National Poetry Month activities conclude at SLS

April was National Poetry month, and the English teachers at St. Lawrence Seminary marked the month with varied activities to engage the students in reading, writing and experiencing poetry in all its forms.

From displaying poems each day in their classrooms, to writing poems on the pavement for others to read, to watching spoken word artists as they per- formed, the teachers worked to engage students with an often underappreciated literary genre.

The centerpiece of the month was the April Avidity competition — a March-Madness-style bracket, single-elimination competition of poetry writing and recitation. Each year, the freshmen learn about different poetry forms and styles and then work to emulate those in writing their own works of poetry. But it doesn’t stop there as the freshmen then compete in their classrooms, reciting and voting on the best poems and performances among their classmates.

When the fields are narrowed within individual classes, the competition proceeds out of the individual periods, as the top competitors face off in the semi-final round and then the final championship. The whole school can get involved then, as they watch and vote on the best poem performances.

Anthony Van Asten, one of the freshman English teachers, explained, “Teaching poetry to teenage boys is tough. Infusing it with a sense of competition challenges them not only to write poems, but to craft poems carefully — to come up with the right combination of words to create just the right experience and emotion. When a classmate writes a really good poem, they can recognize it and they applaud him. When we read an example from a seasoned poet, they see the care and intricacies of the rhyme scheme or meter or imagery. Most freshmen, at the end of the unit, have a much greater understanding of and appreciation for poetry.”

Aaryan Studden, a 15-yearold from Abu Dhabi, UAE, who earned second place in this year’s competition, reflected, “Writing a poem is really tedious, but when you are done writing, you feel like you have achieved something.”

Winning the competition this year was Angel Pagan, a 15-year-old from Chicago, Ill, with his poem entitled “I Bleed Thought.”

After the competition he said, “Going into it I had one goal: get past round one. It was incredible for me to win the whole thing.”

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