Poetry Friday: Poems Borne of Experience

Ten years ago, during the summer of 2011, my eldest son participated in the National History Day contest with a friend. Let me be clear, they were in the national part of the contest. This meant that they had participated at the district level, the regional level, the state level, and were selected to go on to the national competition. It is quite a feat and only a very tiny percentage of students have the privilege of competing at that level for National History Day.

Both my son and his friend had participated before, as 8th graders, she going to nationals and he stopped at the State Level with his paper on Charles Darwin – a controversial selection considering how some might feel about biological evolution. In any case, they had “experience” with the competition. This time, however, they selected a performance. The performance has to be researched to be historically accurate, fit a specific time frame, and then transformed into acting without losing its historical base. It is quite an undertaking. The set also has to be made, and costumes decided upon. Both my son and his friend had to undertake several costume changes as well.

Set for National History Day in Washington, D.C. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011.

On their side was their age – they were now going into 11th grade, as the national competition took place in June following their sophomore year and experience.

Going to nationals is exciting, anxiety-provoking, and daunting all in one. There are students from all over the United States as well as the world. It’s an experience like no other. A coming together of hard work, knowledge gained, knowledge shared, and like-minded love for history. Believe me, no one gets this far in the competition unless they work hard enough and also want to be there. The level of talent and exhibit of hard work is astounding. This makes the competition all the more difficult.

In June of 2011, my son and I drove from Wisconsin to Washington D.C. with the set for their performance in our mini-van. We met his partner and her father on the University of Maryland campus where the competition was taking place. We were housed in the dorms and ate in their cafeteria. Everyone gets an initial performance and then the judges select those going on to finals. Our students’ performance was selected! They were going to the finals in the performance category!

As we waited for the results, there was tension. Two middle school teachers from our district who also had a pair of students who made a display presentation were also along, competing at the junior level. We all waited patiently, hoping against hope that the performance would be noticed in the finals!

When the display outside the theater clicked on at the designated time, there were the names of my son and his partner along with the name of their performance! They had won 10th place! This brought a whoop of excitement and dancing around from one of the teachers! We were thrilled!

By now you are thinking, okay, Carol, where is the poem here? Well, when Bridget Magee put out the last call for a few extra poems for her 10 x10 poetry book (just released last month), I submitted three poems. One of which was written about this experience of obtaining a 10th place finish at a national competition! Being 10th meant winning over hundreds of other performances if you go back through all the levels of competition for National History Day. It is something to celebrate, indeed!

A National Tenth Place

Tenth is a wonderful place to be in,
When you’ve heard you’ve won, you grin and grin!

No, it’s not first, or second, or third, 
But, with so many competitors, tenth is absurd! 

Tenth is a wonderful place to be in,
You tell everyone around you, I win, I win! 

No, it’s not fourth, fifth, or sixth, 
but it’s still quite amazing, not to be nixed.

Tenth is a wonderful place to be in,
It shows you worked hard and now makes your head spin.

What if tenth was your tenth book, or tenth prize,
Tenth scholarship, or tenth birthday surprise!

Wouldn’t tenth be such a wonderful place to be in?
Surely, you have to admit, it’s a great place to begin! 

No, tenth is not seventh, eighth, or ninth. But, who needs those? 
A top ten finish is an awesome performance you composed!

When you are tenth out of thousands, no one can say more,
You’re really accomplished, doing something that just made you soar!


© Carol Labuzzetta, 2021


I was afraid my son wouldn't like this poem, as his is as humble as they get. But, I am proud to say that he recognized what it was about and approved of its submission to Bridget's book. Although my poems were not accepted by Bridget, she was gracious in her note to me, thanking me for submitting in response to her last minute call for more poems. Submitting to contests and calls is something new that I ventured into this year with my poetry and I believe its made me stronger as a writer. Thank you to those who call for the work of others! 

And, I'd highly recommend the 10 x 10 anthology by Bridget Magee (2021). I'm proud to have it on my bookshelf! 





11 thoughts

  1. This poem is such a fantastic way to comemorate your son and his project partner’s experience! One of my kids went to states with a NHD project — so much work and so rewarding for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carol, your son deserves high praise and congratulations for his 10th place award. I also congratulate you for your offering to 10*10. I agree that any writing experience that we move beyond our comfort zone makes us a better writer. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is certainly awesome to know about your son & his partner’s TENTH place. I’ve had former students compete in that competition and it is challenging. I love that you have not written it into a memory poem for your son, Carol! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

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