By Catherine DeMuro
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – The Camden County College Dead Poets Society’s fourth presentation of “Poetic Idol” was complete with passionate words, raw emotion and Simon Cowell-like bashing.

The poetry contest was hosted by DPC president Andrea Quinn and took place at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 in the CIM auditorium.

“Setting aside my low regard for you as a person…” began judge Keith O’Shaughnessy, DPS adviser and CCC English professor, in his response to a contestant. O’Shaughnessy said his favorite part of the event was that “it is now within (his) official capacity to ridicule the students (he) put(s) up with.”

The good-natured “ridicule” was only a minute, more playful aspect of the feedback provided by the three judges.

Participants were allotted about three minutes to recite a poem, short story or creative essay to be judged by Sean Landis, Owning Our Ignorance club adviser and CCC philosophy professor; Kim Southwick, Rowan professor and editor-in-chief of “Gigantic Sequins” literary magazine, and O’Shaughnessy. All 14 participants performed an original piece. Each was scored out of 10, for a total best score of 30, for his or her piece and performance. The three judges provided equally valuable and relevant feedback to each participant.

Feedback included questions about the original work, constructive criticism on the writing, and, of course, entertaining comments – not always about the poetry. “I really like your tattoos. And your beard is excellent,” said Landis to one participant.

Most referring to a copy, some reciting from memory, each participant brought a unique emotion to the dimly lit stage. Some appeared to take on a new persona, reciting verses incongruous with that presumed by a stranger. Regardless of the tone, there was profound emotion within every piece. “Poetry allows the writer to adopt a voice,” said O’Shaughnessy, who has been the adviser of the DPC since it began two years ago when he was approached with the idea by CCC graduate Robyn Giles.

The DPC, which hosts a variety of open mic nights and readings, holds the “Poetic Idol” event during the last week of every term. The DPC is “a club for people who appreciate literature,” said first-term president Quinn.

The draw of “Poetic Idol” to people not involved with the DPC is that it provides an opportunity to share original work with a non-judgmental audience in a relaxed atmosphere. Although the camaraderie among the DPC members is evident, outsiders are warmly welcomed. “It’s a charitably put and informal environment,” said O’Shaughnessy. “Maybe it’s a little bit goofy at times, too, which I think is really congenial to people who aren’t in the habit of doing this. There’s very little stage fright.”

First place went to Jen Tharpe with a score of 28.1, second place went to Daniel O’Donnell, score 26.7, and third place went to Adrian Alexander, score 25.7. The winners received a $75, $50 and $25 Barnes and Noble gift card, respectively.

The first-, second- and third-place winners of the ‘Poetic Idol’ contest appear on stage. By Catherine DeMuro, CCC Journalism Program

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