• Poetry Out Loud 2013 – our representatives’ poems of choice

    Competitors may choose from a list of poems chosen by the National committee. They must learn about the poet and the poem before using their work.

    Champion Arwa Awan chose two poems by living, American poets for her recitation, as did runner-up Malia Graciani.

    Arwa says, “I take pleasure in exploring different perspectives, particularly in regard to history and politics. I greatly enjoy reading — especially non-fiction literature; my favorite books include The Things They Carried and Night. Moreover, I am fascinated by the art of bringing life to a poem through one’s own passion, interpretation and voice, which has indeed drawn me toward the Poetry Out Loud program.

    Becoming a Redwood By Dana Gioia

    Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds

    start up again. The crickets, the invisible

    toad who claims that change is possible,


    And all the other life too small to name.

    First one, then another, until innumerable

    they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.


    Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,

    fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers

    snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.


    And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone

    can bear to be a stone, the pain

    the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.


    Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,

    rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall

    and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.


    The old windmill creaks in perfect time

    to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,

    and the last farmhouse light goes off.


    Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt

    these hills and packs of feral dogs.

    But standing here at night accepts all that.


    You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,

    moving more slowly than the crippled stars,

    part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,


    Part of the grass that answers the wind,

    part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows

    there is no silence but when danger comes.


    Dana Gioia, “Becoming a Redwood” from The Gods of Winter. Copyright © 1991 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.


    The Legend By Garrett Hongo

    In Chicago, it is snowing softly

    and a man has just done his wash for the week.

    He steps into the twilight of early evening,

    carrying a wrinkled shopping bag

    full of neatly folded clothes,

    and, for a moment, enjoys

    the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper,

    flannellike against his gloveless hands.

    There’s a Rembrandt glow on his face,

    a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek

    as a last flash of sunset

    blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street.


    He is Asian, Thai or Vietnamese,

    and very skinny, dressed as one of the poor

    in rumpled suit pants and a plaid mackinaw,

    dingy and too large.

    He negotiates the slick of ice

    on the sidewalk by his car,

    opens the Fairlane’s back door,

    leans to place the laundry in,

    and turns, for an instant,

    toward the flurry of footsteps

    and cries of pedestrians

    as a boy—that’s all he was—

    backs from the corner package store

    shooting a pistol, firing it,

    once, at the dumbfounded man

    who falls forward,

    grabbing at his chest.


    A few sounds escape from his mouth,

    a babbling no one understands

    as people surround him

    bewildered at his speech.

    The noises he makes are nothing to them.

    The boy has gone, lost

    in the light array of foot traffic

    dappling the snow with fresh prints.

    Tonight, I read about Descartes’

    grand courage to doubt everything

    except his own miraculous existence

    and I feel so distinct

    from the wounded man lying on the concrete

    I am ashamed.


    Let the night sky cover him as he dies.

    Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven

    and take up his cold hands.


    Garret Hongo, “The Legend” from The River of Heaven (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987). Copyright © 1988 by Garret Hongo. Used by permission of the Darhansoff Verrill Feldman Literary Agents.

    Malia Graciani, first runner-up at Pacific Grove High School, recited the following poem. She will represent us should Arwa Awan be unable to attend the competition at the State level.

    Ecology By Jack Collom

    Surrounded by bone, surrounded by cells,
    by rings, by rings of hell, by hair, surrounded by
    air-is-a-thing, surrounded by silhouette, by honey-wet bees, yet
    by skeletons of trees, surrounded by actual, yes, for practical
    purposes, people, surrounded by surreal
    popcorn, surrounded by the reborn: Surrender in the center
    to surroundings. O surrender forever, never
    end her, let her blend around, surrender to the surroundings that
    surround the tender endo-surrender, that
    tumble through the tumbling to that blue that
    curls around the crumbling, to that, the blue that
    rumbles under the sun bounding the pearl that
    we walk on, talk on; we can chalk that
    up to experience, sensing the brown here that’s
    blue now, a drop of water surrounding a cow that’s
    black & white, the warbling Blackburnian twitter that’s
    machining midnight orange in the light that’s
    glittering in the light green visible wind. That’s
    the ticket to the tunnel through the thicket that’s
    a cricket’s funnel of music to correct & pick it out
    from under the wing that whirls up over & out.

    Jack Collom, “Ecology” from Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955-2000, published by Tuumba Press. Copyright © 2001 by Jack Collom. Reprinted by permission of the author.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 10, 2013

    Topics: Creative Writing


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