by Mariah Hicks
“Poetry: Crackin’ & Poppin’ at The Peanut Shoppe” is a monthly poetry contest that gives children a chance to exercise their creative voices and get their work showcased.
The contest has been around for five years and was started by Jason Blakely, founder of Poetry Is Life Publishing. He got his inspiration from one of his teachers who introduced him to poetry, and he wanted to give children the chance to explore it as well.
“It was a way for me to express how I feel and things I go through,” Jason said. “I wanted to provide young people with that same opportunity and also collaborate with a community business.”
The Peanut Shoppe in Akron donates treats to seven winners each month. The winners also get their poems featured on the shop’s website (which is currently under construction) and inside the store.
Peanut Shoppe employee Marge Klein believes the contest is a great opportunity for children to explore and use their voices.
“It’s important to get the kids thinking about poetry,” Marge said. “They kind of get forgotten and that gets them started at this young age. I think it’s a great idea to get kids interested in English in general and to get them to write.”
Although the contest was created for the greater good of the community, Jason and The Peanut Shoppe have been having trouble getting children to submit. Through continuing to showcase the work of previous winners and encouraging children to participate, they hope they can get the word out more.
Jason just wants more kids to experience poetry.
“It gives them a voice,” Jason said. “A lot of times, kids don’t feel like what they say matters or that they’re even being listened to, so having this contests allows them to be creative in their thoughts and in their imagination, tell a story, be able to connect with the world through writing and through words and that’s why it’s important.”
The poetry contest is free and open to kids ages 5 to 13. Each month has a theme which children must write an original poem to and submit by the end of the month. Winners are handpicked by Jason and displayed in The Peanut Shoppe.
Mariah Hicks is a senior at Kent State University. She studies journalism and has a minor in creative writing.
Photo by Shane Wynn via Akronstock.