Trey Rivera, 2019 Poetry Finalist
River of Words International Poetry and Arts Contest
“Youth Art and Poetry Inspired by the Natural World”

Diana Ajjan, 7th grade English teacher at JFK Middle School in Northampton MA, inspired her students by combining a study of Greek Mythology with a ROW field trip to the Mill River. She submitted a batch of wonderfully diverse poems to the annual ROW contest and Trey Rivera was chosen as a Poetry Finalist. In describing his craft, he says that he’s drawn to metaphor and “for the poem I wanted to include something about disaster, something horrible happening, so I just looked up “disaster” and “Mill River” and lucky me, there was one– the flood!”

Here’s a video of the prize-winning poet reading his poem. Follow along with the written version below:

The Mill River

If the Mill River
Were to pass through ancient Greece,
It would be praised
For its winding turns.

The God of the Mill River
Would be representative of
unexpected change.
Things you thought would go predictably and straight,
But would start to curve left,
Then suddenly whip to the right.

People would build on it,
Try to block it with a dam,
But man cannot prevent
unexpected change.
The Mill River Flood of 1874.

The fish in the river,
Do not care if it takes them north or south.
They travel along the way the water wishes.
If you refuse to worry about your way,
And you go the way destiny favors you,
You will find peace.

– by Trey Rivera, Age 13, JFK Middle School, Northampton, MA

“Thank you so much for taking the opportunity to share your students’ work with us, and for teaching the poetry and art of place to your students.” Excerpt from River of Words letter to teacher Diana Ajjan, congratulating her on the selection of Trey’s poem as a 2019 Poetry Finalist. “The Mill River” will be published in this year’s digital 2019 River of Words Anthology as well as next year’s 2019-2020 printed anthology.

Interview and photos by Margaret Babbott
Regional Co-Coordinator, River of Words along the Connecticut River