Video games, zombies, and Dante’s Inferno are just a few things that inspired 24 young poets at Mt. Hope High School’s First Annual Poetry Slam.
The event, organized by English Teacher Kerry Mastriano, raised close to $500 for a field trip to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and brought a lively crowed of more than 120 students, parents and teachers to the cafeteria on Tuesday night.
A panel of judges made up of both teachers and community members included English teacher Jason Seals, Colt Andrews librarian Harriet LaPointe, meteorologist Jeremy Schmidt, Sue Woodman from A Novel Idea bookstore and Linda Arruda from Paper, Packaging & Panache.
Standing on a small stage in the spotlight, students performed in small groups, individually and sometimes both. After a lively performance by the jazz quartet, Madison Cardoza and Katarina Ezikovich kicked off the event reading Cardoza’s poem ‘Raven’s Candle.’
“It was actually inspired by the television show Yugiyo and some of the themes of light and darkness,” Cardoza said later.
Wearing a black beret, senior Victoria Bedford, who tied for first place, drew laughs as she played the bongos and delivered her sardonic poem “Ode to Teenage Girl Angst.” Junior Kiana Michels, who shared first place with Bedford, moved the audience to tears with her poem “Colors of My Rainbow.” The poem addressed the racism and bullying Michels dealt with at an early age, but ends on an uplifting note: “I have come to find out that being black isn't shameful/ even if my past was prejudice, biased, and painful/ even if the taunting was more foul than a free-throw/ most of these things I have learned to outgrow.”
Michels wrote the piece in December for students at Kickemuit Middle School where she was part of atalk on drug and alcohol prevention. Nevertheless, she says she was “a little nervous” to perform it in front of her peers.
“I look at things in a positive way so I don’t think a lot of people knew about my background, because I seem so happy,” she said. “A lot of people were proud of me, though.”
Junior Nathan Silva won an honorable mention for his powerful socio-political commentary “Reward the Poet.” Taking on corruption and the state of the arts, Silva’s battle cry railed, “For the majority, I’m going up against the groups/What’s one nuke to a militia of enlisted troops?/ Where are the flutes? Going back to my original musical roots/ Even if I’m outnumbered like North Korea in the news/ Still I reload my microphone and lace my boots/ A poetic general, listeners be my recruits.”
Silva says he’s been writing since the fourth grade when he, “dealt with some real family problems.”
“I clearly remember I would always make freestyles to radio music at the earliest age,” he said. “Tons of them, any songs, embracing rhyme schemes, flows.”
Mastriano’s “Music as Literature” class was an inspiration for Junior Kenneth Mignacco, who tied for second place with Senior Rachel Mascena in the individual competion, and took first place in the group competition with his friends Rachel Lessing and Alex Absit.
“As a musician I knew I was going to love the class," he said. "It’s definitely opened options for more things to write about. I’m going to write for the rest of my life.”
Senior Casey Casanova came in third place with his poem “The Day That Changed My Life.” The poem details Casanova’s experience of getting stabbed on a Texas street after participating in a gang. The attack was a “wake-up call,” Casanova said, and the experience brought him back to Rhode Island to be with his mother. Encouraged by a good friend, Casanova wrote the poem for the event.
“I think it helps you release emotions,” he said.
Mastriano could not have been more pleased with the Poetry Slam, which she said she organized in a short period of time.
“I knew if it came together it would be special,” she said, “but it surpassed all my expectations.”
Other participants in the group event were Brittany Terra, Chelsea McWilliams and Mara Newland, who won second place, Kendra Cabral, Dylan Quitero, Nicole Arruda, Emily Cambriola and Britney Verria. Individual poets also included Honorable Mention winner Andrea Pereira, Jamie Costa, Mariana McCormack, Joey Constancia, Tyler Cox and Ceilidh Adams.
Couldn't make it to the event? Check out our videos to see some clips from the Poetry Slam.