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Westfield High Conducts a Poetry Slam

Nine students compete March 17 then go to Districts.

Featuring a variety of subjects and styles, nine Westfield High students will participate Thursday, March 17, from 2:30-4 p.m., in a poetry slam at their school.

These talented and creative students are: Megha Trivedi, Annie Dueweke, Caitlin Schreider, Lorin Rapp, Kalyna Jowyk, Ziona Norris, Lauren Ziegler, Brian Moan and Kevin Barrett.

"A POETRY SLAM is a performance of your poetry," explained sophomore Trivedi, 15. "It's not just a reading — it has much more emotion. You're allowed to move and be expressive. It's more like acting it out; it's akin to Shakespeare's sonnets and plays."

Winner of the slam goes to the district competition, March 31, at Hayfield High. Some students will present their poetry solo; others will be in groups of up to five people. For example, Trivedi and Norris will perform together.

"For the slam, we're choosing from among five poems," said Trivedi. "And we've absolutely refused to write about angst because it's everywhere. It has to be a poem that one of you has written, and the author has to be among the performers. The ones we'll choose from will all tell stories, like mini epics." However, she added, "We have a three-minute time limit."

She also noted that some of the students participating have gotten awards for their poetry. Trivedi, herself, was named "Poet of the Year" for 2005 by poetry.com for her poem, "Enlightened Darkness."

She began seriously writing poetry while in middle school and writes whenever she's inspired. An example of something that came to her last week is: "The subtle darkness flowing through your mind is the pen with which your thoughts are written."

"My poetry's more of a story about life," said Trivedi, who envisions a career as a doctor or biomedical engineer. "And if I have a dream that really stands out, I'll write it down."

Four teachers are sponsoring the slam: Patty McMillan, English, and Creative Writing Club sponsor; Mary Ellen Webb, English and journalism; Donna Macurdy, English; and Zoe Dillard, assistant theater director.

"Ms. McMillan started talking about it in Creative Writing Club and asked if the club wanted to sponsor it," said sophomore Caitlin Schreider. "She knew we'd do it."

Schreider's written poetry since sixth grade and says all her poems are morbid. "Whenever I have feelings that are down, that's how I express them," she said. "Life is colorful, but death is more interesting to write about."

HER ENTRY in the slam will be "Oh, Can You Not See?" about a woman's struggle with her feelings. She's looking forward to participating and views it as another opportunity "to further how I express myself. And if it's the truth, what's wrong with telling everyone?"

Schreider's submissions on poetry.com have been named "Editor's Choice," four or five times, and she says it takes her "from 30 minutes to days" to write a poem. Her slam effort is a combination of two other poems she wrote, "A Million Holes" and "Flames of Shame."

For her entry, freshman Lorin Rapp, 14, will probably recite "one of my older poems about how I was sorry about something I did to myself." It's her first time in a slam — and also the first time Westfield ever held such an event.

"I'm a theater kid, so standing in front of a crowd doesn't really bother me," she said. "I got pulled into it by Kalyna, but it's fun. I've written poetry and never been able to read it out loud [to others]. I've always kept it to myself."

Rapp's written poems since fifth grade — mostly about herself and people she knows. She said the slam's a good idea because "it's really cool for people to be able to share what they write in front of an audience because, usually, we don't get a chance to do that."

Also a freshman, Kalyna Jowyk, 14, will present an as-yet-untitled poem about "all the feelings that everyone has about love — the nerves, excitement and the downfalls when it's broken." She's written poetry for some three years and says it's "a really good way to express my feelings. I feel better when I write things down."

She tries to write every day, but said, "Sometimes, it doesn't come. I like to write about everything." She said the slam's really exciting because it's something new. And students can't read their poems; they must be memorized.

"I'M HOPING to do well but, sometimes, hope can be a four-letter word," said Jowyk. Her advice to beginning poets? "Just do it."

Dueweke, also 14, has written poems since third grade and says her subject matter depends on her mood. "I like to write about my friends, my feelings about them and angst," she said. "Sometimes it takes only a few hours and, sometimes, it can take weeks or months."

She also does lots of revisions — rearranging words and stanzas and deciding if anything should be repeated — until she determines what will sound best. She said she's doing the slam to get over some stage-fright issues and, to prepare, "I have to annoy my older sister with my poem, talking in front of a mirror."

Dueweke will perform either "My Heart is on the Ground" — about sadness, death and depression — or "I Remember the Day." This poem is about friendships she's had and "people moving away, breaking apart, getting popular and leaving me behind."

She's currently writing a book of poetry and a novel. The latter is about the Middle Ages and ancient Greece and its gods and goddesses. Said Dueweke: "I hope to publish a book before I graduate high school."