Three West Haven Students Give Nature A Poetic Voice

Marilyn Wilkes | May 4th, 2023

Three West Haven Students Give Nature A Poetic Voice

Citizen Contributions  |  Culture & Community  |  Education & Youth  |  Poetry  |  Arts & Culture  |  West Haven  |  Land Trust of West Haven


Accepting their awards at the Land Trust’s Poetry Post are, from left, Bruna Reppetto Tobias, Jace Rodriguez, and Dana Guadarruma. Land Trust of West Haven Photo. 

The following citizen contribution was submitted by Marilyn Wilkes, vice president of the Land Trust of West Haven, and edited with excerpts of the work. 

The poem comes alive in its sweet simplicity. From the page, where an image of the aurora borealis explodes across the sky, a reader can almost see fourth grader Dana Guadarruma at her desk, working carefully on each line. She’s gotten them just right: the words dance on the paper. 

Lighting up the sky
Magical vibrant colors
Glisten way up high. 

Last month, Dana’s poem “Northern Lights” was one of three winners selected by the Land Trust of West Haven, which in April held its nature-themed poetry contest to celebrate Earth Day and National Poetry Month. Last week, the Land Trust announced that students Jace Rodriguez, Dana Guadarruma and Bruna Reppetto Tobias had scored its three top prizes.

All three are students in the West Haven Public Schools: Jace is a third grader at the Savin Rock School, Dana is a fourth grader at the Savin Rock School, and Bruna is an eighth grader at H.M. Bailey Middle School. The students read their poems at an award ceremony that took place on Friday, April 28, at the Land Trust’s Poetry Post on the Savin Rock Boardwalk. 

“The Land Trust is always looking for ways to support children’s education about the environment in fun and creative ways,” said Marilyn Wilkes, vice president of the Land Trust and event co-coordinator. “It’s important to foster a love of nature in children. Poetry is a way for them to explore the beauty they see outside and communicate it to the world.” 

According to Colette Bennett, the West Haven Board of Education’s language arts coordinator and event co-coordinator, students have been learning about poetry in their classrooms for the past several weeks. In grades three and four in each elementary school, students are studying the haiku and the tanka, both Japanese poetic forms.

In grade eight at Bailey Middle School, students are studying famous poems on the topic of nature. In order to appreciate how the theme of nature is developed, they identify patterns of language, structure, and punctuation. 

In Bruna’s finished poem, titled “Renewed by the Moonlight,” she waxes poetic on the allure power of mother nature herself, who can restore a human’s spirit with the moonlight, the fog, the dirt and fall of dusk:

What is it?
Maybe it’s the way she looks like
The view
The gorgeous fog after the clouds reveal their feelings
The fireflies glowing and dancing in the darkness
The trees that blend together with their green 
The moonlight that shines elegantly on the water’s surface
The stars that miss the sun in the morning sky

A three-judge panel determined the winning poems. They included Tony Fusco, who was named poet laureate for the City of West Haven in April 2019 and is the co-president of the Connecticut Poetry Society; Renny Loisel, president of the West Haven Land Trust; and Colette Bennett. 

Each winner received a $50 gift card and a native plant, which represents the Land Trust’s Native Plant Initiative, and ties in to the contest’s theme of nature and Earth Day. 

The Land Trust of West Haven, Inc. is a non-profit organization formed to promote the protection and preservation of natural resources and open space properties of public significance in West Haven, Connecticut, including coastal resources, with particular emphasis on the shoreline of the Long Island Sound in the general area of Savin Rock as well as its land, water, wetlands, plant, and animal life.