April 17, 2024
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Poetry Slam Is Slam Dunk for SAR HS

On December 4, SAR High School hosted students from Ma’ayanot, Rambam, HANC, and Berman Hebrew Academy in the first Yeshiva Poetry Society poetry slam of the year. Students were challenged to write two poems—one in the form of a villanelle, a French verse form most notably used by poets Dylan Thomas (“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”) and Elizabeth Bishop (“One Art”), on the topic of hope; the second a free-verse poem on the topic of Israel.

“It was really amazing to be able to share my feelings about the war with other teenagers through a medium I can really express myself in,” said Mali Goldberg-Kellman, Poetry Slam team captain. “I had been writing one of my poems for weeks during the war so it was very meaningful to be able to share it. I felt such pride seeing what I had worked to schedule and plan come to fruition.”

Before their own performances, the students had the opportunity to hear original poetry from the event’s three judges: Judith Baumel, professor emerita of English and founding director of the Creative Writing Program at Adelphi University, whose poetry, translations and essays have been published in Poetry, The Yale Review, AGNI, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, among others; Rabbi Neil Fleischmann, long-time Jewish educator, comedian, and poet who is the author of the poetry collection In the Field; and Aaron Roller, the commissioner and co-founder of Yeshiva Poetry Society whose poems have appeared in Mima’amakim and the NCSY Haggadah.

The student poets then enthralled the entire audience with their imaginative, imagery-laden and moving poems. SAR sophomore Noah Weiss won best overall performance, with SAR sophomore Jed Sultanik the runner up; awards were also given to Amy Hollander of Berman for best villanelle, Eitan Towler of Berman for best free verse, and Elana Max of HANC for best performance.

“Slam poetry was so much fun!” said Weiss. “It’s not like anything I have ever participated in before. There were kids that traveled from many different schools, and it was awesome to hear all of their poetry as well. Aside from the basic nerves of being in such a competition, I would say that the most challenging thing for me was making sure that I read my poems at a good pace. At first I was reading them too slow, then too fast. After a lot of practice, I finally got it. I was most surprised by the fact that Judith Baumel, an authored poet, was one of the judges. Overall Slam Poetry competition was an amazing experience and I look forward to future slams.”

“This was my first Poetry Slam and it was an amazing experience,” said Sultanik. “It was so great to hear other people’s poems, even though the entire time I was worried about stepping up in front of everyone to read my two poems. For days before the slam, I was trying to figure out how to read both of my poems to make them intriguing to listen to, and when I was announced as Runner-Up I was shocked, because I hadn’t expected to win anything at all. It was a really memorable experience and I can’t wait to do it again!”

SAR’s faculty advisor, Nancy Edelman, commented on how wonderful it was to finally get the poetry society back up and running after Covid had all but shut down in person competition. “It was extremely meaningful to have a poetry slam that allowed students to process their complex feelings since the whole world changed on October 7.”

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