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We Were All Meant for Poetry

By Fatima Naysa

Each year, National Poetry Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. and at NHP during the month of April. This year, the English department planned many events to inspire students to experience and appreciate poetry in many different ways.

One of the biggest events of the week was the Evening of Poetry and Art on April 27. This celebration included NHP student presentations of original and published poems and a poetry reading and presentation by Nassau County Poet Laureate Paula Curci, who also hosted a workshop for selected students earlier that day. Band and orchestra students provided musical accompaniment, which elevated the experience for all who attended. The art department was also involved, as original student artwork was displayed throughout the venue. This event also served as a fundraiser in which profits were split between the National English Honor Society (NEHS) and the student club with the highest attendance.

Source by Rachel Houng

Alyssa Sen sings "Breathe" from "In the Heights" at poetry night.

“Poetry night has been completely redesigned based on the feedback from last year. We will have many more interactive activities for students to partake in and opportunities to learn more about poetry,” junior Sania Daniyal said.

Source by Ms. Mary Kay Mannle

Nassau County Poet Laureate Paula Curci addresses the crowd at NHP's Evening of Poetry and Art.

Additionally, over 200 ninth graders had the opportunity to "Journey Through Time" and visit the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in Huntington during the week of April 24. For four days, morning and afternoon "shifts" of students and chaperones participated in poetry workshops based on Whitman's style of writing, viewed an historic video focused on Whitman's experience growing up in New York and took a tour of the historic Birthplace, built over 200 years ago.

"My experience visiting Walt Whitman's Birthplace was exciting but also shocking. It was interesting to see how they lived in the 1800s but seeing all the struggles they had to live with surprised me," freshman Samay Patel said. "The part I enjoyed most was playing with the simple, but fun toys. It surprised me how they were so simple but kept my attention for so long. The most positive aspect of the experience was how friendly and enthusiastic the employees were. They made everything more fun and realistic. The employees have no connection to him but cared about his life so much."

Source by Ms. Mary Kay Mannle

NHP freshmen from Ms. Ziegler's English class pause to visit Walt Whitman's statue while visiting the WWBA in Huntington.

"The WWBA was a good field trip," said freshman Melanie Cepeda. "It was a good way to express different views on poems and also writing and listening to poems. The tour was to see how Whitman lived and the interesting things they did and had back then that we don't have in today's era."

"My experience of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association was amazing and this field trip has a special place in my heart," freshman Shane Varghese said. "I learned new poets and poems, and learned what Walt Whitman's life was life. One thing I enjoyed most about WWBA is going into Whitman's house. I learned how harsh Whitman had to live during an epidemic. I was moved how Whitman went from nothing to a well-known inspiring poet."

"I had such a positive experience going to the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association with my ninth graders this year," ninth grade English Teacher Ms. Kaczmarczyk said. "I found the house tour especially interesting, where we learned about different aspects of Whitman's life and how people lived in the early 1800s. Additionally, it was wonderful to see my students react and interact to the house tour and the writing workshop."

Source by Ms. Mary Kay Mannle

Students in Ms. Ziegler's freshmen classes enter the WWBA; Walt Whitman himself seems to listen in as students learn about life on the farm; Freshmen investigate a well, built over 200 years ago.

On April 25, seventh and eighth graders attended an assembly with local poet Darren Sardelli of Laugh-A-Lot Poetry. In his presentation, Sardelli performed his original poetry from memory, which impressed the assembled students. He incorporated messages of positivity, resillience and the importance of creativity within his performance, sharing how he overcame doubters to get to where he is today.

"I thought he was really funny," seventh grader Jake Padinha said. "He memorized his poems, which was really cool."

Source from Mr. Graham Otton

Darren Sardelli of Laugh-A-Lot Poetry keeps seventh and eighth graders entertained during an in-school field trip.

NEHS members were instrumental in the planning and execution of the month's events. Students taught poetry workshops about the poet Walt Whitman, decorated the English hallway and facilitated interactive activities during the month. All NHP students and staff were greeted with poetry on "Poem In Your Pocket Day," when NEHS students and English teachers distributed pocket-sized poems to all entering school.

Source by Ms. Mary Kay Mannle

(Clockwise from top left) Seventh graders Madison Diaz, Tommy O'Shea, Jonathan Rivera and Evangeline Jacob create blackout poems; Students' poems on display in the English hallway.

There were also a number of classroom-focused activities scheduled during National Poetry Month, such as a gallery walk and “edit a poem,” which occurred in the English department hallway. Some English teachers taught lessons surrounding poetry, certain poets or poetic techniques, including blackout poetry. "Poetry Pop-ins" took place on Thursday, April 27. Members of the NEHS and teachers went into English classes to read selected poems to students during the school day.

Source from Mr. Graham Otton

National English Honor Society members Ann Aphraim, Guneet Hanjra and Rebecca John pose in front of their showcase which celebrates Li-Young Lee and Ada Limón, whose poem "The Carrying" determined the theme for April - "we were all meant for something."

Some NHP community members reflected on what poetry means to them.

"Some people like to write poetry because it helps them express their feelings in a beautiful manner. Many teachers and students write poetry so that they can get their thoughts down,” freshmen Rahel Zachariah said.

“It is a great form of expression as there are so many different variations from very structured poems: sonnets, diamanté, haiku, to more open forms like free verse and concrete (shaped) poems. I have a love for a great many poems, but one I particularly like is ‘Those Winter Sundays’ by Robert Hayden,” English teacher Mr. Colvin said.

“I think in the increasingly digital and commercial world that we live in, poetry is a balm. It's counter-cultural to ask someone to sit with a page of words and linger on them to co-construct some meaning with the author—who may be a classmate or someone long passed or writing in another part of the world,” English Chairperson Mr. Otton said. “So I'm long on poetry. I think it's exactly what we need to slow our too-fast days, focus our too-distracted attention and to remind us of what makes our experiences just right.”

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