The eloquence of young poets from middle and high schools across Washington, D.C., chimed in spring as the Parkmont Poetry Festival marked its 35th year. A large audience of students, family members and supporters turned out in April for the Festival Reading, held at Zion Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, located on Blagden Avenue within sight of Parkmont School.
A distinguished panel of judges — published poets Susan Scheid, Ailish Hopper, Hiram Larew and Sarah Browning — reviewed 523 poems from private, public and public charter school students, and selected 40 winners. Among them were poems from five Parkmont School students: “Smile” by Jeff Djoyoadhiningrat; “November” by Christopher Campbell; “Dear Mr. White Man” by Jason Leiva Martinez; “She is only a mirror” by Emma Schenbaum; and “Words” by Antonio Smith-Pinelo. The winning poets each received a $40 gift certificate, a Festival T-shirt, and their work was collected in the annual Festival publication, which gave special thanks to Judy Lentz, who turned an idea to encourage youth creativity into an enduring celebration. Judy coordinated the event for 25 years and remains a committed contributor and member of the Poetry Advisory Committee.
In its fourth decade, the Festival shows the staying power of the theory behind it. “A major challenge of living, in some ways, is living with your own internal conversation,” says Festival Co-Founder and Parkmont Head of School Ron McClain. “Poetry becomes this invitation to look at that conversation and mine it for a remarkable set of treasures. Being able to use that as a platform to bring people into community with each other seemed like an incredibly great endeavor.”
The Festival, coordinated since 2008 by Parkmont English teacher Kim Schraf, has received support from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Parkmont remains grateful to the continuing and new supporters whose aid in-kind and in currency over the years make this special event possible.