Students Recognized in Santa Cruz Poetry Competition

The poetry of six Mount Madonna School students, Arianna Morell-Haltom, Kabir Ahluwalia, Kavi Duvvoori, Rami Walker, Renata Massion, and Sophie Kamkar, has been selected and included in the 19th annual Santa Cruz County High School Poetry Competition and Anthology. The public is invited to listen to student readings at an awards ceremony on Thursday, May 17 at  the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (400 Encinal St., Santa Cruz). The reception begins at 6:30pm, the readings start at 7:00pm.

Massion, a ninth grader, received a Second Prize award for her sestina, Insane .

“Being included in the anthology is a big honor,” says Massion. “I worked hard on this poem, and having it recognized by someone outside of our school community feels really good.”

Also accepted into the anthology are: The Suitcase Life by Arianna Morell-Haltom, 12th; A Cry for Love by Kabir Ahluwalia, 12th; Projections on Walls and Windows and Figures We Will Make the Air Into by Kavi Duvvoori, 11th; Smell My Hair by Rami Walker, 9th; and The Meadow by Sophie Kamkar, 10th.

“Congratulations to ALL the MMS students who submitted to the SC Poetry contest. Competition was significant, with more than 500 entries!,” says Melissa Sanders-Self, Mount Madonna’s high school English teacher. Sanders-Self also lectures in the Literature and Creative Writing departments at UCSC, and is a published author and filmmaker.

“Our high school students work hard in our creative writing classes to learn and master many different forms of poetry and I am always impressed by the moving and well-crafted results,” she says. “The poems selected for the anthology this year contain vivid imagery and beautiful lines of wisdom and insight.”

The event is presented by Poetry Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Copies of the anthology will be available for purchase at the event for $5.






























“I find Renata Massion’s poem to be playful, self-probing, and courageous,” says Len Anderson, secretary-treasurer of Poetry Santa Cruz.. “One of the great values of art is that it can be a process of questioning of oneself, of values, impulses, beliefs, relationships, character, everything. It can be a process of living the examined life. I half-believe the actuality of what she speaks in the poem because I see her playing within the sestina form. I hear her imagination taking over, forced by having to make meaning within the required repetition of chosen words. I hear her surrendering to her imagination at the same time that she is playing by the demanding rules of the form. This surrender is an important element in writing poetry, as much as the conscious craft that goes into shaping it. The poet slides back and forth between letting it flow out and making it work for the form and the reader, a process which is impossible and thus requires a magic, which the reader will later feel.”

Here is Massion’s sestina:

She is going insane.
I can see it in the way she plays the piano.
There must be something about that flower,
Her eyes keep darting to it. But still, she continues playing.
The melancholy song she plays drifts into my ears sounding peculiarly sweet.
The lights in my head are flickering.

Or was that just the dusty lamp in the corner flickering?
Am I going insane?
What is that taste of lemon hitting my tongue so sweet?
Where am I? I no longer hear the piano.
I hear children playing.
I am in an old park and I smell a single flower.

The sweet lemon hitting my tongue is the smell of the flower.
The children are flickering.
They are not playing.
Children can not flicker. I am, without doubt, going insane.
I am shooting like a cannonball back to the piano.
I am alone. There is no song, peculiarly sweet.

I miss that song, so peculiarly sweet.
Sweet like that flower. That flower.
I am back again, but it is different now, there is still a piano.
Instead of the children flickering.
Maybe this is a dream. Maybe I am not insane.
My mind is playing.

Tricks are what my mind is playing.
It is slipping from my tongue, that sweet.
The piano has gone insane.
Now it is only piano. No flower.
No flickering.
Only a vast whiteness, and piano.

But it is different now. No one is playing the piano.
The woman was comforting, I miss her playing.
I miss the children flickering.
They were both, sort of, sweet.
I even miss the strange flower.
All this white makes me feel like I am insane.

The piano has become sweet.
No playing. No flower.
No flickering. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I. Am.



Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing and Communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.









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