(Photo - Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash)

LIVERMORE – High school bards in the Livermore area are invited to pen their finest poems for an opportunity to become a Teen Poet of the Trimester.

Livermore Poet Laureate Peggy Schimmelman, who is spearheading the competition this year, said the Teen Poet of the Trimester Contest – formerly known as Teen Poet of the Month – is an opportunity for students to share their talents. This cycle, the theme is “Heatwave,” and all high school students registered in the Livermore Valley Unified School District are encouraged to submit.

“‘Heatwave’ is subject to the poet’s interpretation,” Schimmelman said. “Climate change, the recent actual heatwave, or personal experience are all possibilities. Any style of poetry is acceptable.”

Schimmelman inherited the contest from Kevin Gunn, a former Poet Laureate, who conceived the idea in 2013. After discussing the monthly deadline with high school teachers in the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD), Schimmelman decided to reduce the contest from a monthly contest to a thrice yearly contest, to follow the local high schools’ trimester schedules.

Mark Cabasino is a longtime Livermore High School English teacher who has promoted the contest since Gunn, a friend and coworker, created the program.

“I always encourage my students to submit to the contest, because it gives them a chance to explore their creativity via the written word,” Cabasino said. “It provides them with a vehicle for self-expression and self-empowerment, and it offers them an opportunity to share their ideas and poetic talents with a larger audience, if they get recognized with an award and publication.”

Cabasino noted that many of his students look forward to the contest and its range of themes from the serious to the silly. He also likes to point out that poetry can be interdisciplinary, especially when the topic relates to science or math.

Homeschooled teens and Las Positas Concurrent Enrollment students who are also registered with LVJUSD are encouraged to submit poems. The contest is open to foreign language students as well, although the English version must be submitted along with the translation.

“Encouraging Livermore’s youth to express themselves artistically is a key way to develop creative confidence that will serve them for the rest of their lives,” said Brandon Cardwell, Livermore innovation and economic development director. “We appreciate the Poet Laureate’s efforts to help Livermore teens connect with their community and feel inspired to contribute to the social fabric that holds us together.”

Schimmelman was appointed as Livermore’s Poet Laureate in July, when her application was chosen by the city’s cultural committee and approved by the city council. Her responsibilities entail writing poems in response to events sponsored by the city and fostering a consciousness of reading and writing poetry in the city. Running the Teen Poetry Contest is part of her duties.

“I just recently did a dedication poem for the new statue at the Springtown Library, and I did one for the Civic Appreciation Dinner last week, so that is a big part of the job,” Schimmelman said. “Any time they build a new structure or monument of some kind and need a dedication poem, that’s one thing I do, and the other is to sponsor literary events … I’m enjoying the work so far, and I’m honored to hold the position.”

Schimmelman has been writing for 50 years and writing poetry for almost 20. She has published two books of poetry and a novel.

Teen Poet of the Trimester applicants are invited to submit their poems through Nov. 11.

When submitting, students must include their name, contact information, grade level, school, and teacher. One poem per student is accepted; poems must be 30 lines or less. With the poet’s permission, the winning poem will be published in local print and online newspapers, as well as on social media. At the end of the school year, the winning poems from all three trimesters will be displayed at the Bankhead Theater, the library, or other venues for public viewing.

For more information or to submit an entry, email PLLivermore@gmail.com.