Celebrating Every Girl’s Voice at the Paul K. Bergan Poetry Festival

Last week, students used poetry to raise their voices and lift up the community during the Paul K. Bergan Poetry Festival. With the Open Mic and Poetry Slam, poetry readings (both by our students and visiting poet Sabrina Benaim), and workshops focusing on a number of poetry styles, the written and spoken word was celebrated and enjoyed by all.
The Festival launched Thursday evening with the popular Open Mic session followed by the much-anticipated Poetry Slam where junior Jennifer C. was a resounding winner after entertaining the crowd with her fun and feisty original works, edging out fellow junior Julia G. and sophomore Caroline M., who were named second and third respectively by a vote of the audience.

Friday began with a morning reading by Benaim, who countered the weightiness of her topics, which explore themes of mental health, love, and family, with a confident and introspective humor as she shared poems and their backstories from her debut book Depression and Other Magic Tricks. And her work certainly resonated with students. “I thought she was incredibly relatable and cool. I loved her,” commented one student. “I actually felt comfortable asking a question, unlike more intimidating poets.”

Benaim also judged the afternoon’s recitation competition where, after noting the superior quality of the presentations by the 12 finalists, she presented the laurels for the best performances in each grade-level competition. Maddie J. took her second straight title for the Class of 2022 with her reading of Ada Limon’s “A New National Anthem.” Joy W. ’20, Bianca M. ’21, and Caelyn L. ’23 won laurels among their peers with their readings of “Eating Poetry” (Mark Strand), “On Quitting” (Edgar Albert Guest), and “Dirge in the Woods” (George Meredith), respectively.

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 last round, each finalist 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.

Those in attendance also heard recitations of original poetry from juniors Hays T., Isobel D., and Julia G. who swept the top three spots of the Chimera Poetry Contest conducted by the School’s literary magazine staff. Their winning poems — “Each Day”, “Where Are You From?” and “Lenny Kravitz” — were chosen earlier in the week and can be found online in the latest issue of Chimera.

For the third year in a row, an emphasis on giving each student an opportunity to explore and create poetry was reflected in a schedule of 10 workshops held in both morning and afternoon sessions. The topics ranged from Spanish language poetry and finding poetry in everyday texts to generating poems with algorithms or creating them in The Innovation Lab. In her workshop on spoken word and performance poetry, Benaim took students step-by-step through her creative process.

This year’s Festival was organized by English Department Chair Steve McCarty and colleagues Anne Burridge, 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.