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Student wins national poetry contest

Photo by Curt Yeomans
M.D. Roberts Middle School sixth-grader Darrielle McCray recently won a national poetry competition, hosted by the National John Steinbeck Center, for her poem, entitled "Mom."

Photo by Curt Yeomans M.D. Roberts Middle School sixth-grader Darrielle McCray recently won a national poetry competition, hosted by the National John Steinbeck Center, for her poem, entitled "Mom."

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Every Mother's Day for the last 10 years, it has been difficult for Shondell McCray to cope, since her mother, Gwendolyn Baggs, died of cancer.

The day reminds her of the mother she lost, she said, but this year was a little different because of her daughter, Darrielle McCray, 11, a sixth-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle School. The youngster entered a poem she wrote about her mother in a Mother's Day-themed national poetry competition -- and won.

Darrielle McCray won a poetry competition hosted by the California-based National John Steinbeck Center. Her poem was simply entitled, "Mom."

In it, the youngster is directly addressing her mother, and telling her how she has given her strength and inspiration.

"I was touched when I read that poem," said Shondell McCray, who is a language arts teacher at Mundy's Mill Middle School. "I just look at her, and she has all this energy. She just does everything, and then, to find out that I'm the source of that energy -- I had no idea! I thought I was getting my energy from her. When I read that poem, it just really made me tear up."

For Darrielle McCray's prize, she got to take her mother to any restaurant in the Atlanta area, for a brunch on Mother's Day. They went to Copeland's Restaurant, in Atlanta, near Cumberland Mall, her mother said. The young poet said this past Sunday was not the only time to celebrate her mother. She said everyday of the year is Mother's Day in her mind. She said her mother helps her with her homework, when she needs it, and has taught her several things, ranging from how to ride a bike, and how to swim, to how to wash dishes, and do the laundry.

"She's just a burst of energy in my life," the youngster said. "She's always there for me. She's just like the ultimate mom," Darrielle McCray said.

In the poem, she wrote:

"Calm, yet strong.

"The countless ways you show your love

"Touches me tenderly in the soul

"My strength and spirit with

"love like a rush of life

"a dependable source of comfort

"grasps me when I fall.

"I love you so much and I am proud to call you mom,"

The youth said she was ecstatic -- albeit groggy -- when she learned, from her mother, of all people, that she had won the poetry competition in mid-April.

"I was in bed at the time," Darrielle McCray said. "My mom had [awakened] me ... to tell me I won. But, after I saw it online, I was really excited. I couldn't get back to sleep."

Shondell McCray had actually been the person who told her daughter about the competition, after she received word about it as something for her own students to enter. She said she did not see the poem, however, until after it was posted on the John Steinbeck Center's web site.

Writing poetry is nothing new for Darrielle McCray. She started to learn about poetry when she was 10, but she really learned about the ins and outs of writing a poem this year, under the tutelage of her language arts teacher, Vicki Faulkner. The teacher has her students write at least a couple poems each week, the younger McCray said. The youth said she wants to grow up to be a professional poet someday.

"I prefer poetry, over normal writing, because ordinary writing is boring," Darrielle McCray said. "It is just writing what you know, but with poetry, you're writing what you feel."