Kate Hays isn't sure exactly how she dreamed up the poem.
"I just thought of it one day," she said. "It popped into my head, and I just wrote it down."
The poem, The Rose Will Know, (see accompanying box) took top honors in the elementary school category of Pasco County Library System's Poetry Speaks competition last month.
Kate, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Lake Myrtle Elementary School, was among about 200 students competing in the category. She received a $100 savings bond for her effort.
Sitting on the couch in her Woodridge home Monday, Kate recalled reading her poem to a crowd at the Poetry Speaks Festival on Oct. 11 at the Hudson library in western Pasco.
She hadn't thought the poem, one of the few she has written, would win.
"I was amazed," Kate said. "We had just sent it in and forgotten about it."
A voracious reader, Kate enjoys science fiction, particularly stories about Animorphs. She watches The Red Green Show and the Goosebumps Saturday morning show.
Someday, she wants to be a marine biologist. "I love the ocean, and I love dolphins."
Her mother, Molly, describes Kate as "real creative in a lot of different ways."
"She does an awful lot of reading, sometimes a couple of books a day," Molly Hays said. "That's probably where she gets a lot of her ideas from."
Kate's advice to aspiring poets: "Try writing about something that you really, really like."
So don't expect an ode to pianos from this young wordsmith any time soon.
"I hate piano," she said.
Piano lessons are the one thing her mother insists upon.
"I encourage her to do all kinds of activities for personal enrichment," Molly Hays said. "I consistently want her to take piano because I think it's very important for her to have a musical background.
"I just try to expose her to a variety of different things so she can find out what she really likes."
The poetry festival was the first ever for the Pasco library system, organizer Amy Cobb said. Judges received 600 entries from poets ranging from elementary school age to senior citizens.
"I think it was a big step to bring poetry into the county and expose children to writing," Cobb said. "It's good that they know they can speak through poetry and write at any age level."
Kate isn't sure how she'll spend the savings bond after it matures in the next millennium.
"I have to think about it," she said. "I have plenty of time."
- If you have a Land O'Lakes story, call Wes Platt at 226-3454.
The Rose Will Know
By Kate Hays
The meaning of life?
I do not know.
But I know who to ask.
In the garden of Princess Vanessa,
Many lovely things grow.
Fields of pansies and lilies,
Sunflowers that reach the sky.
Bluebells as blue as the vast blue sea.
You know I do not lie.
Amethyst grapes on silver strings.
Many, many lovely things.
But none as lovely as the Rose.
Ruby red petals,
Nothing like nettles.
Too many thorns on them.
The Rose answers any question.
She will give you a whole lesson.
Ask the Rose.
The Rose will know.