Each year, the Friends of the North Branch Area Library sponsor a poetry contest for youth of all ages.
The contest was created by members of the Friends group and Branch Librarian Sue Monroe in 2012. Poets are encouraged to write an original piece around a theme, such as “love”, “winter”, or “humor”. The first couple of years, it was Valentine’s themed, but became a general contest in the third year. Members of the Friends group serve as judges, selecting grand prize winners from each age category. Usually, the contest culminates in February with a reading event. Students and their families and friends gather to share their work.
The 2020 contest’s theme was “family” and, in the planning process, we decided to make several big adjustments to the contest timeline. First, to pair with National Poetry Month, we pushed it back to April. Second, we added several poetry writing workshops to give students an opportunity to start working on their pieces. Third, we added the option to submit entries online. Little did we know how important that third change would be.
In early March, the contest was underway. The writing workshops took place during Spring Break and were well-received and entries began trickling in. However, on March 17th, the East Central Regional Library (of which North Branch is a member) closed all fourteen locations and suspended service due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic reshaped many aspects of life for the young poets. Schools were shut and students transitioned to online learning. Separated from teachers and friends, kids spent most of their time at home with their families. The contest’s theme of “family” took on new meaning.
In the months that followed the initial upheaval caused by Covid-19, the contest continued. Everyone submitted entries online, the reading event was cancelled, and judging happened over email. Friends members reached out to teachers in the local school districts, who shared the contest with their students. Overall, we received twenty five entries. Most were from North Branch, but several participants live in other communities served by the East Central Regional Library. Most of the poems followed the theme, but several went their own direction.
This is a collection of the contest entries.
I hope you enjoy the work of our young poets!
Amelia Birkholz, North Branch Librarian