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Poetry brings pleasure and prizes to Gwinnett students

Whether it's nursery rhymes, the Psalms or a touching verse on a card, poetry has its way of enriching the soul. And, according to psychological research, also the brain.

Influenced by such research and their own love of poetry, past Georgia Tech President Henry C. Bourne and Tech grad Bruce McEver helped establish a poetry program at the school. The program makes poetry available not only to Tech students, but to the community at large through writing courses, free community workshops and readings by major visiting poets.

"I tell my students these classes help their lives, not just their careers," Thomas Lux, Tech's Bourne Poetry Chair said. "Imagination is a necessary thing for life. Don't engineers have to think metaphorically as well as logically? Aren't great scientists and engineers making a kind of poetry?"

And those words aren't just lip service. Last Friday night, Georgia Tech hosted the Metro Atlanta kickoff for National Poetry Month with readings by local poets including Kodac Harrison, with whom I was privileged to judge Gwinnett County's Poetry Out Loud contest a few years back. In fact, this year Gwinnett made a great showing in the regional POL competition with Zachary Evans from Parkview placing fourth and Adrianna Mitchell from North Gwinnett capturing first place.

Parkview's Emilie Menzel adds even more to Gwinnett's poetic honors. She is a finalist in poetry in the Georgia Perimeter Writing Contest and has won first place in the Georgia Poetry Society Marel Brown Contest. A junior, she has been writing poetry since second grade and claims over 50 poems and multiple past contest prizes to her credit.

"I have worked with Emilie in Creative Writing Club, and she is wonderful in writing groups. Students who are serious about writing poetry seek her advice. She makes lovely and useful comments that help them think about what to do next in their writing," Parkview teacher Mary Lynn Huie said.

Menzel speaks eloquently of her interest in poetry. "Poetry is a way of perceiving things rather than a way of just putting down words. It's a way to notice beauty in unnoticed places. It helps me notice a lot more detail in life, like how people interact. By being better able to notice them, I'm better able to appreciate them."

Menzel doesn't have any definite plans for her future but she did say, "I'm considering the science of psychology and doing research into how people perceive things and how they think."

If you're looking for ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, check out what's happening at www.PoetryAtlanta.com or www.kodacharrison.com. For creative ways to add poetry to your life anytime, anywhere, visit www.poets.org.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.