LONG LAKE - A sophomore at Long Lake Central School, Margaret (Meg) Smith is wasting no time in getting her name in print. She was recently awarded accolades in the Great Adirondack Poetry Contest with her poem entitled "Llamas." The piece was printed in the contest's publication, Words From the Woods.
Smith wrote the poem in response to an assignment from Long Lake English teacher Mike Farrell that involved writing a poem about family last year. She chose to write about her grandfather, who was a mining engineer in Peru and more specifically, his mother.
"She was a strong lady - living in Peru with no friends," said Smith of her great grandmother. "I never met her, but I would have liked to."
Aside from having her poem published, Smith received a scholarship to the Champlain College Young Writers Conference at Champlain College in Burlington, which she attended last week. The conference is designed for dedicated young writers and offers an opportunity for them to meet others who share their passion for telling the stories of their lives and to study the craft with some of New England's most celebrated authors and teachers.
Smith is the daughter of Hallie Bond and Mason Smith and is no stranger to writing - it is in her blood. Mason is a published novelist and has published works centered around his experiences living in the Adirondacks.
Outside the classroom, Smith turns to writing as a hobby as well.
"Poetry is a creative outlet for me and I do it not just because it is assigned in school," she said.
Farrell encouraged Smith to submit some of her work to the contest and admitted he would have been surprised if she had not won.
"She is probably the best writer
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I've taught in my 33 years here at LLCS," he said. "It has little to do with me, however."
Farrell noted that Smith arrived in his classroom as a seventh grade student with the writing skills of a college student.
"Her parents and elementary teachers are the ones who deserve the credit for her brilliance," said Farrell. "I have simply tried to stay out of her way."
Despite Smith's dedication to writing, she is looking in another direction for her future. She hopes to continue her passion for the arts, however, and one day become a costume and set designer in college.
"I just love everything about art," she said.
Margaret Smith's winning poem: Llamas
In the black-and-white days of long ago,
When my grandfather was only nine and a different person,
Untouched by sorrow
He lived in the snow-capped, mist-shrouded mountains of Peru
Where the air was scarce
And bridges made of string and toothpicks spanned the gorges.
He and his mother, fiery and determined,
Like the llamas that roamed the mountainsides,
And his brother Bruce, only a year and a half,
And his father, a mining engineer,
Lived in a dynamite shed
(Although they didn't know it, then)
And they called it Shirihuain
Which is Quechua for Box of Wind.
In the night, when the cold Andes air
Could freeze the marrow in their very bones,
They snuggled together in a single bed
Wearing scarves and mittens,
Grandma Jean refused to give in to the cold, whistling South American wind.
She sat up against the sheet metal wall
And read, by the light of a kerosene lamp, classic literature - The Arabian Nights, or Treasure Island -
To her bundled little family.
At midnight, she would close the novel
And listen as her strong voice bounced once more
Off the walls of the gorge that enclosed her world,
And think that even though
The native women would not accept her,
Even though her husband's job was dangerous
And there were tarantulas,
She would persevere like the llamas,
The tough llamas, dressed in warm wool, grazing the sparse grass outside.