Poetry Pops Up Throughout Campus


Photo by Zane Rimes.

(Above) Prior to their performance, Zeal Patel and Santiago Calderon practice their presentation about Kendrick Lamar. Santiago explains, “Highlighting modern artists is important to see into the future, and that is exactly what we plan to do.” From initiating discussions regarding the life that African Americans face in Compton to providing evidence of black excellence in society today, they memorize their speeches before presenting in the Harriett Coleman Center For the Arts.

Santiago Calderon and Zeal Patel, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Editor

You’re sitting in English class, reading a poem. Some of you are somewhat engaged, but many of you may be off snoozing. But, to Dr. Brenda Walton and Mrs. Tracy Bessire, that’s not what poetry is about. Instead, they decided to bring poetry to life for the class of 2022, and for the rest of the Upper School to enjoy. Replacing the common Senior Speak Out series that emulates a Ted Talk, Seniors have been tasked with critically analyzing a poetic work, creating their own poems about the author, and presenting in front of the underclassman. From William Shakespeare to Kendrick Lamar, this event, known as Pop Up Poetry Palooza, left students and teachers across campus with a completely different perspective on what constitutes poetry—from real-world significance to discussions of social injustice.

(Above) Whether you are inventing a creative skit or completing a room-wide test, engaging the audience is no simple task. Fortunately, for Amelia Raden and her group, they executed a vivacious presentation of “American Pie.” Amelia highlights, “While I was initially nervous to present in front of the entire audience in the HCCA, I soon realized that this was an opportunity to grow upon my public speaking skills and convey the importance of one of my favorite songs.” (Photo by Santiago Calderon. )
(Above) Because Dr. Brenda Walton and Mrs. Tracy Bessire began to think Senior SpeakOut topics were becoming too stale, they created an alternative centered around poetry in order to make poetry more accessible to students and ease the feeling of intimidation many students experience about poetry. In class, Mrs. Bessire makes it an objective to, “Make the study of poetry both fun and enriching for Seniors and to spark an interest in poetry in the underclassmen,” preventing students from avoiding the topic of poetry. (Photo by Santiago Calderon. )
(Above) Evelyn Sullivan and Juliette Benoist take on the big stage. In front of an audience of nearly 150 Sophomores, they both give a presentation about Michael Head’s 2004 song “Money O!” The song follows the change in perspective of a young man, following his rise to fame and fortune. After realizing that good fortune and prosperity, while important in certain regards, doesn’t solve all the world’s problems, Head describes how life is more than money—it is about the genuine relationship made during one’s life. Both Seniors give an incredible performance to convey an indispensable life lesson to the audience. (Photo by Zeal Patel. )
(Above) When witnessing the hard work of students, Mrs. Jacqui Collazo enjoyed, “Seeing what poem each group selected and why that particular poem resonated with them. I especially loved the creative ways in which they chose to perform their poems.” Whether it be “undressing” a maid, making creative “O Captain, My Captain” T-Shirts like Seniors Amir Shaikh and Pete Lopez, or coming up with a unique rap, Mrs. Tracy Bessire loved, “Seeing Seniors get excited about poetry [and] talking to/brainstorming with groups about their plans for staging their presentations.” (Photo by Zeal Patel.)
(Above) Seniors Grace Gibson and Arden Spehar acted as project managers, where they helped Mrs. Tracy Bessire and Dr. Brenda Walton on, “Brainstorming creative ways to advertise for the project and bringing those ideas into reality.” They also helped Mrs. Jacqui Colazzo create the performance schedule. When splitting up responsibilities based on their respective skills, Grace explains, “Arden was more involved in the creative designing and production of the posters we used to advertise around campus, whereas I was more involved with creating the schedule and setting up the broadsheet stands around campus.” (Photo by Zeal Patel.)
(Above) When Mrs. Jacqui Colazzo designed the flow of Pop-Up Poetry Palooza, her goals were to, “Give the entire [Upper School] the chance to experience [it]… limit the loss of instructional time…, [and] create a festival type feel with different venues and audience sizes.” To accomplish these goals, Mrs. Collazo created three, 30-minute rounds and a 40-minute lunch period. In that way, “Each grade level (9-11) was able to experience three different venue types (small indoor, medium outdoor, large auditorium) and got to see six different Senior performances.” (Photo by Zane Rimes. )
(Above) Mrs. Tracy Bessire describes, “Poetry has the power to wrench us out of our familiar world and conventional thinking and open us to fresh and surprising ideas that touch something deep in our consciousness that keeps it from becoming languid.” In this case, Parker Cohen, Jack Builder, and Carter Arribas convey their, “Fresh and surprising idea”—anime. (Photo by Zane Rimes. )
(Above) To market Pop-Up Poetry Palooza, Arden Spehar and Grace Gibson created a logo to embody a theme that would manifest all around campus: a large banner hung under the HCCA bridge, large posters with a lineup of poets students would present about, mid-sized posters with information about various popular poets, and even the small handouts given to the audience during the Poetry Palooza. In order to accomplish this, “Mr. Derek Daly was able to grant us enough funds to put together everything we had designed.” (Photo by Santiago Calderon. )