The Kumquat Challenge

By Alaysha Germaine

Horizon Reporter

Four years ago, here at Whatcom, a tradition was adopted to kindle the imaginations and creativity of the campus community. In honor of National Poetry Month the library staff presents the fourth annual “Kumquat Challenge.”

The challenge is to use ten words selected by the library marketing committee and bind them in an inventive way.

Library Director Linda Lambert is one of four people on the marketing committee. A few years ago she and the other members sent out an email asking Whatcom’s library staff to submit words they thought would be interesting to use in a poetry challenge.

The chair of the marketing committee, Ara Taylor, recalls that after “kumquat” was sent in, it was elected the challenge’s title by popular demand.

Every year the words change, but as custom, to commemorate that first challenge, the committee has resolved to use a “k” every year. Following kumquat was kimono, ken, and this year the word is kindle.

The Kumquat Challenge was adopted while Lambert was searching for ways to celebrate National Poetry Month and she ran across a similar challenge. “We’re always looking for fun things to do,” she said.

Whatcom is not the only institution using the words chosen by this marketing committee. A third committee member, Sally Sheedy, has a sister who writes for The Montclair Times in New Jersey. Around the same time Whatcom publishes the poetry from the Kumquat Challenge, The Montclair Times releases their variations of poetry with the same words. From one shore to another, poetry appreciation is shown in this month.

Though words for such a challenge may be seem easy to decide upon, Lambert notes, “We want to get away from certain words that are very unique and may cause people to write one certain way.”

With enthusiasm Taylor says, “Kindle is a great word that has so many meanings, many people don’t know them all.”

Every year the challenge averages 40 poem entries. This year more students have submitted than staff; this is unusual. Perhaps it’s because of the prize, a homemade basket of brownies or cookies baked by library staff, or perhaps it’s the motivation to have a published book of poetry with their work inside.

After three winners are selected by judges, Ron Leatherbarrow, Anne George and Jennifer Bullis, a publishing party is held to gather all the poets, distribute the 50 copies of the published book made using the libraries budget, listen to a guest speaker (the decision upon whom is suspended as of yet*), and to celebrate National Poetry Month.

This year the publishing party will be held in The Black Box Theatre in Syre instead of the library. With a bigger venue the committee is hoping for a greater turnout, said Taylor, “It’s just a lot of fun and we’re hoping people will just jump in and enjoy it!”

*The speaker has since been selected. It is poet James Bertolino.

This story has been corrected.

One thought on “The Kumquat Challenge

  1. I admire Alaysha Germaine’s use of all the Kumquat Challenge words in her article (what fun!)& I appreciate the attention paid to the library’s event. At the same time, I’d like to clear up a couple of errors. 1) It was members of the library staff who sent in words, not faculty members. 2)We’re not sure who suggested the word “kumquat,” but it wasn’t Tami. It was likely Sally, one of our librarians. 3) We were looking for ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, not “inform the student body.” 4) I (Linda) do some of the baking, but so do others on the staff, notably Ara. 5) We known now that the guest speaker is JAMES BERTOLINO, a friend of Ara’s. COME!

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