Every year, thousands of high school students nationwide compete in Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation contest. SUNY hosts the regional competition, which is organized by the Brooklyn-based Teachers and Writers Collaborative — and the New York City regional finals were held on February 5 at good old FIT.
Admittedly, Hue went in with modest expectations. How good could high school students be, right?
The answer: MAGNIFICENT.
Kiki Giannoulas exults in her performance.
Their voices were surprisingly mature, their readings full of emotion. The poetry, selected from an anthology of 800 choices, blossomed under their skilled interpretation. Half the students could have been professional actors. Hue didn’t want these poems to end.
Shanelle Webster won the Poetry Out Loud regional contest with “Testimonial” by Rita Dove.
Four judges, poets themselves, judged the performances based on physical presence, voice and articulation, and other criteria. Accuracy was also extremely important — and very few students flubbed a line. If Hue had been judging, all the students would have been winners.
Maggie Capozzoli-Cavota took second place with “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye.
The judges included three poets: Reginald Harris, Professor Amy Lemmon (left), and Jeanne Marie Beaumont (second from left). Amy Swauger, director of Teachers & Writers Collaborative (third from left), also judged.
And on group day, singing “Pretty Young Thing,” he killed it with buoyant, driving energy, nabbing himself a spot in the competition proper. Not only that, while the other contestants quaked in their boots, he seemed to be having a rollicking good time.
Jack Drescher, MD, one of the world’s experts on the psychology of gay men, lectured at FIT last week about the history of psychiatric views on homosexuality. (He was invited by Daniel Levinson Wilk, Associate Professor of American History. )
Turns out Hue didn’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. For example:
1. Pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud considered homosexuality to be a result of “developmental arrest,” and nigh impossible to treat, but he didn’t judge it as perversion. Only later did psychiatrists pass judgment on it.
2. At the American Psychiatric Association convention In 1972, Dr. John Fryer spoke to the membership about his life as a gay psychiatrist. At that time, a psychiatrist could lose his or her license for being gay, so to conceal his identity, he spoke through a microphone that distorted his voice, and he wore an oversized suit and mask. Creepy!
A landmark 1972 panel on the question of whether homosexuality is mental illness, featuring a moving speech by Dr. John Fryer in disguise, right.
3. When the APA voted in 1973 to remove homosexuality from the DSM (the official list of mental disorders), it was the first and only time the membership has voted on a scientific matter.
4. Conversion therapy, the effort to change the sexuality of gay people, is now illegal in some places because it is considered consumer fraud. In other words, any claim that it can be “successful” is false.
Hue plans on reading Drescher’s book, Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man, to learn more.
FIT students are known for being driven, creative, and business-savvy. After an inspiring event last week, Hue is prepared to add one more attribute to the list: lovers of poetry.
Indeed, beginning foreign-language students read beautifully in a range of languages to a packed house at the 25th Annual Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Ceremony on November 13. No advanced students were permitted to enter, yet the winners read with precision and grace. It reminded us that the sound of poetry is beautiful even when we don’t understand the words.
Contest winner Daeyoung Yoo reads a poem in Chinese. Photos by Smiljana Peros.
Professor James Cascaito, chair of the Modern Languages and Cultures Department and a poet in his own right, started the competition a quarter-century ago because he loved reciting poetry as a student and hoped that the process would foster language appreciation in FIT students.
“If they have a deeper love for the language, they are more likely to continue on to the advanced levels,” he explained.
In between readings, tenor Neal Harrelson sang arias in Romance languages to entertain the crowd.
FIT offers numerous opportunities for winning prizes and scholarships, but this competition isn’t one of them. Students win a parchment certificate and a rose–and, if they’re lucky, a love of the foreign language they’re studying.
“People ask, ‘Why not give them a gift certificate?'” Cascaito said. “Absolutely not! I don’t want it connected to anything commercial. Students have to learn that there are certain honors that stand on their own. You win the distinction of being a scholar. And the students take very well to that lesson.”
Winners and runners-up of the Foreign Language Poetry Recitation Competition.