Queen of Poetry Crowned

A Celebration of Poetry

Austin Bartola, Editor-in-Chief

On January 4, students and faculty gathered in the West Orange High School auditorium for a celebration of poetry and performance with the 7th Annual Poetry Out Loud finals, where seniors Bianca Trinidad and Elijah Chilton were crowned this year’s winner and runner-up respectively.

The event was a culmination of weeks of preparation by ten finalists, who emerged among the hundreds who auditioned back in November. Four freshman, two sophomores, two juniors, and four seniors each recited two poems from the official Poetry Out Loud anthology. One of the poems had to be 25 lines or fewer, and one had to be written pre-20th century, though one could satisfy both conditions. Escriptus advisors Mrs. Mindy Harvat and Ms. Molly Wachtel, who coordinated the event, helped finalists prepare a variety of poets spanning from Emily Dickinson to Stephen Dunn.

A panel of judges scored performers based on accuracy, physical presence, voice, and understanding of their poems. Liberty Middle School Vice-Principal Michelle Martino, district English supervisor Liz Veneziano, former WOHS Poetry Out Loud winner and 2015 graduate Amber McCleese, Technology Integration Specialist Tynia Thomassie, and William Paterson University English professor David Borkowski were all on hand to evaluate each performance.

Poetry Out Loud winner, senior Bianca Trinidad, performing a poem Photo Credit: Cynthia Cumming

Ultimately, Trinidad’s performances of “I Felt a Funeral in My Brain,” by Emily Dickinson and “Dear Reader,” by Rita Mae Rees won over the judges to seal her victory. Chilton, the 2016 Poetry Out Loud winner, received second-place for his recitations of “To Elsie,” by William Carlos Williams and “Mezzo Cammin,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

“My experience with Poetry Out Loud has always been great,” said Anna Favetta, a junior and three-year finalist of the competition. “I like the nerves that come with it, and talking and performing in front of people.” Though it may not be apparent, Favetta believes that such competitions serve an important function with our community. “Poetry gives a sense of freedom where you get to steer away from the rules set in school, and I think it’s important to give students that sense of freedom.”

The competition doesn’t stop here; Trinidad will perform at the upcoming Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 11. We wish her the best of luck!