In third grade, I won a poetry competition in my elementary school. The prompt was “What does the flag mean to you?”. I wrote a poem composed of couplets, each starting with When I think of the flag… and followed by some patriotic tidbit. I recall sitting in the hallway of Deans Mill Elementary School, drafting it over, and wanting it so bad. They announced the winner’s names over the intercom at school, and I simply could not believe it. My family felt the mixed emotions of excitement for my recognition, and panic that I would have to read in front of a giant Flag Day ceremony on our playground blacktop the following week.
I barely remember the day. But I do know that this is when I developed a small liking for poetry. Of course, everyone likes being told they are good at something. I like doing well and I like winning. This was my first taste of that, which set me up to try to write good poetry up through my teenage years. This small interest led me to get my first poem published at age 17, and to eventually become the Poet Laureate of my high school class. My Flag Day experience came full circle when I wrote and read a poem for my high school graduation.
The Poetry for Peace event was not only adorable, but inspiring. These elementary and middle school students had so many simple and beautiful ideas of what peace was to them, centered around family and friends and small joys of daily life. It hardly seemed like anyone had nerves, as each student walked up to the mic and read confidently, followed by the crowd erupting with applause and cheers. The kids radiated pride. I loved that although the students came from very different backgrounds, economically and racially, between Fairfield and Bridgeport, they both had similar ideas of peace. No matter the amount of privilege, all children want is to play in the pool with their brother, or toss the ball around with dad, or sit in bed with a book.
My Flag Day Poem is still hanging on the top of the stairs in my grandparent’s house, framed and printed on patriotic stock paper. When I see it, I remember where my love of writing started. I hope that Poetry for Peace has the same effect, and provokes a love in writing in many of the talented students who read at the event.