About six months ago, visitors to (and bloggers on) this blog were writing away at the Brighter Light poetry challenge designed and provided by my co-blogger, Andrea. It was a lot of fun, and I met some of the most amazing poets, adult and not-yet-adult, and read some incredible, creative, interesting work.
The challenge has been on my mind because of something my spouse pointed out to me recently.
My son, K., (and I) dropped out of the Brighter Light contest early on. He was going through some Stuff at school and didn’t have energy to think about words. But then, about a month ago, I was putting away dishes and realized I was hearing his little voice from the livingroom. I came out of the kitchen, and there he was, reading a short poem by Michael Dickman to himself, out of a New Yorker that my husband had left on the table. It was kind of…eerie.
When K. was done, he read it aloud again, asked me about some of the phrases, and then went into a rather thoughtful silence.
Apparently, this was the start of something.Each day, K’s taken a little time to read poems out loud to me (or my spouse) or (mostly) to himself. The floor is littered with random books of poetry, opened and upside down. He’ll recite some Jack Prelutsky or Spike Milligan (he’s memorized one about a baboon that sends him into fits of giggles). He’s grabbed me a couple of times and asked me to type “a poem I’m about to make up,” and the poems are (trying to put on my objective, non-mom, hat) interesting. This is a part of a recent one:
your colors melt and mix
until they make one red stripe
across the long screen
I didn’t have a theory about why this was happening until my husband looked up from his computer and said, appropos of nothing, that it usually takes K. about six months to really process anything he’s been thinking about (which drives his teachers absolutely bats). And then he asked me what K and I had been doing about six months ago.
Maybe the challenge did illuminate the world of words for K. I realized I got a lot out of the challenge too, as I get a lot out of all of the challenges I read and/or enter. I get to ingest a lot of amazing poetry. I see new ways of looking at a single picture. I am reminded that I like a much wider variety of poetry than I usually read. In Andrea’s challenge, I got a very visceral reminder of why artistic coaches tell you to “reach for your inner child:” there wasn’t a young person involved who didn’t bring his or her own light to the writing.
So, friendly readers, now I’m curious: what do you get out of challenges and contests that go beyond the obvious? If you and a young person in your life participated in the Brighter Light challenge, what came out of it for your young person ? if you are a young person who was involved in the challenge, what did you find out about yourself, about the adults in your life, about writing, and poetry, and life?
I know The Brighter Lights Challenge was very exciting for my “grand-girls” … The enjoyed and were very “serious” about their participation – even though we live in different states they would call in for the “prompt” and discuss each evening – going so far as to phone in from a family vacation! At the time of the challenge they were eight and ten. They were quite thrilled to have their work read by others on-line and have continued to write poetry. Your son K’s writing and interest in poetry could very well have been stoked by the Brighter Lights Challenge. As I’ve written before the girls, and I would imagine some of the other older involved children, were concerned, confused and then as children will accepted that the challenge had no closure but drifted away. I think that right now would be a terrific time to redress any lingering disappointment which might impact future involvement in challenges.
Would you consider writing a small blog note to the Brighter Light participants (I explained to my ‘girls” that the challenge organizer had fallen ill and had to go to hospital – and in the way that children will accept a teacher suddenly leaving they accepted this development as the end of challenge. At any rate maybe we could have a final call for a post on a final interesting “summer” prompt and at least end the challenge for the kids that did participate. I don’t think that you’d have to announce ‘winners’ only acknowledge participants – that acknowledgment itself would be thrilling for most children (we know how much we as grown-ups enjoyed our first responses to our work, and for that matter any subsequent responses to our work – lol 🙂
At any rate – your question was on impact – I think being involved in a challenge is about the sense of community and the understanding that writing has an audience. At this point it would be nice to have a “final round of applause prompt” and bring what was a lovely idea and experience to a close. Hope this doesn’t sound too pushy…I suppose I enjoy closure as well and know that adult poets (as we all know!) wait eagerly for an end to a challenge in which they have participated. Soooo…. I think that I get a sense, as stated, of community and comraderie and healthy competiton from a challenge – it’s not about the prize or winning but about being heard that is most important to me.
(If you decide to go ahead with this suggestion of ending the Brighter Light Challenge on Andrea’s behalf and need any help with a prompt or anything at all- feel free to contact me.
Many of the children were very young – and so will probably not have summer plans – for those that are school age – I suppose the sooner something could get out to them – the better.)
Again, just an idea –
Hi Pearl, Thanks for your ideas and your response. I do think for most writers, being heard is The Key. I’d like to talk with you about the idea of a closing prompt – I’ll catch you elsewhere 🙂
Wonderful – my email is email@example.com
At first my daughter was reluctant, but finally learned to look at not just the whole of the poem but each line. Together we tried to make the best and funniest they could be. To her, poetry should be fun and/or funny.
In an odd turn of events, since the challenge he started writing but in a different direction. She has written three articles for the teen section of our newspaper. One was about a cooking contest she entered, the other was her opinion regarding if people should be permitted to vote at age 16, and the last is sort of a secret. Due to the nature of it, she had no byline. She had to do so in order to protect the identity of the person she interviewed.
She’ll probably never be a poetry. She’s learned that’s not her genre. She writes awesome articles and I am proud of her.
I realized how much I miss writing for children. I hope to finish some older projects I started.
Thanks again for the challenge.
How great about your daughter! I love that she’s found her calling (or perhaps one of many) – it must be amazing to see her work in print. Congrats 🙂