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Penning Poems for Peace

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Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Last week, nearly 30 Molokai students were honored as winners of the 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest. This was the first year Molokai youth participated in the event, and many shares their thoughts on peace in two languages, using many poetry forms such as haiku, free verse and metered rhyme.

“We are holding this first Molokai peace poem ceremony to honor 26 winning students and also to highlight 57 out of 207 entrants [who] wrote poetry in the Hawaiian language with an English translation,” said Melinda Gohn, the Coordinator of the International Peace Poem Project and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest, via email. “We find this to be an unparalleled linguistic event that must be celebrated!”

Fifth grade student Kairee Lima-Villa from Kualapu`u Elementary School was the grand prizewinner for the island, selected from the more than 200 entries on Molokai. Lima-Villa’s poem begins, “Peace can be seen/Peace can be felt/Peace is not war/but help…” Lima-Villa concludes: “Peace walks the earth/ and it doesn’t stop/now peace can take you high/ and never let you down.”

Gohn said, “Lima-Villa’s poem incorporates our human emotions of belief and love with our ability to observe the world – and envisions peace as existing within and without us all. We are delighted to receive work of this caliber from Molokai Island.”

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Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

The International Peace Poem Project was started on Maui in 1996 and organized mainly by volunteer teachers, writers and artists. The Peace Poem began with the first lines written by a six-year-old girl and since then, has grown to more than 160,000 lines of poetry written by people from more than 120 nations. According to Gohn, its purpose is to express hope for peace in the new millennium. The International Peace Poem was presented symbolically to the United Nations in New York September, 2000 during its Millennium Peace Day. The pieces written by Molokai students will be added to the Peace Poem.

The event honoring Molokai students was held at the Molokai Public Library last Friday and attended by families as well as local dignitaries. Students winners received lei from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, certificates from state offices and a prize furnished by the International Peace Poem Project.

“The purpose of the ceremony is to encourage students to seek to resolve conflicts through non-violent means and internalize these ideas through writing poetry,” said Gohn.

To read the students’ poems and that of other youth worldwide, and for more information on the International Peace Poem Project, visit peacepoem.org.

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