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Poetry has power.

Just ask Jessica Collins, of Lebanon, one of the winners of the Lebanon Library's annual poetry contest.

Collins' poem was titled "Untitled," and dealt with addiction.

"I've always had trouble expressing my emotions," Collins said. "In the past, I've turned to substances, but poetry releases my emotions, poetry helps me to escape my addiction and do something more positive with my emotions."

Collins was one of 10 adult winners in the contest, which is held each year in conjunction with April being recognized as National Poetry Month. Ten youth winners, children up to eighth grade, were also recognized. The winners will have their creations published in a compilation.

Michelle Hawk, director of the library, said the contest was a great success, although they had a few less applicants this year than in the past.

In her poem, which Collins offered to the nearly 100 people assembled in the library, she read: "I no longer live; this is a play, this is my part...my heart hurting with pain...this actress walks alone, stuck on the stage, never getting to go home."

Collins said it was important for her to be honest in her writing, and in sharing it with others.

"I wrote this poem at one of the most emotional moments of my life," Collins said. "I've written poetry since I was a kid; it's my outlet. I feel if I'm honest and tell them what poetry has done for me, maybe it will help people with other problems."

The Lebanon Library has been holding a poetry contest for the past 16 years, said Toni Ventris, who adds to her full-time library duties by acting as poetry coordinator. The 20 winners were chosen from 126 submitted poems, she said.

"I've become a lover of poetry since (working with) this," Ventris said. "It's great to see people express their feelings on paper."

Judges for the event were Marian Peck, Doug Stump and Joan Weaver.

The best writers, Ventris said, were those who showed "the most expression in the fewest amount of words."

Some of the people attending the event were "poetry groupies," following some of their favorite local poets, Ventris said. Along with the annual contest, the library also holds the occasional poetry workshop, teaching novices the verbal ropes.

Nearly all the winners focused on topics that had emotional depth.

Adult winner Phylis Dryden wrote "Sensuous Benedictus," a poem about a married couple separated by death.

"This is Jeannie, talking to her beloved Mike," Dryden said, introducing her poem. "What would someone wish for the spouse left behind? The very best this earth has to offer....these are her wishes for her surviving spouse."

In part, her poem read: "May you be safe until we meet again...and more than this, a kiss."

Dryden said the first year she entered the contest, she didn't win, but now she teaches at poetry workshops.

"It shows that people should keep trying," Dryden said.

Poet George Miller wrote about the loveliness of a quiet winter night.

"I love it," Miller said, of his avocation. "Poetry gives me a chance to express what's in my mind."

A member of Ono United Methodist Church, Miller occasionally gives poetry readings at his church.

Winner Ruth Ann Boltz tackled another difficult subject: life in a nursing home.

"As they struggle to hang on to their dignity...somebody please hear them...see their eyes shine as they struggle to tell you who they used to be," she read.

The adults had no monopoly on deep emotions.

Eighth grader Matthew Reardon of Lebanon Catholic High School wrote about the horror of Pearl Harbor.

"This is probably the best poem I've written," said Matthew, 14.

Last year, Makayla Gingrich, 13, also a student at Lebanon Catholic, wrote about soccer. This year, it was the Salem witch trials.

Entitled, "The Trials," Makayla said her English assignment was to write a sonnet about an historical event.

"I wasn't sure that would be appropriate, but I always thought the witch trials were interesting," Makayla said. "It was really surprising to win, but it makes me feel good, because I like to write."

Sixth-grader Victoria Abramczuk, 12, who is home-schooled, took a sweet topic and made it meaningful; a female bluebird who came to visit, staying on the porch of the family home. The poem was titled, "Feathered Boarder."

"After awhile, we became really fond of her," Victoria said. "I remember going to the window to see if she was still there...eventually, she left. I wrote this because I wanted something to remember her by. I wanted to let other people know about her."

Abramczuk's mother, Janina, said all three of her children write poetry, and credited that to her home-schooling program, which emphasizes writing.

Fourth grader Cody Sheehan, of New Covenant Christian School, was the youngest winner this year. His poem was "House Creature," about a mouse.

"I like animals, so I wrote about how a mouse pretty much feels," Cody said. "This is my first one (poem), and I'm getting to like it."

Josh Marshall, a seventh-grader at Lebanon Catholic, also wrote about a pet; a cat who came to stay and became a member of the family. The poem was entitled "Fred."

Alyssa Stiver, 11, a fifth grader at Ebenezer Elementary School, wrote a poem about longing for springtime, titled "Winter Wishing."

A daughter of Gerald and Donna Stiver, Alyssa showed she's a chip off the ole' block, since dad majored in English and poetry at Penn State.

"I've just loved poetry since the beginning," Stiver said. "Anything worth saying can be said in 25 lines or less."

To order a book of the winning poems, call the library at (717) 273-7624.

Some of the winners:
"House Creature" by Cody Sheehan, grade 4 at New Covenant Christian School

I am a creature that makes some squeaks,

You may see me when I eat.

I may give people a freak,

The truth is, I just want to live in peace.

"Infamy" by Matthew Reardon, grade 8 at Lebanon Catholic School

The sun rose on a beautiful morning,

The beauty was broken by an attack.

The air raid sirens shot out a warning,

The Japanese bombs hit and all went black.

Navy ships lay like mangled tin foil,

The soldiers fought valiantly through their fear.

The horrid attack made their blood boil,

The future of our nation was unclear.

Today a monument stands at this site..

Over one-thousand men gave up their lives.

We must never forget their valiant fight.

Men died so that our nation could survive.

The US thought this would never recur,

In September, the planes came in a blur.

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