Mt. Hope students unleash the power of words


Keri Silva, a junior at Mt. Hope High School, sat ready to recite “Sadie and Maud” by Gwendolyn Brooks.

“I like female poets,” she said of her choice. “It’s sort of a feminist poem.”

She was the winner among eight Mt. Hope students to compete at the school level in a national poetry recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud.

Thanks to teacher Kerry Mastriano, students are finding comfort in the words of Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe and other well known poets.

On Tuesday afternoon, eight students took part in the first round of the competition, where a top prize of a $50,000 scholarship awaits the eventual winner.

The idea to invite students to participate came from a classroom assignment.

“This started out memorizing a Shakespeare sonnet earlier this year,” Ms. Mastriano said.

Interest grew from there.

Heather Stuart selected “When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats, a poem that tells of love for who a person is, and not based on physical beauty.

“It’s so sweet,” she said of the poem’s message. “Not many guys are like that.”

Another participant, Jesse Raiola, while a key player on the Huskies’ football squad, also found power in poetry.

“I feel like I can relate,” he said of some poems’ meanings. “It’s a good way to express feelings.”

His selection was written by Shakespeare, Sonnet 55, which begins: “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments ...”

One by one the students stood before a panel of judges, including assistant principals Jen Copeland and Guy Murgo, English teacher Rebecca Moore, and History teacher Gregg  Burke. Each teacher scored the students’ recitation on a rubric that gauged their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding and overall performance.

Keri’s first round win moves her onto the state competition to be held at Bishop Hendricken on March 17.

Cassidy Durand was named runner up for reciting “The More Loving One” by W.H. Auden.

Poetry slam

On Wednesday, March 20, Mt. Hope High School will hold its annual poetry slam, where students perform their original poems before a panel of judges.

The event is also organized by Ms. Mastriano as an opportunity for students to apply the concepts of poetry taught in her classes and mix them with the students’ own creative muse, resulting in an evening of thoughtful, inspiring and entertaining words, often accompanied with music, rhythm and costumes.

The poetry slam will take place in the school cafeteria beginning at 6 p.m. Prizes are awarded to slam winners. Donations are accepted at the door.

mt hope poetry


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.