Chapman students sail through waves of poetry for California Coastal Commission

Annual contest gets a little help from Chapman University poets

The annual contest gets a little help from Chapman University poets.

You pretty much can’t go wrong with a short and snappy poem about a great white shark. Or swimming dolphins, pounding waves and assorted other wonders of the California shore.

Such are the topics of the winning poetry in the California Coastal Commission’s Coastal Art and Poetry Contest for the state’s school children, which was judged by Chapman University poetry students. Reading and evaluating the 300 entries took up a bit of the students’ spring semester, but it was a delightful process, says David Krausman (’16 M.A./MFA) who coordinated the judging.

man smiling

David Krausman (’16 M.A./MFA) organized the student judging team.

“Older poets sometimes have a problem with metaphor being too heavy – ‘The sea is my life!’” he says with a smile and a dramatic flourish of hand over heart. “But children have a more adept way of weaving in personal experience of the coast and elements of sea life that are very sweet.”

For several years Tabula Poetica has helped judge the commission’s K-12 poetry contest. This year Krausman organized a team of six Chapman undergraduates, all members of the English honors society Sigma Tau Delta who had taken poetry courses, to read and evaluate poetry. Poems ranged from a few lines to two pages and were submitted by California students of all ages, from kindergarteners to high school seniors.

The experience was eye-opening, says Krausman, a graduate student working on a dual MFA in creative writing and M.A. in English.

“Sometimes there is beauty in just describing what you love about the beach. We forget that not all poetry is all about subtleties and hyper-nuance,” he says.

And there’s an added treat this year. For the first time
Tabula Poetica’s journal TAB
obtained MP3 recordings of several winners reading their poems. Offering recordings of its selected poets is a feature added this year to the
website. The children’s poetry was an ideal fit, since the print version of TAB explored geography and appeared in a map-style foldout format, says
Anna Leahy
, Ph.D., associate professor, who directs
Tabula Poetica

“It’s great to hear so many young voices reading their own work. Because it’s a theme issue, we’re also pleased with the interdisciplinary bent and the connections between poetry, geography and environmental issues,” Leahy says.

The winning poetry and honorable mentions, along with artwork from the companion art contest, can be viewed online at the
California Coastal Commission website
. And they will tour California through January, 2016, at the following locations:

(Featured image at top is by eighth-grader Roselene Chen of Fremont, Calif., first place winner in the grade 7-9 art category. Courtesy of California Coastal Commission.)

Dawn Bonker

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