3 Bergen County districts gather together for poetry slam in celebration of National Poetry Month
May 24, 2021
By Casey Cirne
Sixteen student poets from Cresskill High School, Hackensack High School, Hackensack Middle School and Lyndhurst High School joined together virtually on April 22 to share their poetry at the first annual New Jersey High School Virtual Poetry Slam.
The poetry slam, which was hosted by LHS supervisor Ms. Klein in collaboration with Mrs. Cavallo and Mrs. Bryan from the Drew Writing Project at Drew University, aimed to bring together students who share a passion for poetry.
Klein said her interest in creating this type of event developed as a result of her role as a teacher consultant for the Drew University Writing Project, which is a group of administrators who share an interest in teaching writing. Klein is serving as the assistant chair of the Community Family Youth Committee, which organized this virtual poetry slam.
The event was emceed by students from LHS’ Writers Group, which is led by Klein. This group of five students meets weekly to write and share their poetry.
“In talking with them and in talking with the teachers at Drew, we felt like people really wanted to connect,” Klein said. “Kids in a lot of schools love to write poetry, so [the committee] had the idea of bringing this together and making this a three-district poetry slam.”
Klein said she reached out to students via email to encourage them to participate.
“The best part of the poetry slam was seeing students from all of these different schools so willing and so excited to share their poems and listening to their poems,” Klein said. “It really felt like a community of writers.”
Junior Kirsten De Jesus, who is a member of LHS’ Writers Group, said she did not mind that the poetry slam was held online.
“I probably prefer it over having one in real life because I don’t have to process the fact that people are listening and watching when I go up to say my poem,” De Jesus said.
She said she was initially nervous to read her work aloud, but she overcame her fears to deliver her poem “Changing Skies.” In the end, De Jesus said she was happy she had the courage to participate.
“Just go for it. If some sort of anxiety about speaking in front of people is holding you back, something I like to remind myself is that any mistakes I make are going to be forgotten by everybody the next day… including myself,” De Jesus said.
“The best part of the poetry slam was seeing students from all of these different schools so willing and so excited to share their poems and listening to their poems.”
After the students read the poems with which they competed, a panel of educators who volunteered to be judges moved into a Zoom breakout room to deliberate.
English teacher Mrs. Falco, who has over 10 years of experience judging poetry slams at LHS, said she was uplifted by the student poets’ courage and honesty.
“The most rewarding part of judging a slam is how you leave feeling inspired by students’ creativity and overall potential,” Falco said.
She said it was challenging for her and the other judges to decide on the three winners and two honorable mention recipients.
“Narrowing down and choosing the placing is always difficult because there is such quality in each piece of writing,” Falco said.
In the end, two LHS students walked away with awards. Sophomore Samantha May captured second place for her poem “Soap” and junior Madison Echols got honorable mention for her poem “Where Did You Go?”
Echols said she was excited to earn this recognition.
“I have been doing [slams] since the [LHS] winter poetry slam my sophomore year, and it felt good to now receive an award,” Echols said.
She said the inaugural New Jersey High School Virtual Poetry Slam was a success.
“I think it went well with the resources we had. This was the first of its kind, and the fact that Ms. Klein was able to put it together in such a short amount of time was amazing,” said Echols.
If you are interested in joining Ms. Klein’s Writers Group, you can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
SCREENSHOTS BY EMILY GABRIEL