Noe Valley Voice May 2006

James Lick Student Wins National Poetry Competition

By Sue Cattoche

With her blonde hair tucked into a tidy bun and a pink cardigan draping her slender shoulders, Audrey Larkin moves with the grace of a dancer, but her hazel eyes hold the enchantment of a poet.

On April 22, the James Lick seventh-grader stepped up to a podium at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to read "Tides," the poem that won the grand prize for grades seven through nine in this year's River of Words Poetry Contest, a national competition co-founded by former United States Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Audrey took part in a similar ceremony for California and Western regional winners at the San Francisco Main Library on April 8, and was a finalist in the same competition last year.

A student in the James Lick Spanish-immersion program, Audrey has been writing poetry since the fourth grade, working with teachers at her school and through Poetry Inside Out, a division of the Center for Art in Translation, where her poetry teacher is Anita Sagastegui. Counselor Adonis Ali Torres, Carrie Melton, and other James Lick teachers met with Poetry Inside Out early in the school year and were able to secure funding to have them work with several classes. Groups of six or seven students read a poem in Spanish; translate it into English, discussing its meaning as they work; and then each writes an original poem on a related subject suggested by the poem.

Audrey's favorite poets include Pablo Neruda, author of The Heights of Machu Pichu; and Dulce Maria Loynaz, a prolific Cuban poet who was a precursor of the Magical Realism movement. Audrey also enjoys hiking in Yosemite and the Marin Headlands, drawing inspiration and metaphors from nature. She studies at the San Francisco Ballet School, and recently danced in 16 performances of The Nutcracker.

Asked how she felt about reading in public, 12-year-old Audrey replied, "I like being on stage!" Then she added, "But sometimes I get just a tiny bit nervous."


My secret is like the tide,
thundering and roaring
in my ear.
How could you?
Why did you?
The regret fills my mind
like a blanket of fog.
obscuring all thought.
My secret is like a wave:
gigantic, powerful, terrible.
But then it slinks
back with the tide
into a
place where it dwells
until it is
once again
pulled out into
open water.

--Audrey Larkin, 7th grade