Courtney B. ’20 and Shea H. ’21 Highlight an Outstanding Poetry Festival

Two top finishes each by sophomore Shea H. and junior Courtney B. highlighted an outstanding presentation of original and published poems at Foxcroft School’s 2019 Paul K. Bergan Poetry Festival.

Shea won the Chimera Poetry Contest, conducted by the School’s literary magazine staff, with an original poem and took the 10th grade Recitation Competition title with a piece by Brenda Shaunessy. Courtney placed second in the Chimera contest and won the coveted Poetry Slam championship to cap a daylong celebration of the written and spoken word that began with a morning reading by visiting poet Tina Barr ’73.

Barr, who recently published her third book of poetry, was the judge at the competitive readings. After noting the superior quality of the terrific presentations by the 12 finalists, she presented the laurels (literally) to Shea and to second-time winner Grace C. ’19 and newcomers Joselyn A. ’20 and Maddie J. ’22  for the best performances in the 12th, 11th, and 9th-grade competitions, respectively.
Courtney, who finished second in the Slam and first in the Chimera Poetry Contest a year ago, presented two powerful, personal poems to edge out Betsy A. ’21, and Sylvia Y. ’19, who were named second and third by vote of the audience.
A tradition that dates back to Foxcroft’s earliest days, the Competitive Readings feature three finalists from each level of English who have been chosen by their peers and certified by faculty judges in two previous rounds of competition. In the final, each reads a poem of her choice and the visiting poet selects the best one, based on poem selection and delivery, to receive flowers, a gift, and a crown of laurels.
Grace, who missed last year’s festival but was a finalist as sophomore and freshman, took her second title with a lively reading of “Quite Frankly” by Mark Halliday. “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “I Have a Time Machine” by Brenda Shaughnessy, and “On the Discomfort of Being in the Same Room as the Boy You Like” by Sarah Kay were the winning selection by Joselyn, Shea, and Maddie, respectively.
In the morning, Barr interspersed reading poems from her prize-winning collection, The Green Target (Barrow Street Press, 2018) with anecdotes from her life, including her three years at Foxcroft, where she first began to write in earnest. A former professor at Rhodes College where she was Director of the Writing Program, Barr writes mostly about nature, a subject that was nourished by the beauty of Foxcroft’s 500-acre campus.
For the second year in a row, an emphasis on giving each student an opportunity to learn about and create poetry was reflected in a schedule of eight workshops held in both morning and afternoon sessions. The topics ranged from Nature and finding poetry in everyday texts to Poetic Forms and Ekphrastic Poetry, which focused on works of art. In her workshop, “Riding the Rocketship,” Barr took students step by step through her creative process.
In the evening, an Open Mic session, which included a variety of vocal performances and joke-telling as well as original and published poetry readings, set the stage for the ever-popular Poetry Slam. This year, eight brave souls shared original works in the freewheeling, lively showcase celebrating the art of spoken word poetry.
This year’s Festival was organized by English Department Chair Anne Burridge and colleagues Steve McCarty, Lindsay O’Connor, Ph.D., and Rebecca Wise.
An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.