2017-18 Florida 4-H Nature Poetry Contest

What inspires you to write about nature?
Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida


Poems are reflections of things we care about. Poetry is an opportunity to share what you observe, wonder about, or laugh over! Poems can be creative and clever. They can link together ideas in new ways. We can learn from poems, too.

Up to 20 poems (from poets of any age) may be submitted by the 4-H agent in each county. Each poem must be submitted on the submission form by March 1, 2018. Winners will be announced on April 14, 2018 at the Forest Ecology Contest in Gainesville FL.


How to participate in the contest

To enter the poetry contest, download the contest entry form (PDF) and fill it out either by hand or in Acrobat Reader. The printed form will need to be returned by mail to the address given in the instructions. There is a limit of one entry per person. Because this is the pilot year for the program, there is no fee involved. Entries will be accepted in three age categories. All entries must be postmarked by March 1, 2018.


What makes a good poem?

Good poems have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. The subject of the poem is clear, easy to understand, and focused.
  2. The choice of words create power, convey an image, share a passion, breathe life, or share an experience with the reader. They come alive!
  3. Some poems have a standard rhythm or pattern. Some poems count syllables, as in a haiku. Some poems, like limericks, have a meter or beat.
  4. Some poems rhyme, and some “almost” rhyme. Words that have the same ending sound, like cat/bat/that are real rhymes. Words that almost rhyme (called assonance) might sound like a rhyme but aren’t, like branches/fences or leaves/breathes.
  5. The beginning of words can also become a pattern, such as words that start with the same letter or sound:  fancy footwork of falling foliage.
  6. Good poems often use metaphors, similes, and analogies to convey ideas. A metaphor defines something as a comparison: You are a breath of fresh air. A simile uses the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare two things: Her eyes sparkled like diamonds when she found her favorite tree. An analogy defines a complex idea in simple, easy to translate, concrete terms: A sandhill crane – from wingtip to wingtip, is wider than I am tall.

Some Sample Poems

Frog (a haiku)
  One jump, he is in
  Eyes poke above the water
  Waiting to hop out



  Night-light for the world.

By Amy E. Sklansky
Source: Out of This World: Poems and Facts About Space (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)



The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

By Robert Louis Stevenson
Source: A Child's Garden of Verses (1999)



The Dentist and the Crocodile
The crocodile, with cunning smile, sat in the dentist’s chair.
He said, “Right here and everywhere my teeth require repair.”
The dentist’s face was turning white. He quivered, quaked and shook.
He muttered, “I suppose I’m going to have to take a look.”
“I want you”, Crocodile declared, “to do the back ones first.
The molars at the very back are easily the worst.”

(this poem continues for many more lines – how would you like to see it end?)

By Roald Dahl
Source: Rhyme Stew (Penguin Random House LLC, 1989)



Learn More


For more information about poetry, check out the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Congratulations to the 2017 Poetry Contest Winners!


First place, Intermediate
My life as a tree
By Maria Avlonitis, Pinellas County

My life as a tree started in the ground
The soil was dark and damp
I could not see beyond it
I strain for light
I stretch my roots and I push up
I find the light
I am happy
I grow

Day after day I grow
I wait for a long time
I have grown a trunk
I am bigger and leaves have sprouted out of my branches
But I must wait long if I want to grow taller

A bird has flown onto my branch
He is pecking my trunk
"Why are you pecking me?" I asked
"What wrong have I done to you?"
The bird does not answer and keeps pecking
"What have I done," I asked. "To deserve this?"

I have grown taller
A family of squirrels has come
They have made a nest
I am happy for them
They have a safe place to live in

It is a stormy night
Lightning flashes across the dark sky
Thunder is booming in the distance
The wind is howling
But I will stand strong
The squirrels are shivering against me
The little one is wailing
"Bend down, bend down," the reeds tell me
"You will fall, you will fall"
My roots are sturdy
I must not fall

I have gone past the storm
But I am old
Is it my time to fall?

Many creatures have made homes here

Little children rest against me on hot summer days
But it is my time to fall
New trees are rising

I have fallen
Two men with large axes come to chop me up
"What have I done," I asked. "To put you against me?
I have provided shade for your children
I have given you sticks to put in your fireplace to keep you warm
I have given you clean air
Why must you give me such a terrible end?
They do not hear my cries
Their axes came down in heavy blows
And again
And again

I have been built into a crib
There is a new child
He is young
He has forest green eyes
The two men with axes have carved pictures of a tree on me
A tree in the springtime, when its flowers bloom
A tree in the autumn, when leaves danced in the wind
A tree in the winter, snow hanging on its branches
A tree in the summer, two children resting against it
Then I realized
That tree is me