April 22, 2008
Earth day poetry: River of Words
In honor of Earth Day, I decided to post a couple of poems from River of Words:
River of Words is a California-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We’ve been conducting training workshops for teachers, park naturalists, grassroots groups, state resource agencies, librarians and others since 1995, helping them to incorporate observation-based nature exploration and the arts into their work with young people. In addition to helping improve children’s literacy—and cognitive skills like investigation and critical thinking—River of Words’ multidisciplinary, hands-on approach to education nurtures students’ creative voices as well, through instruction and practice in art and poetry.
Furthermore, they have an annual poetry competition for children and adolescents. I was really impressed by the following poem, which won the 2008 Grand Prize in Category III (Grades 7-9):
Stories Told With Sand Whipping in Our Faces
I was three years old.
My father pulled a map
out of his backpack,
roads spilling across it
like languages I did not understand.
Later, seagulls scampered
through the dunes
as we climbed to a place
where roots laced like fingers over the earth
and Lake Michigan lay before us,
as if it were a guardian.
We stood looking out over the place where
he was born, the hospital
where doctors waited in white shoes
while his throat burned
from tonsillitis. I could see him
a young boy darting through the streets
on his way to the dunes,
the closest thing to heaven
that we have while we live below the stars.
The driveway his father paved
by hand, bruised
from days of bricks
pulling him towards the earth.
His memories fell from his mouth
and I remember them all well
as if it was that morning
and I was standing tall
with his childhood looking back at me.
—Patty Schlutt, age 13
I also thought this one, which won the Shasta Biorregion Prize (Honoring a San Francisco Bay Area Student), was sweet:
The Singing Solar System
I am the ragged obsidian solar flare
that flies in the bright red sky.
I am the steaming hot spiky crimson
seaweed that soars by my
glowing star hands.
I am the atom floating
in the DNA strip
giggling in the brown nucleus,
shining bright smiles the plant cell,
floating in red orange fluid,
dancing happily in the narrow
parallel segment vein,
sprinting across the American seaweed,
opening a door to the earth,
spinning in the singing solar system,
twisting in silky ways,
jogging by the Milky Way,
and trying to circle the dark red universe.
—Robert Chan, age 10
Happy Earth Day, everyone!