On June 3rd The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association hosted the Twenty-Sixth Annual Young Poets Contest. This year’s theme, “I Hear America Singing” encouraged many young men and women to write wonderful poems inspired by Walt Whitman’s poetry.
The categories included individual poems, class anthologies and individual anthologies separated by grades that spanned third to twelfth grade. The contest judges, Gladys Henderson, Anne Kingsbury and Ginger Williams expressed that so many incredible poems came their way that it was difficult to choose the winners.
Proud parents, grandparents, teachers and classmates gathered together on the bright Sunday afternoon to hear original poetry read by the first place winners. The first place winners are listed below:
We were also honored to hear both original poetry and Whitman’s own poetry read by Pramila Venkateswaran, the 2012 WWA Long Island Poet of the Year.
The day was made even more colorful by 19th century fiddle music played by Mary Nagin and even an appearance by “Walt Whitman” (courtesy of Darrel Blaine Ford, Whitman Personator). Walt took pictures with the winners and provided witty comments while Cynthia Shor (Executive Director) and Carolyn Diglio (Education Coordinator) presented the awards. In addition to recognition, each winner, even those part of the classroom anthologies received gift bags, courtesy of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association.
The event was a great success. It was a fantastic opportunity to bring together the community, poets of all ages, and lovers of Walt Whitman.
Jack Strauss – First Place – Category A, Grade 4 The Laurel Hill School – Mrs. Cardosanto
“I Hear History Singing the History”
Those historians, each one singing Yankee Doodle.
Elvis Presley singing as he rocks out.
George Washington singing as he fights
Or singing The Declaration of Independence.
John Glenn singing as he watches space,
Abe Lincoln as he tries to stop slavery.
Thomas Jefferson singing as he writes freedom.
I hear history, singing the history
With his feather pen, Ben Franklin
Singing on the hard ground flying a kite.
The Wright Brothers singing as they create
the first plane in the woods.
John Adams’ song, Franklin Roosevelt
Singing during WW2 in his office.
The sweet song of Henry Ford, or of
The nice John Q. Adams singing or Teddy
Roosevelt running and singing.
Elena Metcalf – First Place – Category B, Grade 5
The Long Island School for the Gifted – Mrs. Williams
“Dreams of Music”
I tune my ears to the world when I am tired of the radio
Beautiful music floods my ears; I leap up and run outside to enjoy the chorus of life.
I jump out the door and run down the street.
My feet are instruments, drumming on the ground.
A little boy and girl sing of the wind rushing through their hair as they twirl.
The butcher belts out a tune as his knife thuds onto the cutting board.
The flowers seem as if they are wafting a song into the air
Instead of their wondrous aroma.
Sing! Sing! Let your voices ring out!
A short little ditty or an hour long
As long as you are heard!
The sun sings with a tone that outshines all the others,
As he slides across the sky.
Before I can sing my own tune,
My breath is taken away
By the chirping of the stars,
The grass rustles out a hymn beneath my feet as I spin.
Just before the melody of my sleep
Joins the songs of others,
The harmony of the wolf and the moon
Lulls me into dreams of music.
Summar Khan – First Place – Category C, Grade 7
The Long Island School for the Gifted – Mrs. Williams
America is always singing,
Singing songs of joy, hope, and freedom,
Songs adults hum on their way to work,
Songs that children sing with each other as they play happily,
Songs of a family on Thanksgiving when everyone is together.
Songs sung to cheer one up,
Songs of opportunity,
And lullabies our mothers sang us to sleep with.
Songs of pride and faith in our country.
America sings many different songs in many ways.
But the song that drowns out the others is the song that everyone knows in his heart,
America sings a song of love.
Miriam Levitin – First Place – Category D, Grade 9
Manhasset High School – Mrs. Winterling
A lighthouse sings ships’ way home
Stars gleam and shine, singing reminders of the past, and promises for the future
The sun sings as it bestows light and warmth upon the earth
Rivers sing as they flow between banks, their bubbling sound adding to the chorus of song around them
A butterfly beats its delicate wings, sipping nectar from flowers in a soft but elegant song
A seed roots and slowly pushes itself up, singing as the tiny bud breaks the surface of the earth to face the sun
Rain falls to the ground, the fat drops hitting cold pavement in a rhythmic song
A storm rages overhead, its song one of conflict eventually resolved
Waves crash on the shore, singing the song of the sounding sea
A beautiful song resounds as a human smiles; laughs; eyes lighting up with pure happiness
Eyes gaze, their song searching, reflecting the emotion behind them
A pulse beats, singing the sweet sound of precious life
Lungs breathe, their song the subtle sound of filling with and releasing air
Running is a song, sneakers slapping the ground in a steady beat
Children play, their giggles a nostalgic song to old ears
A young child with its big eyes sings of curiosity and wonder
A person’s courage and bravery sings of pride and honor
Love is a complex song, filled with joy and sorrow, carrying both memories and fate of the future
A dream is a fragile song of hope and promise
Life is full of exquisite, mellifluous songs; songs or remorse, songs of hope, songs of every kind possible imaginable
When you’re lost, afraid, confused, hurt, lonely, inspired, curious, thoughtful, elusive, evasive, quiet yourself, be still the world. Just close your eyes, and listen. Listen to life’s song.
Melvin Li – First Place – Category E, Grade 11
Ward Melville High School – Mrs. DiIorio
“The Song of the Brooklyn Bridge”
With the sun half an hour high in the west,
I enter the Promenade boardwalk basking in its golden rays.
I come from the east, the green fields way beyond Huntington Station,
To look at the storied bridge, the grand river, and the omnipresent seagulls.
Although a century and a half too late, I still want to listen to what Whitman had to tell the future generation he was anticipating.
And by crossing time’s shores, catch the echoes of those songs he once sang
The Brooklyn Bridge! Its magnificent stone towers, facing each other across 1600 feet,
Soar into the sky, and its steel cables split the winds and sing of memory and time.
The stately and admirable river flows, its waves palling as the shores,
Singing of life, seasons, and eternity.
The seagulls still float in the sky, eyeing all and singing their untold stories,
And their bodies are painted a glowing yellow by the evening sun.
The bountiful hills of Brooklyn are beautiful as ever, full of humming and song,
But the tall masts hemming Manhattan have all vanished,
Replaced by a few speedy motorboats whose motors let out songs of power and passion.
The Promenade boardwalk, hanging like a cradle of life over the six-lane traffic below,
Is filled with pedestrians of various kinds: men, women, young, old, where, black, and brown…
All casually attired, approaching or passing, gazing or pointing, talking or laughing.
They look on the river and sky, their voices bubbly, excited, varying in cadence,
In all the flavors of English, some in unknown tongues.
Although I don’t understand all their languages, I can hear their hearts bursting into songs of Whitman’s democratic vistas.
Under the stone tower on the Manhattan side, a young man leans against the railings
And plucks at his guitar. I know not the tune, but my heart yearns to sing along.
I want to sing of the free spirit of America, soaring like the stone towers of the bridge into the clouds.
I want to sing of the brave hearts of America, defending this land of plenty for all.
I want to sing of the omnifarious humanity on the bridge enjoying themselves on a splendid day.
The Brooklyn Bridge! Of you I sing, a seasoned witness for the past 129 years of a glorious city,
A quintessential landmark that bridges not only one borough to another,
But time’s invisible shores so that my songs of America mingle with those of America’s greatest bard.
Kyle Montemurro – Category L -Walt Whitman HS
Everything As It Should Be:
Fell into the armpit of my grandfather’s chair
As I navigated an innocent world,
Where smoke stacks were cloud makers
And concrete protected worms.
My young mind turned what it couldn’t understand
Into what it could bear to comprehend.
Even then deep within, I knew it was easier to pretend.
So that’s what I did.
I quickly swept the evidence,
The crumbs rejected by my mouth,
In between the cushions before my mother could see.
The comfort of the chair swallowed me
and I fell asleep,
unconscious of the fact that one day
my world would crumble.
I slept for a long time.
I was six.