Young poets play with words at Port Angeles slam

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — In two poetry contests sponsored by the Port Angeles Library, a flock of young poets seized the day and made it their own, speaking out about sex and drugs, even turning a rock ’n’ roll song into a spoken-word drama.

More than 60 poets in grades 6-12 took part in the library’s National Poetry Month “PoetrySlams” on Thursday and Friday night, with most offering original poems, while others recited the works of other poets they admire.

First came the high school competition Thursday, with 16-year-old Ciana Hellen with her ironic “Hometown Glory.”

“This is what I see in Port Angeles,” Ciana said before she began to read:

“I’m here to tell you a story/of a place that has no glory.

“Sit back, relax and enjoy the free show.

“Grades are getting low/and teens are getting high.”

‘Take a stand’

The poem goes on to lament teen pregnancy, underage drinking and suicide, and finishes with a plea.

“This needs to change, our world is officially broken/it’s time to take a stand, your thoughts need to be spoken.”

Ciana’s poem won the top prize in the high school division, a Kobo e-reader, while Eddy Stevenson and Madison Drew, both 17, won second and third prize, respectively.

Eddy’s pieces included “In the Rain,” a love story, and Madison’s included “Sunshine,” an ode to the effect sunlight has.

The poets’ prizes included an iPod Shuffle, Nook e-readers and gift certificates donated by Odyssey Books and Port Book and News in Port Angeles.

Middle school contest

More of those prizes were presented to the sixth- through eighth-grade contestants during Friday night’s PoetrySlam.

This gathering of scores of poets, parents and friends saw Autumn Sheldon win the recitation category with her delivery of Steven Tyler’s “Janie’s Got a Gun.”

“Her whole world’s come undone,” the seventh-grader recited, giving the Aerosmith song her own stamp.

Annika Jennings, 13, won the evening’s Spirit Award for her recitation of “Daddy’s Day,” Cheryl Costello-Forshey’s poem about a girl who lost her father in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Annika had to pause to gather herself during the long poem but made it through with grace.

Charlotte Hertel, 11, took second place in the recitation category with her fierce delivery of “No” by Judith Viorst, while sixth-grader Hayley Ward took third with her rendition of Shel Silverstein’s “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out.”

In the original poetry category, Daimon Batchelor, 14, won first prize with his untitled poem about teens grappling with peer pressure and inattentive adults.

Chloe Rockwell, 13, won second prize with an untitled poem about a girl struggling to recover from rejection by a boy, and eighth-grader Grace Sanwald won third with her defiant “Leanne Who Doesn’t See.”

Grand prize

The final award Friday was the grand prize, presented to a 13-year-old who loaded his verse with honesty and comedy.

In his piece “I Hate Writing Poetry,” Levi Laungayan summarizes the teacher’s instructions, then groans about them — and makes them rhyme.

“They say to pick something you like and you know/Mix in some emotions in a neat little row.

“But how can I think of something to write/when I’d rather be playing video games through the night.

“All I can think of is zombies, creepers and slimes/So tell me what these things have to do with rhymes. . . .

“Instead I’m stuck writing this poem for school/Trying to figure out something that won’t make me feel like a fool.”

Levi, who wore a tuxedo jacket, pleated white shirt and bowtie to the Poetry­Slam, took home a Kobo e-reader as the top prize.


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at

Last modified: April 20. 2013 5:37PM
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