Skip to main content

The City Journals

Reflection poems a winning art for this 12-year-old student

Jul 13, 2020 01:35PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Joshua Johnson wins this year’s Reflections poetry award for the third time. (Photo courtesy Carrie Johnson)

By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]

Joshua Johnson, 12, knows a thing or two about poetry.

His poetry has won the Reflections contest the past three years in a row, which is some feat. 

“To win at the national level, you have to first win at your school level, then the council level, then the region level and then the state level,” said his mother, Carrie Johnson. 

Joshua, who has just finished sixth grade in an advanced learning program, has continued to excel in what he said is an opportunity to “tell a short story in a clever, captivating way.”

“I enjoy writing poems and short stories because I love to read,” he said. “I enjoy feeling like I am part of a story.”

Sure, there’s a lot of preparation in writing a poem, but Joshua doesn’t really “focus on putting out a great poem.” He is more interested in telling “a great story and creat[ing] a connection based on the emotions he is trying to convey that the reader can relate to.”

“You’ll often hear him talking out loud while he is writing as he tests out alliterations, works through metaphor or just wants to hear the flow of the story he is trying to create,” Johnson said.

No one else in the family enjoys writing poetry, she said, but everyone loves to read. The family “spends[s] a lot of time talking about words, books and telling stories.  His third grade teacher, Mrs. Jennings, encouraged his interest in writing. She gave him a school dictionary and a pile of old books from her classroom as a gift at the end of the school year.”

This year, Joshua was prompted by his current teacher to use details in his poetry to “help create the picture in a reader’s mind,” Carrie said. “So, he tries to include little details that make the words come to life.”

Joshua’s first winning poem is titled, “Creation Within Reach,” written about his grandpa who needed a kidney transplant. The second, “Heroes Around Me,” is about the heroes he sees at school. The third, this year’s theme of “Look Within” and titled “I Look Within to Remember You,” is a poem about his 89-year-old grandmother and his feelings about “his fear of forgetting her after she passes,” Johnson said.

“The poem about my grandma took me about one week to create,” Joshua said. “I worked on it at school during my free time and after school for a few hours each day and made changes and additions to each draft.”

Johnson said her son might come across as “introverted at first, but once you get to know him you discover his witty and clever personality.” He is particularly kind and calm, and in writing he is “extremely focused but also playful.”  

Because of COVID-19, the Reflections awards ceremony was virtual, but Joshua was excited to receive this year’s award from Utah’s PTA administrator representative, Dr. Martin Bates, and State PTA President Laney Benedict.                      

Though still young, Joshua has an interest in medicine and in becoming a pediatrician or surgeon, Johnson said. But whatever he does, she is “confident reading and writing will be involved.”