Contest helps students find their voice in verse
Six middle school students beat out more than 70 fellow writers to take top honors in the Friends of the Waccamaw Library’s annual poetry writing contest.
The winners are: Aubrey Bailey, Charlie Gates, Savannah Jansky and Jack Thomas from Stacy Ownbey’s classes at Waccamaw Middle School, and Sarah Henn and Riley Porter from Elizabeth Intrieri’s class at Coastal Montessori Charter School.
Ownbey hopes the contest inspires her students to write more.
“Some of them were kids that typically don’t like to write a lot. So it was a real positive for them to win a contest like this. It shows them they can do it,” she said. “It gives the kids a different audience to write for. It gives them a sense of being a writer outside the classroom. It’s bigger than just writing for their teacher.”
Before this year’s poetry contest, Intrieri had her students do a color analysis activity. Each student looked at a color for about 10 seconds and then did free association for everything they saw when looking at it.
Aubrey and Sarah wrote about something they both love: the beach.
“I thought it would be a cool poem to do,” Aubrey, 13, said about “The Pawleys Shell.”
Sarah, 13, misses being able to go to the beach and that inspired her to write “You Will Find Me at the Beach.”
“It’s upsetting to me because of the corona,” she said. “The beach is a place that I can de-stress, and I haven’t been able to do that.”
The ocean inspired Savannah, 13, to write “Changing Tides.”
“We live by the beach so I thought it would bring more thoughts to my head,” said Savannah. “I’m a swimmer so it kind of connected with me a little more.”
A pine tree inspired Jack’s poem “The Silent Tree.”
“I was doing work at the library and I saw a pine tree and it just came into my mind,” he said.
Riley, 12, was contemplating writing a poem about the beauty of nature, but opted for self-image instead in “Beauty or Pain.”
Winning the contest makes her want to write more poetry.
“We write poetry every year and I normally only write during the section of school that we write in,” Riley said. “I’ve always enjoyed it, but I’ve never done it outside of school.”
While Ownbey’s class was studying the novel “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, she told the students to write a metaphorical poem about it.
Charlie, 13, chose the isolation of the moon for “By Day.”
“I just thought about things that can be isolated in the world,” Charlie said. “I thought about the moon and went from there.”
Ownbey tries to connect poetry writing to something she’s teaching, like “The Outsiders,” which includes the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
“I try not to teach just poetry in isolation,” Ownbey said. “With poetry, sometimes it’s hard for them to conceptualize, so it’s important to give them examples that they can emulate. So they’re not going into it blind.”
Charlie went through four or five drafts to get his poem just right. He said he doesn’t do a lot of writing.
“Just for class projects,” he said.
It took Jack, 14, about an hour to finish his poem, although he went through several drafts. It was his first attempt at poetry and he was surprised that it ended up in a contest. He only writes when he has to for school.
It took Aubrey about five days and three or four drafts to finish her poem. She likes writing, but normally just writes essays for school.
Sarah went through about seven drafts before finishing her poem.
“I had that confident feeling that this was just the perfect one, the perfect draft,” she said.
It took Savannah about a week and a lot of rewriting to finish her poem. She doesn’t write a lot of poetry except for when’s she’s in her English class.
“I’ve looked a little bit into the subject,” Savannah said.
The basics of the poem didn’t take Riley long to write, but she did a lot of editing after getting feedback from family and friends.
“It sounded pretty finished and it just seemed like I couldn’t add anymore,” she said.
Three of the poets – Charlie, Jack and Savannah – said math is their favorite class at school.
“I like being able to solve problems and working through things like that,” Charlie said.
“My teacher’s really nice and it’s kind of easy,” Jack said.
Savannah is also a fan of social studies.
Science is tops for Aubrey and Riley.
“I just think it’s cool,” Aubrey said. “It’s fun to learn and I like experimenting.”
Sarah’s favorite class is language arts.
Riley said she really misses school.
“I realized how much I see my friends at school and how little I see them everywhere else,” she said.
When it comes to poetry, Intrieri said it’s important to teach kids that poems don’t always have to rhyme.
“That way, they don’t get stuck making up forced ideas just because of trying to find a word that rhymes with orange,” she said.
Two of her favorites to teach are “L (A” by E.E. Cummings and “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House” by Billy Collins.
There were 77 entries in the contest, including students from Waccamaw High and Lowcountry Prep.
Winners received $50, a book of poetry and a journal.
The Pawleys Shell
A Pawleys shell, shining in the rays of the sun
The sun so bright, I shall stay here ’til night
I can hear the waves crashing, the seagulls chirping
I feel the grooves of the shell, it has a certain salty smell
The inside feels as smooth as a bowling ball
As I wait for the seashell to fall,
tumble out of my hand, in the salty sea
The ocean’s waves waving back at me
– Aubrey Bailey
The moon sits by himself,
Watching the world fly by.
He thinks as he twirls in orbit,
For all he sees is black sky.
He wonders why his skies aren’t blue;
He wonders if he’ll always be gray.
His shine calls out for just one friend,
But no one can see him by day.
– Charlie Gates
You will find me at the beach
The taste of the salty air draws me to the ocean
the breeze picks up sand and tickles my face,
that first feel of the water on my toes lifts my stress and sorrows.
The faint noise the waves make as they crash brings me further into relaxation
the bright golden sun shines on my face stinging my eyes,
the melody of the seagulls and the whisper of the crabs as they scatter back to their burrows
melts my anxiety. You will always find me at the beach.
– Sarah Henn
Bright blue waters shimmering in the scope,
The soft squishy sand beneath the crashing sea,
Stretching out as far as the eye can see,
How fast are the tides, how hard are the waves,
Looking further and further seeing birds from afar take flight,
Still looking the moon’s reflection makes a bright light,
Wanting to just enjoy the view,
Waiting out in the deep ocean blue,
How fast are the tides, how hard are the waves,
No one shall know because they always change.
– Savannah Jansky
Beauty or Pain
Beauty or Pain,
For some it’s the same.
Striving to look the best,
Bigger butt, bigger chest.
Many worry about looking good
When really we all could
Be accepting and kind,
Then we wouldn’t care.
We should be happy with ourselves
And not try to be someone else.
We’re all beautiful in different ways
Not one of us is the same.
So let’s not get injections or implants that hurt
To look “better” or “prettier” according to unachievable standards.
We’re all unique and wonderful, including you.
No matter your sizes, features, stature, or weight
Because no one should suffer or cause themselves pain
To look like Beyoncé or to gain fame
Don’t tear yourself down if you don’t look a certain way
Because beauty being pain is just plain insane.
– Riley Porter
A pine tree
Stands tall, gently swaying
In the wind – silent
I wonder how tall you can grow?
What birds use your branches
Soft pine needles cover the ground below
A place for animals
To lay, feeling protected
A pine tree, slender with cones
I love how the sun’s rays
Shine through the branches
Allowing light to shine like a flashlight
A pine tree that’s silent
As the feathers of an eagle
Standing stately in the woods
The woods true beauty – a pine tree.
– Jack Porter