In her poem entitled “Peace from Beginning to the End,” De’ja Salahuddin, a seventh grade student at Six to Six Magnet School in Bridgeport, Conn., wrote that “Peace is the love men cherish with their wives and children until the day they die.”
Salahuddin was one of about 60 students in grades kindergarten through eighth who attend schools in either Fairfield or Bridgeport that had the ability to share their award-winning poetry at Poetry for Peace.
This event, which took place on Jan. 30 in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, was an opportunity for young students to express what peace means to them through their creative writing.
The poetry read ranged from the older students calling for world peace, to the descriptions the younger students gave of the peace they find within nature and the love they have for their families.
Sponsored by Fairfield University, Poetry for Peace takes place in conjunction with the various other Martin Luther King Jr. Day-themed events that happen on campus this time of year.
According to English professor and Co-Chair Elizabeth Boquet, Poetry for Peace was created in 2008 by Dr. Nels Pearson, also an English professor here at Fairfield, who co-directed the event until 2011.
“The original idea was to showcase and celebrate the connection between the imaginative thinking that is required for both poetic creation and bringing about peace,” Pearson said. “We also wanted to bring together young students of all backgrounds from Fairfield and Bridgeport as we did so.”
This year, Poetry for Peace drew in over 1,200 submissions, which were divided into categories based on grade level. The submissions were judged by a group of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty members, who then selected roughly 60 winners from the total, according to Boquet.
In addition to having the chance to read their poetry entries to their friends and families, the winning poetry is published in a booklet distributed to the audience. This booklet includes an ISBN number, like that of library books, stirring excitement among the young writers.
Freshman Napali Bridgelall, who attended the poetry reading for her English class, pointed out the profoundness of the writing of even some of the youngest participants.
“A lot of times, we get overwhelmed by things like peace, because they seem so impossible to approach,” Bridgelall said. She added how interesting it was for her to hear the ease with which innocent, young writers discussed the issues of world peace and injustice that many adults find uncomfortable and unsolvable.
Boquet describes Poetry for Peace as one of the “happiest” and “most celebratory” events that take place on campus, which stems from the joy many adults get from hearing just how surprisingly enlightened their sons and daughters are.
Bridgelall looks forward to next year’s Poetry for Peace, suggesting that more Fairfield students come and see the talents and insights of these young writers.
“I would encourage everyone whose faith in humanity is “lost” to come to an event like this one … it will definitely be restored,” Bridgelall said.