Young Craig poets find inspiration in strange places |

Young Craig poets find inspiration in strange places

Meaningful poems honor memory of a beloved Craig woman

Sasha Nelson
A large audience at Downtown Book in Craig listens as student Lauren Hilley recites a poem that was awarded third place in this year's Carol Jacobson Memorial Poetry Contest.
Sasha Nelson

— Poets winning this year’s Carol Jacobson Memorial Poetry Contest found inspiration in movies, astronomy, at the animal shelter and in death — creating visceral imagery that imbued their work with feeling.

“Poetry is a form of artwork and it’s extremely important to put emotion into art because that’s the whole point of it,” said Craig Middle School poet Maya Nava. She authored one of the six poems receiving honorable mention this year.

Jacobson was an advocate for the arts in Craig and owned Downtown Books. She helped David Morris start the annual middle school contest over 10 years ago.

Morris, and members of the 25-year-old Craig poetry club that meets at the store, dedicated the contest to Jacobson after her tragic death in a rafting accident in 2009.

“I thought this year’s poems were especially strong,” said Janet Sheridan, a professional writer, club member and contest judge.

Sheridan was joined by club members, professional writers and educators: Shirley Simpson, Chris Sowers, Jane Yazzie and JoAnn Baxter to select for recognition nine of the roughly 160 poems submitted by eight-grade language arts students.

Cash prizes — $35 for first place, $20 for second, $15 for third place and $5 for honorable mention — were again donated by the Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrot Heads to encourage students.

“This is our way to help kids see the value in writing,” Morris said.

Top poems

First place: “Swamp soiree” by Joelle Kenny

The moon sheds a pearlescent veil atop the bald cypress, rooted in murky canals

The berceuse of the bayou begins at sundown as fireflies commence to glow

The alligators hiss and hum in harmony, frogs croak and crescendo,

Muskrats blather and begin to create the jazzy beat as you swing your gals.

Jazz permeates deep in the bayou, as the crickets trill to the trumpet’s tune

Soul saturates the swampland and sways the drapery of Spanish moss

The animals swing and jive to the music that makes them feel o’ so alive!

They tap their claws, snap their maws, and boogie to the endless bayou blues.

Sway to the beat and meet me down by the bayou, me standing by you

Sit in the pirogues, take a break from making groceries

Make a pass, as we fish for bass in this muddy waters edge

Mardi Gras sure is exciting, but that there, Cher, that’s delighting.

Second place: “Universe” by Cristal Holguin

The vast gas clouds form shapes in the empty timeline.

Loud vibrations travel across infinite cosmic galaxies.

The lurid sight of an erupting, ebbing star:

sour gas from it’s celestial substance.

The Milky Way, smooth and soft, as warm melting chocolate,

swirls, dances in barren, murky space.

Suns sail through the pool of gloom.

Luminous constellations wake as the star vanishes into the night.

The illusion, of a stone disk, hovering over a floating puff of pearl,

Heat, blast from the face of a wandering star, shoots ablaze,

As the black holes devour the luminescent light from the stars, toss them into the pitch


Will we wander into the mysterious ocean of the universe?

Third place: “A longing to belong” by Lauren Hilley

The trembling touch of stifling fear caresses me

as abandonment seeps in

while I wait on cracked pavement.

Hopeless lonesomeness and the fear of being forever lost overwhelms


during my desperate roaming through filthy streets.

Captured at last,

hope deflates like a balloon.

The ringing of anxious barks follows and harasses me

during my doomed march towards confinement.

Distressed eyes regard me,

I noticed the familiar and sharp aroma of terror.

Visitors are rarer

than the speckling, fleeting hope that fills days

where my caged neighbors growl,

followed by stanching silence.

Finally, a day as bleak as others,

ends with an exit from that shelter.

Welcoming voices with words I can’t understand greet me,

while unfamiliar love smothers me

and comfort reaches my overflowing heart.

With an exhilarating tang of joy, I experience a laugh for the first time

with an energetic wag of my tail.

This is belonging, ecstasy, home, and love at the finest.

Inspiration in the strangest things

Kenney’s poem “Swamp Soiree” transports the reader into the heart of the Louisiana swampland, a place she’s never visited.

“I just kind of think of that situation and living there and from background like watching the movie ‘The Princess and the Frog.’ The dancing fireflies give you the feeling of warm southern comfort,” Kenney said when describing how she found inspiration to write the top poem.

“When I grow up I want to be an astronomer and when I go outside and when I look up at the stars it inspires me,” Holguin said about the inspiration for her poem.

Third place winner, Hilley, was struggling to find a subject to write about and asked her parents for ideas.

“My mom works at the animal shelters and she would come home with stories about what she would see… so she suggested that we do something about the shelter because it is connected to our family,” Hilley said about the poem she wrote from the point of view of a stray dog.

“My favorite season is fall, and my favorite thing about fall is the trees. If you think about it, it’s weird that a beautiful thing is something dying, so my inspiration is that there is beauty in the strangest things,” said Nava about her poem “Autumn Carmina.”

The poetry competition provides students freedom of expressions not offered by other genres and teachers have found that it allows some struggling language arts learners to excel.

“A lot of the kids who won are not usually our top students. It may boost up their confidence. They could individualize it and express themselves in words and shine through,” said teacher Diedre Watson.

Students also had to master the use of figurative language, using metaphors and similes to engage all five senses.

“They were required to write only 12 lines so that those 12 could be more powerful. We were looking for quality over quantity. They used words they had never seen before so that they had to read and write them at a higher level,” said teacher Forrest Watson.

Keep writing

Students, parents, judges and community members gathered at Downtown Books — the store where Jacobson started the contest — to hear the authors of the top nine poems read them aloud.

“Their families show up to support them and hear them read. I think that’s one of the reasons these children are successful,” Sheridan said of the evening.

Mothers and fathers saw their children wrestle with their words to create winning poems.

“I see that she has put in a lot of hard work so that things come out as best as possible and she’s always doing something extra to make it better. Even if it’s not in Spanish, it sounds really good,” said Flor Holguin via translation provided by her daughter.

Students submitted two and sometimes four or five versions of their poems. Then, for the first time, Sheridan said, the judges worked with the top students to give the winning poems a final polish.

“You never really get it until all of the sudden they come home and say ‘Dad, guess what I did.’ It really hits you in the heart how hard they try, how hard they work to get it,” said Steve Hilley when describing the hard work done by his daughter Lauren.

The competition, the lessons and all the work have a unifying purpose — to encourage students to keep writing.

“I hope these kids don’t stop writing. They all did a grand job, and I think it’s important that they continue to write,” said Kristen Nava, mother of Maya Nava. “Poetry is subjective. It can be all different kinds and forms and a real outlet for their creativity, and that’s real important for kids and for us all.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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