Teens Compete in Foreign-Language Poetry Contest


SOMERS, N.Y. - World language students brought the beauty and romance of poetry to a school board meeting recently.

Audience members and trustees alike were treated to renditions of the poems students were to present on Thursday, May 17, at the 35th annual World Language Poetry Recitation Contest at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.

This was the ninth year Somers students participated in the prestigious competition, according to Joan Scerbo Jenny, who teaches Italian and French at Somers High School. She is the adviser to the Italian Club and Italian National Honor Society.

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The annual contest was expected to draw more than 600 students from 53 middle and high schools from the tri-state area.

They were to  recite poetry in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Latin and Spanish.

The first presenter in the French beginner language category was Remi Saad, who recited “Flocon de neige,” or “Snowflake,” written anonymously and likening snowflakes to white, wispy cotton—“so good that it melts like candy.”

Up next, in the Italian beginner category, was Evan Mazzola, who recited Letizia Di Salvo’s “Poesia, Anima della Terra,” or “Poetry, Soul of the Earth,” in which she paints a picture of a poor sparrow searching in vain for berries in the dead of winter.

Francesco Paone, the Italian intermediate candidate, recited “Triste Solitudine,” of “Sad Loneliness,” also by Di Salvo.
Madeleine LoPane, who Jenny said has “blossomed in her love of the French language,” recited “Discours sur la paix” by Jacques Prevert, who, with a message and humor, tackles politics.

Mateo Rannekleiv was the advanced Italian presenter with “Dolcezza,” or “Sweetness,” by Di Salvo.
Jenny said she and Mateo “have enjoyed many a Socratic session, in Italian, as his inquisitive mind always seems to push the envelope.”

Up next was Luc Verard, French native presenter, with “Colloque sentimental,” or “Sentimental Meeting,” by Paul Verlaine.

The Italian native candidate, Cassandra Paone, recited “Il Dolce Conforto,” or “Sweet Comfort.” The choice was apropos, Jenny said, because of Paone’s “lovely Italian accent and gracious demeanor.”

Last but not least at the podium, the teacher said, was Daniel Tellez, who recited “Los Heraldos Negros,” or “The Black Birds of Death,” by Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo.

Tellez also studies French and speaks Spanish fluently, Jenny said.

Not present at the meeting were team members Rebekah Goldstein, Caitlyn Van Cassel and Makena Lurie.

Goldstein competed with a poem in the intermediate French category. Written by Jacques Prevert, “Le Cancre,” or “The Dunce,” is about a little boy who’s not happy at school. Van Cassel, a Spanish intermediate student, read “Lo Imprescindible” by Cristina Peri Rossi. Lurie, an advance Spanish language student, was to present “Un mundo de personas que yo ignoro,” or “A World of People I Don’t Know,” a piece by Chilean poet Enrique Lihn.

Jenny, who is also a judge in the competition, provided the audience and board members with English translations so they could follow along. 

The following students won awards at the May 17 event: Saad, first place in French beginner; LoPane, honorable mention in French advanced; and Tellez, second place in Spanish native.

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