Contact: Guy Lamolinara, Library of Congress (202) 707-9217; Pamela Michael, River of Words (510) 548-7636

April 27, 2009

Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass to Honor Young Poets, Artists in Ceremony

Robert Hass, former U.S. Poet Laureate from 1995 – 1997, returns to the Library of Congress to moderate a program honoring the student winners of the annual River of Words environmental poetry and art contest on Wednesday, May 13, at 10 a.m. in Room LJ-119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E.

The event is free and open to the public. The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, a River of Words co-sponsor, is hosting the event.

Young poets and artists will read their poems and display their works of art about the natural world. Barbara Strasko, from Fulton Elementary School in Lancaster, Pa., will also be honored as the 2009 Teacher of the Year. During this event, River of Words will also release its 2009 anthology of art and poetry by children, who will be available to sign the books.

The ceremony will include award presentations in six categories:

• 2009 International Prize: Atalanta Shi, 13, Canada. 2008 International Prize winner Sasini Navoda from Sri Lanka will also be recognized.

• Poetry Grand Prizes: Quinn Whitlow, 7, St. Louis Park, Minn.; Yolanda Lockett, 9, Lancaster, Pa.; Savannah Fehling, 14, Sarasota, Fla.; Sklyer Pham,17, Opelousas, La.

• Art Grand Prizes: Jake Barrios, 7, Watsonville, Calif.; Erik Raul Oliva, 9, Chico, Calif.; Scott Styslinger, 14, Birmingham, Ala.; Eunsil Choi, 17, Lawrenceville, Ga.

• Shasta Bioregion Prize (honoring a student from the San Francisco Bay Area): Arianna LaChance, 12, San Anselmo, Calif.

• Anacostia Watershed Prize: (honoring a student from the Washington, D.C., area): Grace Fitzpatrick, 13, Washington.

• Monkey’s Raincoat Prize: (honoring a short poem in the Japanese haiku tradition): Noah Jordan, 9, Alna, Maine.

Robert Hass remarked about this year’s winners: "It’s thrilling to see, year after year, these young writers and artists giving us back the places where we live through their words and images. Through their explorations and reflection on their home grounds, we are all made more aware of the beauty, history and fragility of our natural landscapes."

River of Words is open to young people ages 5-19 anywhere in the world and receives more than 20,000 submissions from almost every state and many foreign countries. Co-founders Hass and director Pamela Michael judge the poems; renowned children’s book author and illustrator Thacher Hurd judges the artwork. River of Words is the largest youth poetry and art competition in the world and is conducted by the Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit River of Words organization.

The Center for the Book was created in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about its programs, publications and national reading-promotion networks, visit

River of Words ( is a nature-based science, art and poetry organization founded to promote watershed awareness, literacy and the arts. The organization helps young people explore the natural and cultural history of their own communities through its innovative Watershed Explorer curriculum. In addition to the annual contest, River of Words provides educational support services for schools, water districts, libraries, museums, community organizations and governmental agencies that want to promote environmental consciousness through the creative process.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may be accessed through the Library’s website,, and via interactive exhibitions on

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PR 09-088
ISSN 0731-3527

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