Quills & Queues: Young poets wanted

Student poets can compete for cash and to have their work published this winter in the Oregon State Poetry Association's annual student contest.

OSPA's goal is to bring together and nurture the community of Oregon poets. The Rogue Valley chapter, which started about four years ago, aims to do that with school outreach programs, contests and hosted readings. Mostly, the group offers support to poets, providing a friendly community of fellow writers as well as information concerning the business of poetry. The statewide student contest has increased in popularity since it began 12 years ago.

This year, the Rogue Valley chapter of OSPA is sponsoring the contest and encourages poets of all ages to attend their local meetings and workshops. Carol Brockfield, president of the Rogue Valley OSPA group, said she is looking forward to seeing this year's student entries.

"The contest has gotten very popular. Last year, we had over 900 submissions. We would love to have more entries and winners from Southern Oregon," she said.

I told a few children of various ages about the contest and their reactions were telling. The younger kids were thrilled and immediately began rhyming and spinning verse off the top of their heads. The high school kids made a variety of cringing motions and found 13 ways to say "no way." It's amazing how self-conscious and risk averse we become as we age.

Brockfield said one of OSPA's goals is to help young people overcome their fears about sharing their poems.

"We want to take the fear out of sharing poetry, get young people and adults to come out of the closet and fearlessly share their work," she said. "Older kids should take a cue from the kindergarteners. The little ones are positively fearless."

Brockfield also pointed out that the judging is blind, so a shy, young poet worried about being judged can rest assured.

"The judges only see the poems without the names or contact information. You could write something totally idiotic and we will never know who you are. There's nothing to lose," she said.

Indeed, there is a lot to gain.

All participants receive the satisfaction of having made the bold choice to share their work with the world, and winners will see their poems published in "Cascadia," the Oregon Student Poetry Contest anthology. OSPA also awards 10 cash prizes ranging from $5 to $30, and the top 10 poems by middle school and high school students will automatically be entered in to the 2010 Manningham Trust Student Contest, a national contest sponsored by the Federation of State Poetry Societies.

OSPA started accepting poems in November and will continue taking entries until its deadline, Feb. 1.

All Oregon students from kindergarten to 12th-grade are eligible. You don't have to be an OSPA member to enter the contest.

Last year's big prize winner was Kylan Rice, a South Medford High student who took first place in the ninth- through 12th-grade division.

For the simple submission instructions, visit the OSPA Web site, OregonPoets.org, and click Poetry Contests on the left-hand side. Along with the contest rules, you'll also find handy tips on submitting to their contests. The first and best tip is to "read all the rules before you send in your entry."

For more information, go to OregonPoets.org or contact Carol Brockfield at carol.bfield@gmail.com.

Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and Tidings correspondent Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.

Share This Story