Poetry takes Craig Middle School students into wild imaginative territory
Carol Jacobson Memorial Poetry Contest lets students explore beyond classroom corridors
April 29, 2016
Craig — When Eliana Mack wrote a poem for her middle school English class, she thought way beyond the usual classroom, comparing hope to a "speck."
"I've had to use hope a lot in my life," said Eliana, an eighth-grader at Craig Middle School, "and I feel like it's in the most unknown places, in the place where you don't think you'll ever find it."
Eliana's poem, "The Speck Who Changed the World," was among the top three poems chosen in the Carol Jacobson Memorial Poetry Contest. The contest featured a chance for students to read their work out loud, along with cash prizes provided by the Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrotheads. Writing began in the classroom, but through the students' imaginations, it branched far beyond any school corridors.
David Morris, who teaches writing at Colorado Northwestern Community College, coordinated the contest for the Craig Middle School students. He described how the assignment ranged outside of the classroom, dipping into waters where students can experience live audiences.
"Because they know there's a possibility that they're going to be published or people are going to listen to them — physically listen to them — I think that they put just a little bit more effort into the work," said Morris, a poet and a former CMS teacher.
Allison Villard, an eighth-grader whose poem came in first in the contest, agreed.
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"You might put more effort into it if it you know it's not just for a grade," she said. "There's a lot of emotion and hard work that goes into it."
Allison's poem, "The Ranch," won first place in the contest. She explained the way the place has inspired her to write.
"I usually write about the same things — nature and my ranch," she said. "I like it up there."
Allison's poem contains an ample amount of figurative language, and it's also nourished by strong sensations.
"I taste the smoke from the campfire in the air," she writes in one line.
Morris stressed the importance of using the senses as he introduced the contest to the students, but he also noted that middle school students are capable of using figurative language.
"Kids are working with figurative language down in the lower elementary grades a little bit, so they have plenty of time to develop an appreciation for it," he said.
Tommy Dickhaut, whose poem "Perro en la Nieve" won second prize, also includes strong figurative language that evolves and transforms from line to line. Two lines read this way: "The snow falls slow as a feather/As it lands to form a gentle blanket."
Forrest Watson, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at the middle school, worked with the students as they crafted their poems. He said that he helped them to edit the work, and that he also encouraged them to seek out descriptive language in their poems.
Watson also stressed the importance of developing an audience outside of the teacher — and a purpose that ranges beyond achieving a good grade.
"If students work hard on it, they will be excited to share it with the entire class," he said. "It's cool to see that."
Other students honored in the contest included Fiona Connor, Ashley LeMoine, Rylie Anderson, Nikki Currie and MaKala Herndon.