Dr. Nels Pearson listens as one of the winners of the University’s second annual Poetry for Peace contest speaks and recites a poem on peace last Thursday night. Peter Caty/The Mirror

Poetry. Peace. Pearson.

These three came together at the University’s second annual Poetry for Peace Contest this past Thursday night, where over 60 students were honored for their peace poetry.

Started last year by Nels Pearson, an assistant professor in the English department, and this year co-directed with Jerelyn Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, the program is open to students from kindergarten to eighth grade from Bridgeport and Fairfield schools.

Seven hundred submissions were received in mid-November. The judges for the contest consisted of the faculty, undergraduate and graduate students of the University.

Every contestant had to describe what peace meant to them.

According to Pearson,  the winners “present poems with concrete imagery, and that is what we look for.”

This is the second year of the program. Not only were the judges excited, they were also astonished by the mature language that the students used in their poems.

Picking 63 winners from 700 submissions proved to be a challenge.

”Your poems are the best that we received and they remind me of why we study and write poetry,” said Pearson to the winners.

Not only were the students happy to recite their poems in front of family, friends and the community, but they were also proud to have been recognized for their ability to write.

Imani Jean’Gilles, an eighth grader at St. Augustine in Bridgeport, was not sure her piece would be a winner this year.

“I had written about God last year and this year I wrote more about nature, so I didn’t know if I would win,” said Imani.

She was surprised when she found out that she had won and was very proud to. “Peace hides in the strangest places,” she said with a smile.

She was not the only one who had something original to to say about peace.

Benedict Kabongo, a fifth grader from the same school, described peace as a gentle snow fall. Annie Smith, an eighth grader from Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield, described it as “laughing so hard your face hurts.”

Poem after poem and smile after smile, the students showed their talents and exhibited why the judges chose them.

“There’s always those one or two lines that blow you away and we were blown away by how impacted they were,” said Pearson.

“Peace is all around us, “ continued Pearson.  “We don’t always see it, but poetry helps to reveal it. “

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