Two students at the West Tisbury School have kicked off the new year with achievements in writing. Seventh grader Sarah Hartenstine recently had a poem published in the 2018 issue of the Rattle Young Poets Anthology (RYPA), which is a collection of curated poems by students published each year.
Her poem is titled “I Am,” which she wrote in a writing lab in school. The students were asked to write poems about where they are from, and what reminds them of home. Sarah wrote about Martha’s Vineyard, where she is from, but also about New Orleans, where she spends part of her time.
In the poem, she said she wrote about “the most random things,” such as hearing loud peepers in the pond behind her house, and playing pranks with her siblings. She also compares her two homes, discussing the local produce — crawfish and oysters. “In a way,” she said, “you don’t really hear about home like that.”
The following is an excerpt from the poem:
“I am from overgrown grass,
From old hockey equipment and random alien statues.
I am from the one lonely cricket in my basement. (Chirping, jumping around
It sounded like the peepers down my road).
I am from the green grass
The tree in my yard
That always seemed to catch the shuttlecock
and never give it back.”
RYPA is a spinoff of Rattle magazine, a poetry magazine that offers poetry contests for adults. This regular publication has 58 issues, while RYPA is only on its fifth, having begun in 2014. According to their website, it is published by the Rattle Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.
“This is not a collection just for kids,” the organization wrote on its website about RYPA. “These are missives to adults from the next generation, confronting big topics with fresh eyes and a childlike spontaneity.” Sarah’s teacher entered the poem in the contest, and Sarah was one of 36 students to be published.
Noah Lawry, an eighth grader at the West Tisbury School, was also recognized for his writing. The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) awarded Noah third place and $200 for his essay on the Island’s housing crisis.
This year, their teacher Annemarie Ralph gave the prompt for MMA’s eighth grade essay contest, which asked eighth graders to write about an issue in their community. As though they were “selectman for the day,” Ms. Ralph said, they were to propose a solution to fix it. According to Ms. Ralph, most students wrote about environmental issues, but other topics were on walking accessibility, transportation, and lack of things to do in Aquinnah. “Basically, kids are bored, so they wrote about that,” Ms. Ralph explained, as these topics were related to kids being stuck at home when not at school.
Some students proposed sidewalks on Lambert’s Cove Road and in Chilmark, so they could safely walk on the side of the road, as well as an up-Island recreation center. Some students, who are too young to get a license, asked that transportation be more accessible in the winter, so they could begin working. The last bus to Aquinnah is at 5 pm in the off-season.
“I think they are unaware of the power they have as children,” Ms. Ralph said, on why she gave the assignment.
In his essay, Noah wrote about several solutions, such as tiny homes and houseboats, ideas which are taking shape in other areas where housing is an issue. He also suggested more apartment buildings, which are beginning to pop up around the Island.
Though Noah hasn’t faced the issue personally, he saw that the issue was prevalent in his world. “I know people who have had to move,” he said. “There are teachers who are leaving because they can’t live here.”
As Noah writes in the essay, “it’s hard for families to move from house to house with all their stuff. Moving can have a big impact on kids, especially if it’s during the school year, because it’s hard to keep up with work that they should be doing.”
He also wrote, “As of October 2016, there were 64 homeless people on Martha’s Vineyard. There are many empty homes owned by summer residents who don’t rent their houses out and only stay in the homes for a short amount of time during the year. They don’t have to rent out their homes, but it would be nice if they would rent to people who don’t have year-round housing.”
Noah’s essay was selected as a finalist out of around 400 other applicants, according to Vanessa Calaban, a representative from the MMA. “The judges were especially impressed by the maturity you showed in your topic selection, and the solutions you proposed to solve the problems associated with the housing crisis,” Ms. Calaban wrote in a congratulatory letter to Noah.
Ms. Ralph has passed the essay along for the Island Housing Trust to view. “The fact that a kid is writing a letter has a lot more ‘oomph’ to it,” she said. “I don’t think enough thought is given to kids who have to move every year.”