April 6, 2012 River of Words Youth Poetry and Art Contest Winners to Receive Awards at Library of Congress

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass to Emcee 17th Annual Ceremony

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

Ten remarkable young poets and artists – ranging in age from 7 to 16 – and more than a dozen national finalists will be honored at the 17th annual River of Words International Youth Creativity Awards on Monday, April 23, at 7 p.m. in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the Library of Congress’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Conducted in affiliation with the Library of Congress Center for the Book, the annual River of Words contest, which celebrates both National Poetry Month and Earth Day, is the largest youth poetry and art competition in the world. The River of Words International Youth Creativity Awards features award-winning children's poetry and art from around the world and recognizes educational leadership in environmental literacy. This year’s event will also feature a special musical performance of River of Words poems set to music.

“The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress has co-sponsored River of Words since its inception in 1995, as part of the center’s mission of promoting books, reading, libraries and literacy,” said John Y. Cole, the center’s director. “The contest is one of our most important and beloved programs.”

Award-winners include young people from across the country, as well as the International Art Prize winner: an Afghan refugee living in Pakistan, who plans to attend the event.

The ceremony will include award presentations in six categories:

  • International Art Prize: Rohullah Hassani, 16, Quetta, Pakistan.
  • Poetry Grand Prizes: Blakely Berryhill, 7, Vestavia Hills, Ala.; Xavier Mendoza, 9, Lancaster, Pa.; Pi’ikea Lopes, 12, Honolulu, Hawaii; and Cathy Guo, 15, Madison, Conn.
  • Art Grand Prizes: Kristina Yu, 6, Suwanee, Ga.; Jack Colin Robertson, 8, Cumming, Ga.; Morgan Rozek, 13, Madison, Ala.; and Bill He Li, 16, Bayside Hills, N.Y.
  • Monkey’s Raincoat Haiku Prize: Mitchell Oberfoell, 8, West Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Shasta Bioregion Prize: Allison Chang, 15, Sunnyvale, Calif.
  • Anacostia Watershed Prize: Julian Dixon, 11, Washington, D.C.

In addition to recognizing extraordinary art and poetry by talented young people, the ceremony will honor the first recipient of the River of Words/Saint Mary’s College Kalmanovitz School of Education’s 2012 Teacher of the Year, Harriet Maher of Lafayette, La.

River of Words is a project of the Center for Environmental Literacy at Saint Mary’s College of California, which promotes educational initiatives that integrate nature and the arts into K-12 classrooms. The program inspires children and youth to translate their observations about their local watersheds and environment into creative expressions in poems and paintings. It also trains educators around the world on how to incorporate nature exploration, science and the arts into their work with young people.

The River of Words International Youth Creativity Awards will be emceed by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, who co-founded the contest in 1995 with Pamela Michael, who now directs the Center for Environmental Literacy at Saint Mary's. The 2012 winners and finalists were selected from thousands of entries from around the world by contest co-founders Hass and Michael and renowned children’s book author and illustrator Thacher Hurd.

“The mission of River of Words is to promote literacy, the arts and environmental awareness. Our goal is to help children fall in love with the Earth, and you can see in the works of these young artists a deep and respectful love of the world around them,” said Hass.

“River of Words not only recognizes the talent of some truly amazing young poets and artists, it also fosters environmental awareness and creativity among children and teachers and their communities,” said Michael.

Attendees will also be treated to a musical performance of the “River of Words Song Cycle” by Southwestern University Music Professors David Asbury and Bruce Cain. On tour across the nation (including a concert at the Kennedy Center), the song cycle takes poems selected from past River of Words winners and sets them to music.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s www.Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.

The student experience at Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, which is 23 miles east of San Francisco, inspires learning that lasts a lifetime. For nearly 150 years, the college has provided students with a rigorous education that engages their intellect and spirit and awakens a desire to transform society. Guided by the Christian Brothers, the Catholic Church’s oldest order dedicated exclusively to teaching, the college enrolls more than 3,800 students in undergraduate and graduate liberal arts and business programs. For more information, visit Saint Mary’s College at stmarys-ca.edu External.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.


PR 12-068
ISSN 0731-3527