Two local youngsters get honorable mention in haiku contest

Almila Dukel, 9, of State College, left, and Margaret Jennett, 10, of Aaronsburg, won honorable mentions in the United Nations Haiku Contest.
Almila Dukel, 9, of State College, left, and Margaret Jennett, 10, of Aaronsburg, won honorable mentions in the United Nations Haiku Contest. CDT photo

Generally speaking, a teacher phoning home is not a good sign.

Sure, occasionally an educator might want to take the time to compliment a student’s penmanship or spelling prowess, but more often than not these conversations are likely to end with somebody getting some privileges revoked.

Even the most enterprising of youngsters have a limited number of options in this particular doomsday scenario — all of them a few bases shy of a home run.

Margaret Jennett, a 10-year-old from Aaronsburg, caught a lucky break.

Her mother was outside mowing the lawn when Margaret’s writing instructor, Anne Burgevin, called.

Burgevin runs a series of writing circles for home-school students. Recently she encouraged her young apprentices to write submissions for a haiku contest sponsored by the United Nations International School, the Northeast Council of Teachers of Japanese and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations.

And that’s when Margaret caught her second lucky break.

Moments later, the young poet was chasing her oblivious mother around the yard, who could not hear her daughter’s victory cry over the roar of the lawnmower.

Margaret and Almila Dukel, a 9-year-old Burgevin pupil from State College, each received an honorable mention in the 2015 Student Haiku Contest, which is open to children in grades 1 to 12 and accepts poems written in English, Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian and Arabic.

Burgevin was not entirely surprised by either of her students’ success.

“I knew that both of them had written some very fine poems, and I read a lot of poetry,” Burgevin said.

The instructor and poet oversees three writing circles in State College, Spring Mills and Mifflintown. Burgevin and her students spent two months studying poetry and performing exercises that included recording sensory data on their favorite tastes and sounds.

When it came time to actually write their own haikus, the students had their own creative processes.

Inspiration struck Almila while she was in the middle of a home-schooling lesson with her mother. Sunlight from a nearby window struck her face — and that was all she needed.

“Once in a while it just comes to me and I pick up a pen and write whatever I want,” Almila said.

Judges praised her resulting haiku for the attention it pays to a natural beauty that is often taken for granted.

Almila and her family were on hand for the award ceremony at the United Nations building in New York earlier this month. She was impressed by the crowds of people filtering in and out of the building and is already planning to submit to next year’s contest.

Margaret wasn’t able to make it to New York but that didn’t make the impact of her award any less significant.

“Winning that was like something telling me to keep moving,” Margaret said.

Margaret’s mind seems to be perpetually in motion. Her train of thought stopped at several stations before landing on her winning entry, telescoping from general thoughts on the seasons to musings on Christmas to the colors red and green.

Those motifs invite a broad range of interpretation — the judges thought she might be referencing a traffic light — but that’s just fine by Margaret.

“I felt very proud of myself because I thought that no one else will ever have the same poem or think of that,” Margaret said.