Poetry Festival Highlights Importance of Written and Spoken Word

Several Masters students stood up in front of a captive audience and shared their original poetry during the 9th Annual Westchester Poetry Festival on Saturday, April 6.

The students were part of a program that also included readings by published poets Victoria Chang, Monica Ferrell, Jennifer Franklin, Meghann Plunkett and Jenny Xie.

The annual event, hosted by The Masters School and Hudson Valley Writers Center, drew around 100 people to Estherwood throughout the afternoon. Judy Murphy, The Masters School librarian, organized the event and said that a highlight for her was the Masters students who read their works.

Abdoul Bah ’19 was one of those poets. He read his poem “We the Believers,” a piece on Islamophobia. He shared that particular poem because of recent events, including the mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand. “It felt right to read because I am Muslim and it's something that impacted the world.”

Bah is a member of the Masters’ spoken word poetry group, Outspoken. He came to poetry after experiencing a traumatic event the summer before junior year. Some friends encouraged him to write as a way to process his thoughts and feelings. He soon found that poetry was a positive outlet for his emotions, as well as a platform to consider social justice issues. “Whatever I care about, I write poems about,” Bah explained.

Miriam Emery, an Upper School English teacher and advisor for Outspoken, said that “The students who write poetry do so in a supportive and open community.” The Poetry Festival offers students an opportunity to share their work with both the Masters community and the larger world. “Poetry is a radical creative act that allows us to open our minds and to ignore the rules. Just as we bring ourselves to the Harkness table, a poem asks both the writer and the listener to construct original meanings.”

Poetry is an important form of expression in the Masters community, and is celebrated at the annual Poetry Festival as well as throughout the year. Emery noted that the English Department supports poetry in all its classes and has a senior seminar devoted exclusively to the form. Beyond participating in the festival, students can be part of Outspoken and also have the opportunity to have their work published in Masters’ award-winning literary magazine, Panache.

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