Winning lines

Sacramento’s Poet Laureate Julia Connor judges SN&R’s Student Poetry Contest

Sophie Wheeler 7th grade, California Middle School

Sophie Wheeler 7th grade, California Middle School

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

SN&R’s third annual Student Poetry Contest pulled in entries from throughout our circulation area. Poems varied from class assignments to imitations of the masters to heartfelt songs of love and loss. Out of more than 200 entries in three categories, SN&R staff members selected a pool of finalists. These poems were sent to our outside judge, Sacramento Poet Laureate Julia Connor, (see “All about Julia”), who selected first-, second- and third-place winners in each of the three age categories.

Here’s what Connor had to say about the winning poems:

In his essay “Reduction and Art,” the eminent poet and essayist Wendell Berry reminds us, “Works of art communicate feeling directly from mind to mind, with no attempt to explain why the impact occurs.” This propensity is at the root of poetry’s ability to deliver “the news” in a direct manner and condensed form, often using the plainest of words.

Such is evident in the poems that I have selected from those who submitted work to this year’s SN&R Student Poetry Contest. Each of the first-place winners showcase not only concision—their poems are snapshots of a moment in time—but also the ability to follow the music within language, trusting its tightrope of sounds to carry them to a lively invention.

Each of these poems, however brief, also exemplifies the sense of completeness that a poem delights in. Our lives are made up of such discrete moments, flashes and impressions, and poetry seeks to honor them by allowing us to shape and re-shape them into a meaning that can leap from heart to heart, mind to mind.

I send each of the poets represented here my congratulations.

Middle-school winners

First place
Yosemite Poems

Climbed up steep rocks—
Dug up Himalayan blackberry roots
Saw a bobcat lurking around.

Walked through Indian caves
Smelled the Jeffrey pines,
Could almost eat the bark.

Ate good dinner
It was Charlie’s birthday
We were in Curry Village.

Sophie Wheeler
7th grade, California Middle School

Second place
Summer Air Sonnet

The summer air is honey, so thick.
Little white houses lay flat on the concrete,
The steaming sunlight glowing off the brick.
Sticky summer has set in on our street.
Rough hands squeeze together as we dive,
And fall into the ostentatious blue,
Not knowing the power just to be alive,
Unknowing these summer friendships are true.
Another hot, hot day is done with,
And now syrupy air is all that’s left.
Low-swinging stars spell out some forgotten myth,
Soon this night will end and leave us bereft.
Endless summer is so infinitely fair,
The stars and sunrise and sticky-sweet air.

Rose Rushing
7th grade, California Middle School

Third place
The Tallit

To find a tallit for me to wear,
My grandma took me through a cobblestone
street in Israel.
I thought about how far I’d traveled
from a foster home into my mom’s life,
and from my mom’s house to Israel.

I remember walking into a lit up store.
There were thousands of tallits.
I thought I would never find one.
Then I saw a dark blue tallit with Jerusalem
outlined in silver, with strings hanging from the end.

I’d found a necklace with a pool of golden
sunlight glowing brightly from the center.
I like the way it shined even in the darkness.
The outside of the necklace was the rim around a warm
summer sun shining softly
A powerful life.
Had you followed that girl’s tallit
you would have arrived here where it hangs around my neck.

Look how they hang, draping
Down on my neck.
They follow me everywhere I go.
Bringing life to everything I touch.
My best friends,
My life, my dream come true.

Rebekah Leah Gerber
7th grade, California Middle School

High-school winners

Kathleen Jercich 12th grade, St. Francis High School

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

First place

i would eat your smile
so no one else
        would have it
and i could feel it
        (in my mouth)
like a song

Kathleen Jercich
12th grade, St. Francis High School

Second place

The earth is plagued by unruly foe
Our ground is weeping with tragedy
The countries of today no longer flow
Flooded with grief, starved of tranquility
War has broken out, all past fears anew
The golden era seems so long ago
Death and destruction leaves a young refuge
And the earth has become an evil show
Countries are fighting for their right to be
Love can’t be shown for it clouds your judgment
Because you give yourself to the enemy
And you try to hide but the evil is sent
An infectious disease is spreading among lands
But the wars are truly in our own hands

Kacie Hoose
9th grade, Union Mine High School

Third place
My Generation

My Generation is known
For the use of technology
Computers, cell phones, iPods
Obsessed with material things
Jordans, Rocawear, Ecko
Some contemplate us as spoiled
It doesn’t matter to us
We know exactly who we are
We are brave gladiators
Battling drugs, pressure, abuse
We are bumblebees at work
Always working hard for honey
This is my generation
I’m proud to be part of it

Sheenal Kumar
11th grade, Florin High School

College winners

Henry 7 Reneau UC Davis

SN&R Photo By Larry Dalton

First place
new day

chinese youngblood throwin’ up tha’ dap
whas up o.g.?
whitefolk wearin’ dreads an’ collagen lips
japanese wit cornrows
pakistani princesses lockin’ it up
like they on soul train
korean rappers through wit’ turnin’ the other cheek
fuck perpetual foreigner an’ model minority
2nd generation chicano y chicana pimpstrut,
sportin’ gangsta rap billboard clothes
jordans an rocawear
a change done come to tha’ underground
children livin’ tha’ blues an’ don’t know they black

Henry 7 Reneau
UC Davis

Second place
The Whitman Shuffle

Sit in front
Of the blank page
Flip through
The dictionary
The thesaurus

Bite your
Until they are numb
While reciting
Lame verses

Crumple paper
By the ream
As successive
Pages fail to
Ignite inspiration

Ditch the computer
Buy a typewriter
Instilling authenticity
But find you
Still can’t write

Sabotage relationships
Sever old ties
Listen to sad songs
Anything to get
The pen moving

Enroll in
English courses
Attend workshops
Learn from the
Practicing artist

Scratch forehead
Adjust glasses
Decide that you
Can’t write
You’re no poet

Tavarus Blackmon
Sacramento City College

Third place

I think mochas are what he likes.
Otherwise it was green tea.
He likes water with light ice.
And then the eggshell broke
Now you realize it will be never again.
Damien is dead
I was wondering where he went.
Ryan, his messenger, confirmed his suicide
He is the second or third one.
It is never obvious.
How bad did he want the silence?
It is not what I wanted.
I thought about how curious he was
To know the singer’s name.
Now everything is precious.
A headache with creepy thoughts
Thinking life is too long
Instead of be aware of now
Now everything is precious.

April Fredrikson