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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 353

Young people and the environment – a River of Words

A special treat at the recent California Biodiversity Council's Children in Nature meeting was a poetry reading by Maggie Gallagher, 12, from Berkeley, winner of the 2008 River of Words grand prize.   Maggie's poem was selected as the winner in the annual international poetry and art contest for youth sponsored by the California non-profit group River of Words, in affiliation with the Library of Congress Center for the Book.  The poem, entitled, "To Speak with the Dead" is reprinted below with permission, along with two others read at the Council meeting.

River of Words is an educational non-profit organization that promotes environmental literacy and watershed awareness through the arts and cultural exchange. Through its workshops, curriculum materials, exhibitions and publications, the group encourages students around the world to explore their own communities and imaginations—weaving in natural and cultural history—and then to synthesize what they've learned and observed into line and verse.  They operate the Young at Art Gallery in Berkeley, one of the first galleries in the country devoted exclusively to children’s art from around the world.  River of Words works with many partners, including East Bay Municipal Utility District, Parks Conservancy, and the US Environmental Protection Agency and Girl Scouts of America, with whom they created two Girl Scout patches: the Waterdrop Patch and the Watershed Patch.

TO SPEAK WITH THE DEADMaggie Gallagher, age 12, recites her prize-winning poem

To speak with the dead
If you want them to hear you
You must roll
Like the crash of thunder
Or the beat of the drum
You must whisper
Like the cry of the wind
Or the path of an arrow
You must soothe them
Like the crackle of the fire
Or the footprint of a snowflake
You must prowl through their forgotten hearts
Caressing and prodding
Like the swirl of the fog
Or the slow beat of the rain
If you want to be heard
When you speak with the dead


The sand soaks up the sun like a rocky sponge
How does it hold so much heat?
Roots spill into the creek
The shaky, rippling twin
Of the dazzling blue sky
It seems so close, but still so far
There is no sound but the music of the wind
In the laurel.


Yesterday the sun blew on the ragged cliffs
Shaking away the soft gray wrapping
Of mist clinging to the unforgiving stone
Catching in the windswept branches
Of young green trees

More and more
Of the wind-scratched rocky heights
Are uncovered by the retreating fog
Burned and chased by the hard white sun
Playing on the dead city
Slowly sliding away

Tomorrow shakes the sun from its hiding place
The mist hugging the clean grey rock
The trees shivering
Bowing to the wind that shines on the cliffs

CBC meeting addresses 'Nature Deficit Disorder'

BLM California News.bytes, issue 353

Last updated: 10-15-2008