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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Lee Cataluna
Pintsize poets full of promise

Nicole Sato may have summed it up best in her poem titled "Struggling Writer."

I struggle to write a poem
as amazing and clever as a cat
A poem so swift, sharp and loving
that you can hear its purr

Sato, a fourth-grader at Punahou School, certainly got her words to purr. Her piece was selected as one of the winners in the Star Poets 2002 contest.

And she's in good company.

For the past three years, the Windward Community College language department has teamed up with Starbucks Coffee to sponsor the poetry contest for Hawai'i students in public and private schools from Grade 3 to 12. This year, there were more than 1,400 poems sent in from around the state. That's a lot of struggling writers, and according to organizers of the contest, that's a lot of purring.

Consider this excerpt from a poem called "Green" written by Makalele Gorsich, a sixth-grader from Kilohana Elementary on Moloka'i

...Green tastes like bananas not ripe.
Green is the calm of the deep ocean.
It is my ti leaf skirt brushing against my leg as I dance.
Green is the faraway mountains after it rains and the smell of a freshly mowed lawn...

Libby Young, who teaches English and journalism at WCC, served as one of the judges for the contest.

"We look for original imagery and often it's a very concrete way to talk about very abstract things. It's a different way of looking at something that could be very every-day. A genuine voice that comes through. And then some of the elements of poetry: that there is a certain rhythm, concision of language, sometimes layers of meaning."

Some of the most striking poems come from the littlest writers. Young says often little kids are closer to elemental feelings and they don't have a lot of the media images that infiltrate their ideas. "They see the world in a very fresh way. And that's what makes for good writing."

Like this poem by a St. Theresa's School third-grader named Franklin Tran:

It crawls, slowly, slowly
It doesn't talk, turning its scaly head from side to side.
A long, sticky tongue lashes in and out.
Hunting for prey.
Defending its precious nest.
Climbing rocky trails.
The Komodo dragon, a fierce, dangerous machine.

Starbucks gives cash prizes to the winners and schools. In addition, Starbucks picks up the cost of publishing 15,000 "Star Poets Journals," a collection of the winning pieces that will be given to all public and private schools in the state.

And, perhaps the biggest thrill of all, the winners get to participate in a real-life coffee-house poetry reading! Well, it won't be in the coffee house, but it'll be nearby. The Star Poets 2002 reading will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Kahala Mall.