Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on March 14th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 2

The Solvang Library's poetry challenge seeks to awaken the inner poet in area youth


Whatever you do, don’t call it a contest.

Local poet Steve Braff will politely correct anyone who makes that mistake.

“It’s not a contest,” he said. “It is isn’t about who’s best or anything like that.”

Steve Braff, local poet and founder of the Santa Ynez Valley Poetry Group, is working in conjunction with the Solvang Branch of the Santa Barbara Public Library to encourage young poets to submit and read their work. Braff has published numerous poems in various publications and is the new programs liaison for California Poets in the Schools.

Braff is one of the co-organizers of the Solvang Library’s annual youth Poetry Challenge, which invites seventh and eighth graders in the Santa Ynez Valley to write a poem and share it at the library. This year’s theme is “Selfies: Pretense, Truth, and Dreams.” The completed submissions (due March 30) are scheduled to be read by students at an April 25 public event and later published in an online anthology.

It’s all part of Braff’s plan to get more area youth excited about poetry. Braff, a published poet, regularly performs readings of his work in Santa Barbara County. Along with his role as co-founder of the Santa Ynez Valley Poetry Workgroup, he also serves as the new programs liaison for California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) of Santa Barbara.

“We wanted to create an incentive but not create a competition,” Braff said. “So the challenge is to simply write the poem. If you write the poem you’ve met the challenge, and by doing that, you’re invited to come to a reading of these poems and to be in an online anthology.”

The idea for the challenge developed during a conversation with Carey McKinnon, senior library technician with the Solvang Library, about youth outreach. Poetry submissions for the 2017 challenge, themed “Awkward,” were compiled in an online anthology.

“The act of creation with words is so important,” McKinnon said. “Young people can snap pictures and respond to images on social media, but to use their own words is so important. To give them the freedom to do that is a gift.”

Be a poet
The Solvang Library’s poetry challenge deadline is March 30. The theme is “Selfie.” A reading event is April 25. Poems have a 25-line limit. Include name, grade, school, and teacher’s name. Submit poems in the body of an email (no attachments or photos) to with the subject line “selfie.” More info: (805) 688-4214 or

Students are asked to write a poem up to 25 lines following the theme of “Selfie.” Braff said they’re encouraged to reflect on the theme in any way they deem fit, whether it be the physical act of taking a selfie on a phone or camera or something more internalized or symbolic.

Christine Kravetz, a published poet and teacher with California Poets in the Schools, and Ron Alexander, a psychologist and a published poet whose work can be found in various journals and anthologies, are set to join Braff as moderators for the April 25 reading event.

“The point of this Poetry Challenge is to provide a safe platform to grapple with,” Braff said. “To share the largely unspoken but often deeply felt issues of the teenage years.” 




by VS Musante
eighth grade, Jonata Middle School
2017 Santa Barbara Public Library System Poetry Challenge

Awkward-uncomfortable or abnormal

Awkward is the new person. Awkward is the person who is an outcast. Awkward is the person who isn’t like others. Awkward wears awkward clothes. Awkward sits alone at lunch and eats by the trash can. Awkward hears insults and put-downs. Awkward goes home to a family who tries to help and reassure Awkward. Awkward is disappointed in being awkward. It’s a sad time for Awkward. Then, there is new kid. This kid is alone too. Awkward goes to sit with the new kid. Awkward is no longer sad. Awkward meets up with the other Awkward after school and has a friend. Awkward no longer feels so Awkward. Awkward discovers that everyone is Awkward, in their own awkward way. Awkward is happy and learns to accept everyone’s individual awkwardness.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is glad her high school poetry isn’t a part of the public record. Contact her at

Weekly Poll
Should Congress fund President Trump's border wall?

Yes. Our southern border is in crisis!
No. It's a waste of tax money!
We don't need an actual wall. Just beef up border security.
I'm more worried about the Canadian border.

| Poll Results