For the seventh year the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCS) has organized an Arbor Day Poetry Contest for Senior Citizens. SWCS Conservation Educator Caitlin Stewart started the contest as a way to reach an often overlooked and underserved demographic.
“My grandparents are very artistic and I see that spark they get when they create something,” says Stewart. “We do a lot with children through various events, like our Conservation Day for 5th and 6th graders and the Enviro-thon for high school students. This contest is a way to engage the Hamilton County Senior population.”
This year the theme Stewart has chosen is “Trees in Nature” in a free verse structure. Free verse poetry has no regular meter and rhythm and does not rhyme with fixed forms. Stewart provides an example of free verse through Walt Whitman’s poem Song of Myself. Stewart does not list an age requirement, but leaves the definition of “senior” up to the discretion of the participant. The deadline for entry is April 23, Thursday.
“I am always open to suggestions regarding the contest,” says Stewart. “It keeps people interested and participating. Last year some participants from Long Lake wanted free verse so that is what we are doing this year.”
Arbor Day, an annual observance celebrating the roles of trees, planting and their care, takes place the last Friday of April. It started in Nebraska in 1872 when journalist J. Sterling Morton spread his passion for nature to an eager audience eventually helping transform the landscape with trees to provide “windbreaks, shade, fuel and building materials.” Now Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states as well as many other countries around the world.
“This is a perfect Arbor Day activity,” says Stewart. “Trees give us wildlife habitat, timber, shelter, oxygen. People may also have difficulty getting outside this time of year, during mud season. This gets them thinking about nature and provides a fun opportunity.”
The Hamilton County SWCS awards each participant a certificate with special merit certificates for first, second and third place winners. The county-wide first place winner receives a special prize on behalf of the district.
photo of the Hamilton County SWCS Poetry Award used with permission