Dawn Balstad's writing classes:
First place: "Life" by Zach Booco
Second place: "Mexico in My Mind" by Alexander Perez
Third place: "I'll Love You Forever," by Kylee Gorringe
Honorable mentions: "Rifle Falls," by Erica Dilldine
"Power Plant" by Nicole Sollenberger
David Morris' writing classes:
First place: "The Ride," by Garrett Buckley
Second place: "Technology" by Mitch Romney
Third place: "Storm," by Matt Hulstine
Honorable mentions: "Basketball" by Lisa Camilletti
"Mother Tree," by Jaycee McCoy
From father-daughter relationships to threats posed by technology, Craig Middle School eighth-graders have found a new way of expressing themselves.
More than 180 eighth-grade students from Dawn Balstad and David Morris' English classes competed in the Third Annual Eighth Grade Poetry Contest this year.
Carol Jacobson and Caroline Dotson, of Downtown Books, sponsored the contest, and the students had a chance to recite their poems Friday at Alice Pleasant Park.
"It totally empowers these kids when they have the chance to read their poems in front of a crowd," Balstad said. "And it's a nice way to show that it's not just teachers who like poetry."
Morris said every student had to write a poem as part of the class. Morris, who has published two books of poetry, said he still was impressed by the students' work.
"There were some surprises this year," Morris said. "Some students who might have been reluctant in the past won awards this year.
"I guess they just had the right inspiration."
Nicole Sollenberger, 14, said she found her inspiration from her surroundings. Her poem, "Power Plant" was an honorable mention.
"I wrote about the Power Plant, because my brother works there," she said.
One common theme this year was the environment, Morris said.
"Students thrive when they get a chance to write about the environment," he said. "It's something positive they get excited writing about."
Jaycee McCoy is one of those students. Her poem, "Mother Tree" was an honorable mention.
"My poem was about the Earth," she said. "It's something I like to write about."
Matt Hulstine, 14, also wrote about the environment, with his third-place poem "Storm."
"I wrote about rain and storms because that's my favorite kind of weather," Hulstine said. "I like the way it smells when it rains - how it looks."
Other students wrote about the places they loved.
With her poem "Rifle Falls," Erica Dilldine, 14, wrote about a significant place to her and her family. Her poem won an honorable mention.
"I wrote about Rifle Falls, because I go camping there with my family every year," she said. "Every year it gets more special."
Alex Perez, 14, won a second place award for "Mexico in My Mind."
"I'm from Mexico, and I wrote about a place I wanted to go," Perez said.
Having the students write about what they enjoy or what interests them is one way to get students involved with poetry, Morris said.
"It shows students there are real-life applications for writing," Morris said.
First-place winner Zach Booco, 13, wrote about what he sees every day in his poem "Life."
"I just wrote about my life," he said.
Garrett Buckley, 14, who won a first-place prize for his poem "The Ride," wrote about what he knows.
"Rodeos are something I've been around my entire life," he said. "It's always been something that interested me."
Mitch Romney, 14, who said his favorite poem from class was Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," wrote a cautionary poem.
"My topic was technology, and how it's a big part of how we live today," said Romney, who won a second-place prize for his entry. "It's the Golden Goose, and how it can be dangerous."
Kylee Gorringe, 14, wrote about something more personal, with her third-place prize "I'll Love You Forever."
"It's about father-daughter relationships," she said. "It's not about anyone in general, but it's a big part of my life."
Morris and Balstad each have classes based around poetry near the end of the year.
The students had to use what they learned in class for their poems, Morris said.
"They have to include poetic elements - similes, alliteration, onomatopoeia and all of that kind of stuff," Morris said. "They have to use concepts they were taught during the unit."
Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or email@example.com