Young poets explore the world with meter
SANTA ANA – For readers who think that poetry is a thing of the past, 21 high-school students proved you wrong Saturday night as they competed in the first Orange County Regional Youth Slam Event.
Representing schools across the county, they gathered in an Orange County School of the Arts theater to perform classical and original poems – written in response to the classics – for cash and grant prizes provided by sponsors.
Allison Benis White, a poetry teacher at Chapman University, was one of the four judges who evaluated the performances on accuracy (classics) or difficulty (original works), articulation, and physical and dramatic presence.
“You have the value of honoring contemporary poetry and the value of making something new,” White said. “You can’t beat that.”
“To bring poetry into the mainstream is extremely important.”
The students were registered as four teams. Two groups of eight represented OCSA, four students represented Sage Hill High School, and one student represented South Orange County High School of the Arts.
Theatrics were not scarce during the readings. From animated hands, to dramatic voices, and even a comedy during one poem performed as a duet, the teenagers put a lot of soul and energy into delivering the poems.
Carlisle Huntington, 16, the student from South Orange County High School of the Arts, recited four classical poems from memory and four original poems, while others read one or the other.
“It’s exhilarating and terrifying,” she said. “I was inspired to perform and decided to participate, if anyone wanted to join me or not.”
Themes of maturing, social stigmas and fanatical adventures carried the audience of about 175 into the minds of the adolescents and allowed listeners to think of classic poets such as Charles Bukowski and Margaret Atwood in a new way.
Mariah Wilson, 17 and a senior at Sage Hill, began performing poetry during her freshman year and fell in love with it immediately, she said. She recited her own poem about growing up.
“The poem is saying we need to let go of our childhood, but I don’t believe we really need to let go of our childhood completely.”
After four rounds, the pubescent poets waited on stage for the final results. But just when the audience thought the performance was over, the students improvised a dance as “Come Together” by The Beatles was playing. Even the esteemed judge Myrenna Ocbu, host of radio’s “Poets Cafe,” sang along.
Out of 760 possible points, the winner on the night was one of the OCSA teams, which received 592 points. Second place went to Sage Hill High School, at 576, and third place went to Huntington of South Orange County High School of the Arts, at 581. Fourth place went to the second OCSA team, at 561.
The first-place team will split the cash prize of $1,000, and the school will receive a $500 grant. Second place will split $750, and the third place prize of $500 will go to Huntington.
Griffin Vrabeck, a Sage Hill senior, may have unknowingly nodded to the evening’s theme in his original poem.
“Poetry is the greatest discovery of mankind,” he said.