Two things that give me pleasure are poetry and speaking with the accomplished young people who are often featured in this column; this issue brings them together.
Shoshana Peizer was a winner in the Tibet Support Network's Panchen Lama Campaign arts contest. Her poem, 'Missing or Free?' won second place in her age category.
The campaign raises awareness about the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's designated successor to their religious leader, the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama is selected as a young child.
The current Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and his family were kidnapped by the Chinese government 10 years ago, when the boy was only six, and their whereabouts are still unknown.
Shoshana's was one of only 17 winning non-Tibetan poetry entries. About 4,000 poems and drawings were submitted by children from all over the world. She learned about the contest from her mom, Annette Peizer, and then had to choose whether to write a poem or draw a picture, as she also enjoys art.
'I decided to just do a poem,' Shoshana says. 'I wanted to do something about how he is missing and how he would be when he was free. It came out all at once and I just kept on writing.'
Annette, a teacher of writing and literature, is pleased at her daughter's early success and says 'hopefully' Shoshana is following in her footsteps. 'She really enjoys writing'that's gratifying for me,' says Mom, who also teaches Hebrew at Temple De Hirsch Sinai. (If the last name is familiar, Peizer's mom, Ruth, is the well-known local Yiddish teacher.)
'I felt really good,' Shoshana reports about learning that she had won. In addition to having the poem published on the organization's Web site (www.freepanchenlama.org), her work also appeared in her school's newsletter.
The budding writer also enjoys writing books both as class projects and for her own pleasure.
'I like to write fiction about girls and how they get into adventures,' she states. Shoshana is a member of Girl Scout Troop 680 (Cheerful Chipmunks) and recently finished her soccer season. She takes piano lessons, too, and is enjoying life as a new dog owner with seven-month-old Perky, an Australian Shepherd mix that the family got at the Yakima pound.
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Lucas Chapel's poem, 'Israel,' published in Syncopation Grinning, was pointed out to me by Seattle writer and editor Linda Clifton, who picked up a copy of the 2004'2005 Writers in the School at a Seattle Arts and Lectures event (Arts and Lectures sponsors the program.)
Lucas, now a freshman at Garfield High School, wrote the poem while he was an eighth-grader at Seattle's TOPS Middle School on Capitol Hill. His writing teacher, Lori Eickelberg, spearheaded efforts to bring the program to TOPS. Students worked for two years with visiting writer Stokely Towles writing fiction and poetry.
'I think it's a huge opportunity for kids to work with a published writer,' says Eickelberg. 'Kids need to be exposed to more than one teacher, particularly middle school kids,' who are often on the cusp of abilities that need to be developed.
'We used a certain template,' explained Lucas of the writing exercise that led to the poem. 'We were asked to give a sound, a sight and a smell. That's how my poem started out and then I added on to it.'
Lucas says he has not written much poetry, and has not written any since the class.
'I need the motivation of having to do it for school,' he says, but confesses that until he worked with Towles he had never written a poem he liked. 'I realized that in order to write a poem you have to be passionate about it.'
The Chapel family, members of Congregation Beth Shalom, visited Israel about five years ago, during a period of relative calm.
'This was one of our best trips because we went all over Israel,' says Lucas. 'I had never been to any other country than Canada so it was even more special.'
Writers in the Schools hosts a public reading each spring featuring one student from each participating school. This year's performance is at Benaroya Hall on May 17, at 7 p.m.
'Everybody on the planet ought to see this,' Eikelberg declares. 'People don't quite get that young people have strong voices and with instruction the voice can come out.'
Lucas' mom, Paige Chapel, also writes, but until Lucas' successes thought she had influenced her daughter more than her son. However, she says 'he's always been very articulate and very expressive,' adding that 'that particular poem'blew me away. It showed a maturity that is very surprising.'
'My hope is that he doesn't stop [writing],' says Mom.
By Lucas Chapel
Sandals slap on hot stone, through plazas,
past shops and falafel stands.
Sunlight filters through eucalyptus trees,
their gray green leaves
harmonizing with the beige stone.
I let out a cry
as water bursts on the back of my neck.
I turn to see my sister laughing,
squirt gun in hand.
Afternoon at the Mediterranean Sea,
the golden white sand warm beneath my feet.
Remnants of marble pillars litter the beach,
worn smooth by the sky blue water.
Sunset on the Galilean sea,
the warm evening breeze
blowing through banana leaves
as we are led on camels through a kibbutz.
The Bedouin invites us back the next day
and teaches us to ride'
I feel at home here
As my sister and I walk together,
Laughing and carefree.
We have bonded here,
under these blue and white flags;
in these courtyards and passageways
that smell of history.
Our past rivalries forgotten,
plastered over like the layers of paper
in the cracks of the Western Wall.
Missing or Free?
By Shoshana Peizer
is not what I want.
I was going to be a great leader,
to help my country, Tibet
live, but I am
is my mind.
I can smell a flower, touch
a leaf. I can feel the sun
shine inside me. I can still help
my country, Tibet