2006-2007 IATE Poetry Contest Winners

Here's a list of recipients of Special Merit awards, their schools, and their nominating teachers. Winning poems can be viewed by clicking the students' names.

  • Jessica Johal, “Punjabi American,” Senior / Teacher, Joyce Norman / Buffalo Grove High School ( Arlington Heights, IL)
  • Mariel McAleer, “The Missing Piece,” Grade 6 /Teacher, Sheila Fitzsimmons / Edgewood Middle School ( Highland Park, IL)
  • Jodie Lynn Good, “My Grandma,” Sophomore / Teacher, Lee Roll / Oakland High School (Oakland, IL)
  • Emily Taetzsch,”’Gray Tree, Lake George, Georgia O’Keeffe" Grade 4 / Teacher, Terry Tavine / Wiesbrook Elementary ( Wheaton, IL)
  • Nick Neri, “Marissa Ristich,” Junior / Teacher, Elizabeth Maxwell-Carlson / Adlai E. Stevenson High School ( Lincolnshire, IL)

Mapping Relationships: The Poem as Human Commerce

A poem defines the poet's relationship with a world of others, both human and natural. It is a portal with complementary views. One view is focused outward upon the world from the poet's own eyes; the other is focused inward, enabling the reader to look into the poet's being. In sum, poems map poets' relationships with the universe they inhabit or the one they wish to inhabit, setting down the boundaries as well as the topography of their attention.

The mere act of writing a poem is an act of affirmation. It affirms both the poet's place in the world and the value of what attracts the poet's attention.

A poem is thus a form of human commerce, one whose exchanges abjure cash but nonetheless intimately and necessarily involve value. Ineluctably, what the poet values makes its way into a poem, consciously or not. The poet's commerce with nature and humanity involves much importing and exporting to be sure, a curious kind of one person international trade with the larger world. Its images and ideas are transported across the border of the poet's self and exported back out again into the world, transformed as a poem. The poet's currency, of course, is language. Not surprisingly, his/her profits are intellectual and emotional. For the poet, language is coin of the realm. For the poet, experience is both raw material and end product, the poem itself an experience not mere story about experience.

Congratulations to the poets whose splendid poems earned this year's IATE poetry contest first place honors. Among them, I am drawn to those valuing relationships, for those poems sparked my above musings on the poem as act of human commerce. These poems have garnered my citation as Poems of Special Merit. Whether it is a granddaughter's loving recounting of her grandma's quirky sayings or a daughter's arriving home to her parents' exotically spiced dinner, these poems reveal the depth of human relationships through exquisitely chosen detail. Their subjects are animate, bristling with an idiosyncratic but embracing humanity. These poems implicitly understand essential human loneliness even as they celebrate human togetherness. Sometimes that togetherness offers the "missing piece" that makes one whole; other times the larger culture brings not so salutary pressures, forcing one to grow from kids' funky Keds innocence to "skin tight jeans / high heels and a / low cut shirt." Even a fourth grader's ekphrastic poem-her response to a Georgia O'Keeffe painting-delivers its own surprising commentary, finding in a lone tree enveloped by fog an image to express human loneliness and resiliency.

This is the poet's essential task and obligation: To pay attention, thus allowing the world to enter one's door and the world to exit again, transformed by self and experience, remade as poem.

- Kevin Stein, Illinois Poet Laureate