McKinley Poets Take Top Awards in Laureate Contest

michaeldraytonZ.gif First place winner Michael Drayton.

By Faith Ajayi

Michael Drayton, Melanie Kates, Sharde' Banks, and Mariah Slade are among the winners of Washington, DC's Eighth Annual Poet Laureate's Poetry Awards for Senior High School Students.

Drayton won the first prize, the Poet Laureate Prize for his poem "Angel Fire II" and he received $500. Kates won third prize, the Gwendolyn Brooks Award for her poem "The Pianist" and she received $350. Banks won fourth prize, the E. Ethelbert Miller award for her poem "Ode to My Love-Ode to Music" and she received $300. Slade was awarded the first honorable mention for her poem "Self-Consciously" and she received $100. All the winners are members of the McKinley Technology Poetry club, mentored by Ms. Ellwell. The rest of the winners were students from Duke Ellington School for the Arts.

The winners were really enthused about their accomplishments. "I'm excited. It feels good to accomplish something and finally get rewarded for it," said Drayton.

They were equally surprised. "I wonder how some amateur poet beats out a really prestigious school that dedicates itself to poetry," added Drayton, referring to the fact that the first prize came from McKinley, not Duke Ellington School for the Arts.

"Actually, I didn't know that my teacher entered me in the contest, so I was pretty shocked. I believe they picked my poem because of my vocabulary and imagery," said Slade.

"The Poet Laureate is designed to offer high school students a choice about developing poetry in their creative lives," said Dolores Kendrick. Kendrick was the second person honored with the Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia title on May 14, 1999. She was preceded by Sterling Brown who was appointed in 1984.The Office of the DC Poet Laureate originates from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and is committed to encouraging, stimulating and showcasing poetry as an art form within the community and to bring poetry to the people, according to Kendrick.

People have different motives for writing poetry. Some are inspired to write poetry to vent their opinions. "I wanted to get a message out there about some negative things in the world, mostly about some of the bad images in hip-hop," said Drayton.

Others are inspired by the people around them. "It was the day before dress down day, and I was listening to how people were planning their outfits and the message they were trying to spread by what they wear. This was my inspiration for the poem," said Slade.

Drayton's favorite poet is Langston Hughes, because "his imagery is based on real life but then it's abstract when you think about it."

Slade's favorite poets are Maya Angelou and Jill Scott.

By Anna Kinsman |  May 29, 2008; 3:13 PM ET News
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