By CHRISTINA TYLER
Be careful what you say around Demario John Greene. He might write a poem or short story about it. That's how the 12-year-old got the idea for his poem called "Love," which he read at the Young People's Poetry Week program April 7 in the Library.
Demario is one of six Washington, D.C., preteens who read original poems during the program for young poets that celebrates National Poetry Month.
A sixth-grader at Anne Beers Elementary School, he is not old enough to have experienced all kinds of love, but he can tell you about what he has learned by listening to music and adult conversations -- and from reading his poem with conviction, "Love." His poem reads:
Love, do we see it?
Love, do we feel it?
When we say it do we mean it?
When we feel it, do we really feel it?
When we feel it, do we sense it?
Isn't that what love is?
A sense of care, a sense of protection.
When you say "I love you," you give your heart.
Love is stronger than anything.
Love is something that is to be cherished.
Love is something many people claim.
But I put a question to you to evaluate: When you say, 'I love you,' do you mean it?
Nikki Grimes and Judith Viorst write poetry for children and adults. They said they lose themselves in the pages of books and write from their experiences. Ms. Viorst said writing poetry for different age groups isn't difficult for her -- the feelings are conveyed the same, but the images of childhood and adulthood are different.
Young poet Charles Davis (left) was impressed listening to the professional poets, because the fifth-grader did not know poets could make a living with their work. His parents said they did not know their son had an intense need to write poetry and this was the first time they had heard their son read his work.
"I knew Charles had a knack for metaphors," said Andy Fogle, a published poet who teaches at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., works with the D.C. Writers Corps and mentors students at Stewart-Hobson Middle School. "He's funny, he can perform the poems -- all that in an 11-year-old."
The children's poems were selected from hundreds of entries from throughout Washington. Each child represented a different area of the city.
National Young People's Poetry Week is sponsored by the Children's Book Council in New York. This event in the Jefferson Building was sponsored by the Library's Center for the Book and the Poetry and Literature Center, in cooperation with the District Lines Poetry Project of the Federation of Friends of the District of Columbia Library.
The Center for the Book doesn't have a Washington, D.C., chapter yet, but 36 states do. The children who read their work April 7 were selected with the help of the city library, volunteer writing coaches and writers groups.
Roxannah Wyse, with her hair pulled back and wearing a blue and purple ankle-length dress, made the crowd laugh with her animated voice describing Earth, its leaves, candy and potato chips.
Ayanna Murray-Mazwi described magical places she sees in her dreams.
Jorge Orozco personified a house in his poem, describing what a house sees inside itself and how it loves and cares for its inhabitants.
Harriet Blair Rowan described herself in her self-named poem as "Harriet, reader, writer, swimmer, sleeper ... one who needs good friends, resident of Washington, D.C."
The crowd chuckled at Charles Davis's description of food as he stood behind the podium wearing a blue plaid shirt and oval, wire-rimmed glasses. "Food, I have to overcome my love for you. Food, stop mocking me. ... Food, you are hard to resist." Then he got more serious as he read his poem about the moon: "Like a big marble, shining through the night with its precious light."
"I hope to someday write a book -- a collection of poems and an autobiographical story about how I got started writing," he said.
Ms. Tyler is assistant editor of the Library's staff newspaper, The Gazette.