National acclaim for young poet |

National acclaim for young poet

Susan Wood
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Oscar Trejo Rentaria, a second-grade student at Bijou Community School, writes in his journal during class. He recently won a national poetry award for his age category - kindergarten through second grade.

Oscar Trejo Renteria, 8, may find just as much inspiration for his poetry about nature in San Francisco on Saturday as he did in South Lake Tahoe.

The Bijou Elementary School second-grade student won a first-place national poetry award for his age category – kindergarten through second grade.

He’ll accept the 2004 River of Words Environmental Poetry & Art Contest award at the San Francisco Main Library at 1:30 p.m. for “Grasshopper,” a poem he wrote while perusing the grounds near the school.

“Grasshopper. Had one. Kept it. Tickling. It jumped away. I let it go. I was touching something live,” he wrote.

“I like to write about animals. I’ve always liked it – dogs, birds,” he said Monday, adding he’s pleased with winning and looks forward to his big-city trip.

The contest – the largest youth poetry competition in the world – is judged by Bay Area writer Pamela Michael and Robert Hass, who started the competition in 1995 during his two-year term as a U.S. Poet Laureate.

The contest brings a treat this year to West Coast participants. It’s the first time the awards ceremony hasn’t been staged at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

From Oscar’s standpoint, it’s the extracurricular activity that could rate as high as the ceremony. Poetry program volunteer Sarah Knox has agreed to take the young animal lover to the San Francisco Zoo and the beach.

“Look what we can do with our kids with a little extra supervision. We like to connect the students with a sense of place,” said Knox, a former assistant teacher.

As it turns out, Oscar’s not the only local youth recognized for poetry.

Adrian Mariscal, 7, is a runner-up out of thousands of entries for his poem titled “Juanito’s Tree.” The entry is based on a tree planted in the memory of his late brother.

“Yesterday we visited my brother’s tree. They planted it when he died. I was a baby and the tree was a baby too. It reached my belly button. Now it is taller than my head. Now the leaves shine orange and red. The orange leaves, like my hair, are Juanito saying hello,” Adrian wrote.

Michael said the judges read a lot of poems with heartbreaking circumstances.

“After 9/11, almost every poem had words of suffering, crying and tragedy. Definitely our kids were processing it through their poems,” she said.

April is National Poetry Month and Michael assessed a resurgence of interest in this literary expression.

“We’re returning to this fundamental means of expression,” she said.

In addition, two other South Lake Tahoe students are runners-up for Scholastic Instructor’s 2004 Poetry Contest.

Nanci Gonzalez and Carlos Aguirre received recognition for “My Beach” and “We Went Walking,” respectively. Their poetry will be published in the national magazine.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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