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The Callaway County Public Library and the Auxvasse Creative Arts Program have announced the winners of the 2021 Callaway County youth poetry contest, selected by judge and author Daren Dean.

In the 5-8-year-old category, first place went to Emerson Caroline Jaeger for "Nature and Me." Second place was Sadie Ann Fitzwater for "Bluebird," and third place went to Abigail Wallace for "I Feel Like Summer."

First place in the 9-12-year-old category was won by Hayley Mbugano for "Wind and Connecting." Second place went to Racie Mahnken for "Me and My Community," and Bayleigh Copple took third place for "Sharing is Caring."

The contest's 2021 theme was "We all need connection." The coronavirus pandemic made social distancing necessary in the world for the past year, but everyone needs connection.

Students were asked to write a poem about being connected with their community — their class, family, a team, a neighborhood or town. The contest was limited to students who live or attend school in Callaway County and are between the ages of 5-18.

"It's nice to see we have children interested in writing poetry when the internet holds so many distractions over this very special kind of reflection," Dean said. "Derek Walcott once wrote, 'The fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.'

"This could easily be said about this year of COVID — we have endured so much in our communities here in central Missouri, America, and around the world. The poems of our children lead the way in showing us there is still great cause for hope in the future."

Dean — an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Lincoln University in Jefferson City — is the author of "Far Beyond the Pale, A Novel" and "I'll Still Be Here Long After You're Gone: Stories."

Dean's "The Black Harvest: A Novel of the American Civil War" will be published by the University of West Alabama's Livingston Press in July. His latest novel, "This Vale of Tears," will then come out in October.

Dean's work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Ploughshares online and Bloom. His work has also appeared in numerous literary journals, including Bull (Men's Fiction), The Chattahoochee Review, Delta Poetry Review, Ecotone online,

Fiction Southeast, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Image, Louisiana Literature, Maryland Literary Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Oklahoma Review, Poetry Southeast, StorySouth and Yemassee.

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