By Mel Maurer
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2007, All Rights Reserved
Each year the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable sponsors The Jon Thompson Poetry Contest at Lee Burneson Middle School in Westlake, Ohio. The contest is named in honor of Language Arts teacher (and CCWRT member) Jon Thompson, who devoted over 35 years of his life to the students of Lee Burneson before retiring in 2006.
During his tenure there, Jon created the annual “Civil War Days” event, which immerses the 8th grade students in all aspects of the Civil War era. The students study the period, work on related projects, and attend an “Encampment Night” where they hear a number of talks on topics relating to the era and then attend a Civil War Ball in period gowns and uniforms. At the ball they perform a play, drill as soldiers, dance to period songs, and sing as a chorus.
Those entering the poetry contest are asked to consider a picture called “The Widow” showing a woman in black mourning garb kneeling next to a headstone of a Confederate soldier while a ghostly image of the soldier hovers over her. Over 2,000 poems have been entered in the contest since its inception. (See past poetry prize winners.)