On Saturday Kurtis Callen and Marc Brown, along with their teacher and family, drove three hours from Gloversville to have the opportunity to read their prize winning poems and receive their copy of Words from the Woods, the published results of the Lake Placid Institute's 2012 Great Adirondack Poetry Contest.
Throughout the Adirondacks all manner of student athletes are honored at various sports banquets and exhibitions of student art, such as currently being displayed at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, are ongoing experiences richly deserved. However, far less attention is given to honoring young people's ability to write, and within that frame, even less to their ability to craft a poem.
Nearly two decades ago the Lake Placid Institute decided to rectify that omission through hosting an annual poetry contest, which attracts approximately 1,000 submissions from all around the North Country and, in many cases, is used as a stimulus by teachers to get their students to write poems in the first place.
Two of the best poets are selected to attend the annual Young Vermonter's Writers' Conference, a spring writing workshop specifically for high school students held at Champlain College. Other than the two scholarships, no prizes are given out for first, second or third place as in truth any young person who gets a poem selected for publication is a winner having been winnowed down against quite a number of submissions. Generally 4 poems are selected by class starting with first grade and continuing through 12th grade in high school.
This year the powerhouse for winning students turned out to be Keene Central School, the second smallest school in the Adirondacks, that proved that size does not matter when it comes to winning poetry contests as they placed students in ten out of twelve categories, the most of any school since the contest began.
"It was a great yield," said Keene Central teacher Ben Ellis. "We were represented from first grade through twelfth pretty evenly across the board. I think it is a result of our school's enthusiasm for the arts, drama and poetry. As I said about our 11th grade student Sam Balzac on stage I think you can hear the voice of the bard through this fine student. I think that can be said of all our students."
Perhaps not surprisingly, Keene not only had a broad sweep, but one winner, Nora Porter, may well be the first to be the second generation in a family to win as her mom Melanie was a previous winner.
"I was very happy for Nora," said Melanie Porter. "It took me awhile to realize that I had won before as well, so we are both published poets. I thought, "Oh my gosh, I won that too." The title of my poem was Fire and hers is Sun. I guess it means she's that much more like me. She's a good girl. We are real proud of her."
"My students got an extra credit if they wrote and entered a poem," said Lake Placid High School teacher Amy Spicer. "We are studying war, and as part of that read Wilfred Owen's poem about World War I, Stephen Crane's Civil War poem "War is Kind, and then Erich Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front." After anylizing all three, they then had to write a poem about any war, any kind of war; war because it is such an emotional thing."
"Writing a poem is not something I get to do all that often, but when given an assignment I try to do it to the best of my ability," said Casey DeNicola. "I think writing a poem comes from the inside; whatever you are feeling inside you put on paper. I just put pencil to paper and wrote."
"This was a new thing for me," said classmate Dean Ridenour. "It came pretty quick. I feel that the poetic expression is a little more dramatic than prose."
"My English teacher asked me to write a poem, so I decided I would. This was my first poem. I really enjoyed the process. In poetry you get a lot more imagery. I believe I will write more," said Kurtis Callen of Gloversville.
"This was also my first poem. When the teacher told us to write a poem I think I was asleep in class because I didn't hear her until she yelled at me. So I immediately wrote a poem and handed it in. She said she loved it and now it won," said Marc Brown of Gloversville. "I like to write songs, rap songs, and I have been reading poems since third grade. I didn't know it was going this far to wake up from a scream to write a poem and now be a winner. I guess I will write more poems, I will write them for my mom."
"I want to thank the parents and the teachers for supporting and encouraging their kids to write," said Janice Thomas, director of the Lake Placid Institute.
"I want to thank the Lake Placid Institute," said Marie-Anne Azar Ward, mom of the young winner Camille of Keene Central School. "They did a really nice job, the reception was lovely, the whole event. I had no idea that the Institute did this. They are to be commended."
A listing of future events including the roundtables can be found on their web site: www.lakeplacidinstitute.org.