When poet and teacher Sarah Bai approached the Tracy Friends of the Library in January and suggested that we sponsor a poetry contest in honor of National Poetry Month, I didn’t really think much would come of it. The Tracy Friends of the Library is a non-profit that promotes the literary arts and raises money to support programming at the Tracy Branch Library. However, the library had been operating in a limited capacity since March 2020 and the TFOL fundraising efforts had been curtailed. Our board, while trying to stay positive, was in a kind of holding pattern - waiting to see what obstacles the pandemic would bring next.

I wondered if anyone would care if we sponsored a poetry contest during the pandemic. Would anyone feel motivated to write poetry? Would people want to participate in yet another “virtual” event? Would teachers (the people we usually ask to promote this type of event) have the energy to encourage their students to get involved? I felt that the answer to these questions would be “no.”

It turned out that I was wrong. I was overwhelmed by the number of submissions we received from residents of all ages. The Tracy creative community was clearly inspired to share their work and responded with many beautiful and powerful poems. Teachers – with all their other responsibilities this year – came through and promoted the contest. Some even submitted their students’ poems directly to ensure that they got to participate

The poets of our city showed me that they are Tracy Strong: willing to give of their time and talent to support the arts in our community despite the difficulties they have faced this past year. Their work ran the gamut from humorous tributes to running fast (from six-year-old Aarav Ramdhan) to refined memories of lost loved ones (from Carolyn Frances in memory of her Grandad).

We received poems that addressed the social issues that have impacted our community and the country. In The Disharmony and Its Awakening, Julia Cordero wrote:

“We stand up because it is not in the American blood

To sit back and watch when injustice is being done…”

We received poems that celebrated the wonder of everyday life. Roxanne Sevchuk, in her poem, Awake, asks:

“Was the world always so beautiful, or do I only see it now

Because my heart is sore?”

Interestingly, we did not receive many poems that spoke directly to the pandemic. However, Oretta Bennion’s 2020; A Poem eloquently spoke to our reengagement with life:

…We Emerge-

Refined,

Optimistic,

Humbled,

Encouraged.

Just one Year.

Those words stayed with me on April 29th, when the Tracy Friends of the Library held “Coming Together: An Evening of Poetry.” The event was a virtual awards ceremony where the winning poets shared their poems with their families and the community. The event gave us a chance to celebrate together…refined, optimistic, humbled, encouraged…Tracy Strong.

The Tracy Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization that promotes literary, educational, and cultural activities in the City of Tracy and has been actively supporting the Tracy Branch Library for over 30 years. For more information, see our Facebook page or contact us tracylibraryfriends@gmail.com.

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