by Gary Smith
Charm, keep, wind, step, element, fold, remote, curtain, never, foster. These are the 10 words required to compete in this year’s Kumquat Challenge.
The Kumquat Challenge is entering its sixth year at Whatcom Community College, and the event is in honor of National Poetry Month. The challenge ends April 29, which is just about the end of national poetry month. Linda Lambert, the library director, said the event is held every year to encourage people to write poetry.
The name “Kumquat Challenge” came from the first year of the events, “ Kumquat was one of the 10 words we came up with the first year we decided to do the contest,” Lambert said. “ The name stuck.”
The words are picked each year by a committee of judges that include staff from the library. This year about 60 words were submitted from the staff. Lambert said the words picked are words that are not esoteric. “We try to keep them broad, words that can function as a noun or a verb,” she said.
The event is sponsored by the Whatcom library. They are encouraging everyone to enter the contest. The poems can be serious or silly, just as long as they include the required 10 words. There will be a panel of judges to select the three top prizes, which are homemade cookies, brownies or scones made by the library staff.
The submissions can be written by one poet or a group of poets, or even by a whole class or club. The requirements are simply that the submission must have a title, your name(s) and your connection to Whatcom. You must also include a 50 word biography about yourself or your group.
The Kumquat Challenge is not just limited to students. All faculty at Whatcom can enter the challenge, although last year’s winners aren’t allowed to compete in the contest.
There is also a Kumquat challenge that takes place through a New Jersey newspaper that a relative of faculty member Sally Sheedy works at. The paper uses the same 10 words used at our challenge, and is done at the same time as Whatcom’s every year.
After all of the submissions are in, the library will host a publishing party on May 22, in the Syre Black Box theatre. “Most poems get published,” Lambert said, “but this year it will be harder due to budget cuts.”
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