By Robert Busby
Last Thanksgiving, while standing on the 102nd-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, Sebastian Gutierrez ’27 decided he wanted to be an architect. Unbeknownst to him, this moment of inspiration would also lead to him becoming one of the top fifth-grade poets in the country.
But that is exactly what happened this summer when his poem, “Ode to Steel Horizons,” was announced as a top-ten finalist for his age division in the Creative Communication 2020 Spring Poetry Contest, which attracts thousands of submissions from young poets across the country each year.
In February, Sebastian wrote the poem as part of a fifth-grade project for which he and his classmates were challenged to write their own “Ode to…” poems. Employing alliteration, simile, internal rhyme, and other poetic devices, Sebastian and his classmates used descriptive language to celebrate or praise an individual, idea, event, or other subject of their choosing.
According to his mom, Sebastian had no trouble selecting the focus of his poetic celebration, as architecture had become a passion of his after that fateful trip to New York City.
“The LEGO Architecture Empire State Building was his Christmas gift,” Melanie Gutierrez explained. “The set has a place of prominence on his desk and sat in front of him during the poem process.”
While writing his poem, Sebastian drew upon his visit to the once-tallest building in the world—from the “crick [that] captures” his neck while gazing up at the “liquid gold” of the edifice’s Art Deco design to the “slow, steady sway” of the edifice as he and his family stood at the base of the radio tower.
“We were thrilled to even have Sebastian in the anthology,” Melanie said. “When we received the second email with the news that he was a finalist, it was surreal. Sebastian was surprised when he received the initial acceptance because he had made a B on the first draft of the poem, which he later revised.”
Sebastian’s work will be one of the featured poems when the hardcover anthology is published this fall. The distinction also places Sebastian in the esteemed company of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Taylor Swift who—as a fifth grader twenty years ago—had her poem, “A Monster in My Closet,” published in the same anthology.
Each top-ten finalist receives a copy of the anthology and a check for $25. Sebastian, who plays for the Germantown Legends Soccer Club, used his winnings to purchase a new soccer ball. Perhaps the investment will result in a new poem as well.
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