By Meaghan O’Neal
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
New Tampa resident Heta Patel began writing poetry at age 9 or 10 as a way to create personalized presents for her family.
When the Bartels Middle eighth-grader heard about a contest run by Kumon North America to find the best writers in the continent, the 12-year-old didn’t think she had a chance of winning.
“I was like, oh maybe let’s just try this contest out, see what happens,” said Patel, who attends the after-school enrichment program at Kumon’s Land O’ Lakes center.
What happened was a trip to New York City, a $500 prize and the title of top 10- to 18-year-old poet in North America.
The theme of the contest was celebrating Earth Day. Patel was one of 600 submissions.
“The Kumon Poetry Challenge encouraged children to use their creativity and imagination to celebrate the environment through poetry,” said Kumon University vice president Matthew Lupsha, who leads Kumon North America’s Green Initiative. “The contest was held during April, both National Poetry Month and Earth Day, a perfect time to pause and appreciate nature.”
Patel drew her inspiration from various articles and pictures from National Geographic Magazine that discussed the beginning of the earth. She was surprised to find out her entry was among the final seven in the contest, much less the overall winner.
She credits her parents for her motivation to succeed.
“My parents are my inspiration because they’ve always pushed me and told me ‘You can do this,’” Patel said. “You know, they’ve really encouraged me.”
Her success in the contest has motivated Patel to keep going further academically.
“It allowed me to really see the creative side of me,” Patel said. “I thought, oh if I can go and win this I can do so many other things that I haven’t even thought about.”
As for her writing, Patel plans to continue developing her skill. While she doesn’t foresee pursuing a career in writing, she does want to continue it as a hobby when she’s older.
Heta Patel’s winning poem
When earth was young still yawning
Its arms reaching to the Sun
And frozen cores were thawing
The world was silent, almost serene
Mother Earth spoke gently to the seas whispering life into them
For she was lonely, the quiet world worried her
Soon there was life, tiny but there it was, swarming
She poured love on them as she rained
Mother was patient
Soon creatures all roaming, rumbling, brought smiles on her face
Her smiles turned to frowns, slowly, as we slaughtered the trees
We poisoned her waters and ignored her screams in our
Mother dithered to warn us with floods of tears
As she sweltered under our weight, trying to hold on, trying to
Have we forgotten this mother, her love, her unselfishness
For us to bring back her smile and the serene silence
Some say “do this”
Some say “do that”
As we disagree to agree
Mother is patient