Poetry Month at MacDuffie

Sophie Sharp, Senior Staff Writer

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In past years, April at MacDuffie has passed by with fairly small mentions to its alter ego: National Poetry Month. Reading poems in assembly was mostly the limit of involvement as poetry flew under the radar of many students.

This year, however, the English Department has celebrated National Poetry Month at MacDuffie in many new ways surrounding three main events.

The first event was a school wide assembly with four subsequent classes presented by Poetry Alive, a company that has been bringing shows and interactive workshops to explore literature and spoken word to students around the country since 1984. Seniors Talia Wiesel and Olivia Ramirez enjoyed the experience and encouraged MacDuffie to continue hosting such events. Wiesel added that she “liked that they got the students involved on stage.”

Chair of English Department Carol Tomkiel said that it was important to her for “poetry to get out of the covers of the textbook and into the atmosphere of the school in a way that was fun and also meaningful.”

The next event attributed to National Poetry Month was hosted by UMass Amherst. What was advertised as “a romp through the Bard’s work”  happened on Tuesday April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday. Students were able to see an abridged version of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets and birthday cake followed the show. 

Later this season, professor Matt Donovan, Director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, is coming to speak to the AP English classes. Tomkiel hopes that her classes will have time to read through his work in preparation for his visit.

Smaller events also took place during National Poetry Month such as a showing of The Dead Poets Society on Poem in Your Pocket Day and a black-out poetry session. Students in AP Literature have been reading haikus by Richard Wright and Tomkiel’s American Literature class hosted a Emily Dickinson event featuring baked goods and a rap-off.

When asked about what motivated her to initiate these events Tomkiel responded that if all went well, “students would find a poet that they would love to read beyond the classroom and most importantly find some creativity in themselves that they’ll want to foster and develop.”

If you’re looking for a good book of poetry to cozy up with this month, Tomkiel highly recommends the works of Billy Collins who is “accessible yet profound,” Mary Oliver with her “beautiful voice for the natural world,” and Sylvia Plath whose “intellectual energy” and “emotional voice resound and resonate.”

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