Poetry Contest Winners Share Inspirations

Delawareans of all ages across the state shared their love of the ocean in the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Haiku Poetry Contest.

To highlight the importance of preserving and protecting our ocean and to recognize Ocean Month, DNREC’s Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy partnered with libraries in each of the counties and challenged Delawareans to create a haiku highlighting “What I Love About the Ocean.”

A combined 56 entries were received in the adult (ages 19 and above) and youth (ages 5 through 18) categories.

“The range of expression captured in the entries demonstrates the many ways that Delawareans connect to the ocean and highlights why it is so important to protect and preserve this valuable resource,” said Kristi Lieske, an ocean planner in the Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy.

Love of haiku plus love of ocean is winning formula

An introduction to poetry class in high school ignited an interest in haikus for Scott Walls, of Greenwood, the first-place winner in the adult category.

The winning haiku in the adult division was by Scott Walls.

“One assignment was to write 10 haiku,” he said. “Ever since then I kind of fell in love with haiku and poetry as a whole.”

He also has a deep interest in the ocean.

“I like the ocean and I like haiku so this contest was kind of the perfect thing,” he said.

As youth services coordinator at the Georgetown Public Library, Walls puts together and oversees various programs for youngsters. Summer reading, story times and unique events are part of the routine.

Last year, he said, he received a grant from the Space Science Institute for educational programs on the blue whale. The Space Science Institute is a research and education nonprofit with a vision to expand humankind’s understanding and appreciation of planet Earth, our Solar System and the universe beyond. 

His haiku is rooted in his research for whale-related programs, where he learned that nutrients are rare in certain parts of the ocean because of the depth of the water.

“But when a whale dies, it sinks and provides a whole mass of nutrients for the organisms that live there,” he said.

Protecting and preserving our natural resources is important, Walls said, and the programs he develops illustrate that importance.

“It is not just the ocean,” he said. “It is also learning how we impact the ocean by what we do on land. Everything is a lot more connected than we realize.”

Octopus documentary inspires youth winner

Bear resident Spencer Rapson, 10, earned first place in the youth division.

Spencer is the son of Kate and Andrew Rapson.

While Spencer and his family all share a love of the ocean, Spencer’s motivation for writing a haiku went a bit beyond that.

Ten-year-old Spencer Rapson wrote the winning haiku for the youth division.

“It was my writing assignment for the day,” the homeschooled student said.

The inspiration for his winning haiku, Spencer said, came from the Netflix documentary “My Octopus Teacher.”

The documentary, according to the Netflix description, follows along as “a filmmaker forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.”

Spencer said his favorite thing about the ocean is the waves, swimming in them and having them crash upon him. His family visits the ocean often.

Kate Rapson said the family enjoys Delaware’s beaches but also likes to travel and enjoy other activities, such as snorkeling, seeing sea turtles and embarking on other adventures.

“It is important for them to realize they can do their part to protect the environment,” she said.

Spencer’s entry was among 13 that were submitted in the youth division, encompassing ages 5 through 18. His brother Theodore, age 7, was also a winner, placing third in the contest.

See the entries in these locations

Selected poems will be displayed in the following participating libraries throughout the state during Ocean Month in June:

  • Route 9 Library and Innovation Center
  • Appoquinimink Library
  • Dover Public Library
  • Georgetown Public Library
  • Lewes Public Library

Winning pieces will also be displayed at the Delaware State Fair.