By JOHN Y. COLE
Children, teenagers and adults from around the country came to the Library in May for the annual "River of Words" environmental art and poetry contest for young people in grades K-12. The contest is designed to promote literacy, the arts and environmental awareness.
For more than a decade, the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress has co-sponsored the annual competition with River of Words, a nonprofit organization.
As in past years, the moderator of the event was former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, who, along with Pamela Michael, co-founded River of Words. Michael described the River of Words project and its recent accomplishments. She explained how the project was conceived at the Library of Congress during Robert Hass's term as poet laureate (1995–1997), and thanked the Center for the Book for its continued participation.
The enthusiastic audience included families and teachers of the winners and finalists, members of the public, teachers, librarians and local environmentalists. With encouragement from Hass, 11 young poets (ages 7–18) read their poems and 15 young artists (ages 8–17) displayed and discussed their artwork.
Submissions come from around the world, in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language (submitted on DVD). The contest is open to any child in the world, ages 5 through 19.
Students may enter on their own or as part of a group. About 100 poems and artworks from national and international students are selected as finalists each year. In addition to the international prize in either art or poetry, eight grand prize winners are chosen from the U.S. entries (four in poetry and four in art, in four age categories), and a special prize is awarded for a haiku poem.
The deadlines for the 2007–2008 contest are Feb. 15, 2008 (U.S), and March 1, 2008 (international). For further details and a complete list of current and past winners and finalists, visit www.riverofwords.org.
Each year, a River of Words Teacher of the Year is honored at the annual awards ceremony. This year that award went to Linda Cover of Watsonville, Calif., who addressed and congratulated the students. She urged them to keep writing and painting, and especially to continue appreciating the animals, birds, trees, rivers, flowers and mountains they had depicted so creatively—and irrepressibly—in the 2007 River of Words contest.
To view the event, go to www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=4063.
John Y. Cole is the director of the Center for the Book.
River of Words 2007 Winners
International Award (Art): Javish Mutembei, 19, Nairobi, Kenya
Poetry Grand Prizes: José Perez, 7, Sarasota, Fla.; Shyann Graham, 11, Lancaster, Pa.; Maddy Johnson, 14, Bar Harbor, Maine; Billy Creed, 18, Baton Rouge; La.
Art Grand Prizes: Jakob Langholz, 8, Royal Oaks, Calif.; David Kwok, 8, Westmont, Ill.; Edward Yang, 14, Westmont, Ill.; Loren Kim, 15, Fairfax Station, Va.
Monkey's Raincoat Haiku Prize: Ashley Lopez, 10, Paramount, Calif.
Teacher of the Year: Linda Cover, Watsonville, Calif.
Regional Awards: Shasta Bioregion Prize: Rachel Kim, 16, Saratoga, Calif.
Anacostia Watershed Prize: Olivia Coleman, 12, Bowie, Md.
2007 Grand Prize Winner, Category I (Grades K–2)
hitting rocks below.
But don't be afraid,
there is poetry
deep inside each crevice.
José Perez, age 7
2007 Grand Prize Winner, Category IV (Grades 10–12)
1717 Picayune St.
Plunged. Into a nightmare
Anxious, tired, hungry we arrived.
It looked like nothing.
Where a proud house once reigned over water oaks
And stood down mausoleums of Confederate dead
A single tree remained.
A towering water oak, with limbs beckoning for nightfall,
Receiving only an august haze, choking fall from its leaves.
Roots that swim through la terre noire like ducks on the pond
In the back, it was my tree.
I played on it during those monotonous summers.
Anything to get out of that proud house.
So proud it had no air conditioning,
So proud it had no TV.
Anything to stay away from that graveyard
That ate footballs and came alive with "Dixie" at nightfall.
It used to have a swing.
But now it just has a rope.
A lot like our family,
A lot like our city,
A lot like our home.
Billy Creed, age 18
Louisiana State University Lab School
Baton Rouge, La.
2007 Monkey's Raincoat Haiku Prize
The Four Seasons
All of the seasons
Are spent mastering the form
None call it easy
Ashley Lopez, age 10
La Ballona Star School