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The bonds that tie human beings together, particularly during a pandemic, will be the focus of this year's competition between aspiring Callaway County poets.

To mark National Poetry Month in April, the Callaway County Public Library and the Auxvasse Creative Arts Program are inviting all Callaway County students to enter the eighth annual Callaway County Youth Poetry Contest.

With the ongoing pandemic creating the need for social distancing, the theme of this year's contest is "We all need connection." Students are encouraged to write a poem about being connected with their community, such as their class, their family, a team they are on, or their neighborhood or town.

Students are asked to describe what it is like to be with their group, including what members look like and what it feels like to be with them.

For the ages 5-8 group, an adult can help the child type or write their entry.

"For our kids, we want to make sure that we reinforce connections (during the pandemic) and how important they are," said Jennifer O'Donley, co-founder of the Auxvasse program. "We want kids to have an opportunity to think about how things have changed and how they're still connected with people."

Entrants must live or attend school in Callaway County and be between the ages of 5-18. Prizes will be awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each age group (5-8, 9-12 and 13-18).

Entries should include the student's name, age, address, parent's or guardian's name, phone number, email address (if available), school, grade, and teacher's name. The deadline is April 30.

O'Donley said the contest "typically gets 80-100 (submissions)."

"We appreciate the teachers making an effort to get the whole class involved," she added. "We also appreciate our partnership with the library."

Entries may be submitted online at dbrl.org/poetry-contest; turned in at the Callaway County Public Library; submitted by email to [email protected]; or mailed to the Callaway County Public Library, ATTN: Youth Poetry Contest, 710 Court St., Fulton, MO 65251. Mailed entries must be postmarked by April 30.

"Every year I tell the winners that they're now award-winning poets," O'Donley said. "This is giving them an opportunity to write, and that's an important activity. We always honor athletes and their accomplishments. It's important that we also honor those with other interests and let them know that there is value in what they can do."

For more information, visit facebook.com/AuxvasseCreativeArtsProgram or dbrl.org/poetry-contest.

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