Students take the stage at Brookrhymes Poetry Slam



Oftentimes, poetry slam events have a theme. Brookrhymes, however, did not have one, providing the performers with full creative liberty.

Enveloped in the buzz of snapping fingers and sips and bites of food and drink, student poets from around Massachusetts shared their spoken word compositions at the Brookrhymes Poetry Slam on March 25, organized by the BHS Poetry Club and hosted at the Brookline Teen Center (BTC).

Three teams of students, coming from Newton North High School, Westborough High School and Brookline High School, were judged by a panel of four poets and writers and had their performances scored on a point-based rubric. The final winner of the night: Newton North High School.

The night started with Newton North students Lucy Waldorf, Emma Brignall, Ella Reid and Leah Gelfand, who presented five poems in total. A highlight included Waldorf’s poem, “A Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” which painted a series of vignettes on the moments of joy Waldorf experiences in everyday life, such as feeling the morning dew on blades of field grass. With her intricately crafted phrases, Waldorf managed to evoke a sense of nostalgia and childlike happiness.

Following a short interlude, students from Westborough High School presented a set of four poems, including a group poem called “Crossroads” that closed their performance, performed by Nida Syed, Karen Samuel, Sahithi Pudota and Veronica Njugunam.

“Crossroads” painted a vivid picture of the burden of decision making. Each speaker performed stanzas separately, only coming together as a whole to recite the refrain, becoming more frantic every time it was repeated, as if the window of time to decide was running out. The atmosphere of the performance beautifully mirrored and complemented the theme of the poem, rising in tension and drama until crashing down at the ending.

Rounding out the night, students from Brookline High School took to the stage and presented four poems: “Ode To Time” by freshman Ella Ngo-Miller, “Searching For a Meadow” by freshman Shanti Appavoo, “Every Horror Story is a Love Story” by junior Rafaela Datel and “Now We Breathe Alone” by sophomores Haven Montgomery, Elizabeth Kane and junior Nico Hart.

Montgomery, Kane and Hart crafted a sharp image of isolation with their metaphors on ocean life and the unforgiving nature of the circle of life. At the end, I could almost feel the ice-cold waters and snapping sharks they portrayed, leaving me shivering with excitement.

Local professors and authors Essmaa Litim, Emily Avery-Miller, Victor Hugo Mendevil and Susan Spilecki served as volunteer judges for the panel. Coordinator and president of the high school Poetry Club, senior Orlee Bracha, said that the process she and co-president senior Tal Nir used to choose their prospective judges was a bit unorthodox.

“We just went to the websites of universities in the Boston area and just found writing professors,” Bracha said. “We have professors from Northeastern, MIT and one judge who’s an independent published author. They’re all very inspiring in their own ways.”

Prizes for the winners included a trophy, notebooks and books donated by Robert Pinsky, former United States Poet Laureate, as well as Brookline Booksmith. Other local businesses pitched in their support as well, with neighborhood favorites such as J.P. Licks and Anna’s Taqueria providing free catering for the event.

BTC director Paul Epstein said that he credits the success of the night to the student-led planning process.

“What made this poetry slam such a wonderful event is that it was a youth-led project,” Epstein said. “I love events that bring youth groups together from outside of Brookline too, especially for the purpose of sharing such wonderful talent and art.”