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Name student poetry contest winners

By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Griffin House’s fingers danced along the piano keys on the evening of March 8, as families and poets of all ages sampled hors d’oeuvres, poetry fortune cookies and Ophir School students’ poetry hanging on the walls of the reception area at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.

Called the Poets’ Congress, wordsmiths and musicians from around Montana and the Mountain West took turns on stage treating the crowd to two of the oldest forms of communication.

“Music and poetry can affect your mood,” said Montana Poet Laureate Tami Haaland, one of the featured poets that night and also an English professor at Montana State University-Billings. “They reach us on an emotional level.”

Between readings by nine poets, musicians Martha Scanlan and Jon Neufeld stunned the audience with a haunting sound and lyrics born from Scanlan’s recent experience living and working on a Montana ranch.

“The audience was incredibly receptive and focused,” said John Zirkle, Artistic Director for WMPAC, calling the crowd’s effort “intentional listening.”

The evening was simple, peaceful and rewarding, literally. After intermission, Haaland and David Mason, Colorado’s poet laureate, announced the winners of the first Ophir School poetry contest.

Ninth grader Ellie Quackenbush won first place, eighth grader Abi Hogan took second, and fourth grader Olivia Bulis brought home third. Before the show, Quackenbush put the ancient art of poetry into perspective.

“You write about stuff that you care about,” she said. “If people like it, that’s good, and if people don’t like it, that’s good too, because [poetry] comes from the heart.”

Joining Haaland and Mason on stage were Seattle, Wash.-based poet Dave Caserio, Montana slam poet Linds Sanders, and Henry “Hank” Real Bird, a rancher, educator and poet of Crow descent.

The evening heralded music and words, in the form of poetry. Before reading William Butler Yeats’ “Brown Penny,” Mason summed up why humans crave verse: “We reach for poetry because we need language.”


‘The best words in their best order’
2014 Ophir poetry contest winners

Third Place

How to Torture Your Teacher
By Olivia Bulis, 4th grade

Bounce erasers off your desk,

Oh yes, oh yes, they’ll make a mess!

Chew gum in class; don’t spit it out,

Plug the sink and clear the drought.

In science class, always take a nap,

In reading have your pencil go tippity -tap -tap.

During lunch make sure to throw your food,

And while in math, be exceptionally rude.

Put a beetle in your teacher’s hair,

That will give her quite a scare.

On the last day of school, pretend to be extra nice,

And send her home with summer lice!

Second Place

By Abi Hogan, 8th grade

Starlight shines over us

letting us know

That above the vast ocean

They sparkle and glow.

They give us hope

The moon lights the horizon

As we dream wide awake

We begin to wizen.

The morning light

Drowns out the dreaming

And back in reality

We keep on believing

That the dreams will come back

The peace will have found us

The moon in the black

As starlight surrounds us.

First Place

Words to Wind
By Elizabeth Quackenbush, 9th grade

Give my words to the wind

Let them fly away

To a world

Where they are


Spoken and


Where their meanings aren’t judged

By the size of my jeans

But by my orthography

A world where I’m not a natural resource


And sold to millions

On magazines

In photo shoots

Where I’m not obsequious

Tending to your every need

Believing myself a coat rack

For you to hang what you please

We shrunk our stomachs for you

We held in our words for you

But now, I let them fly

And believe me

Your hubris thoughts are vacuous

So take my words


Share them wind

Let them know, we won’t lose


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