your thirst again, darling.
Drain me as you will.
We both know I'll be back soon,
For another languid afternoon
Of flashing lights
And numbing thrill."
YOU (Garrick Schultz, Grade 11)

Ray Greenblatt has been a poet for forty years and an English teacher longer than that. He was an editor of General Eclectic, a board member of the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and is presently on the staff of the Schuylkill Valley Journal. He has won the Full Moon Poetry Contest, the Mad Poets Annual Contest, and twice won the Anthony Byrne Annual Contest for Irish Poetry sponsored by The Irish Edition. His poetry has been translated into Gaelic, Polish, Greek and Japanese.