NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- On Monday night, poets and poetry fans gathered for the nineteenth performance of Poetry Out Loud, an annual event presented by the Jeremy Scheinfeld Publishing Center, a program of the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence.
More than 70 elementary and middle school students from across the district read their original poetry on stage during the Fund's flagship event.
New Rochelle's mayor, Noam Bramson, returned to emcee the evening for the 18th time - he's only missed one since being master of ceremonies for the inaugural event.
The students have been writing poetry in their classes all year. Faculty and staff coordinators have volunteered to spearhead Poetry Out Loud at their respective schools. It all comes together with the selection of up to 10 representative poets from each school to be part of the event. The coordinators work with the selected students to prepare them for the reading. They also compile and edit the handsomely bound book in which the students' works are published.
Fifth grader Jakob Dallow from Davis said that beyond looking forward to sharing his poem, he was hoping the event would help him "get over (his) slight fear of talking in front of people."
His classmate David Yang said, "I've been looking forward to talking to people about what I've written. It makes me think even more about what to write."
"The beautiful thing is, you truly get a window into the hearts and souls of the students," said Jodi Scheinfeld, one of the founders of Poetry Out Loud. "It's heartwarming to see what's important to them, what they want to share, what their voice is."
Meesum Panjwani, a third grader at Ward, talked about the creative process he applied while writing "A Ghost Who Couldn't Haunt."
"We were working on limericks, so I thought about things in nature, or made-up things, and what they usually do," he said. "And then I wrote the opposite."
With 19 years and nearly 1,400 poets to its credit, Poetry Out Loud is already looking ahead to its 20th anniversary event next year.
"There are a lot of kids who have gone on to write professionally," said Andrea Berman, Executive Director of the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence. "We want to try and make next year even more special, and it would be great to have some of the former participants come and read their poems."