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Eleven compete to become poetry idols

By Riccardo Italiano

CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Eleven participants sang, acted or simply read their poetry on Tuesday as the Mad Lit Club hosted its annual Poetry Idol competition on the Blackwood campus. 

Professor Keith O’Shaughnessy introduces the event. Photo by Riccardo Italiano, CCC Journalism Program

This open mic night for poets, coordinated by Professor Keith O’Shaughnessy, took place in the CIM Auditorium. Each poet recited their poem and two judges gave their feedback and suggestions for improvement. Some of the poets were familiar with the open mic setting, while others participated in it for the first time. Their relatives and friends attended the event.

Each poet presented distinct content and emotion and had a different manner of expressing it. The poems touched on a variety of topics, ranging from a relationship with God to personal shadows and wants, from old family members to social criticism.

The judges voted for the best three poems at the end of the event. The winners were “Forget-Me-Knots Grown from the Seeds You Planted” by Jasmine Boyce, “From Me to You” by Tianna Mendez-Kelley and “Journeyman” by Raymond Wildey.

O’Shaughnessy, an English professor, said the event started 12 years ago when several students, inspired by the TV show “American Idol,” urged him to start a poetry club and a related poetry competition with judges, based on the format of the show.

Cynthia Oldham, a visitor from Arizona, was in town to see an old friend who had invited her to the event. She said she enjoys writing and decided to take advantage of this opportunity to perform at her first ever open mic.

Professor Keith O’Shaughnessy stands behind the three winning poets, from left, Jasmine Boyce, Tianna Mendez-Kelley and Raymond Wildey. Photo by Riccardo Italiano, CCC Journalism Program

“I did it because I adore poetry, it’s my passion and I enjoy writing it,” she stated. “I traveled from Arizona to see my friend Tianna and she invited me here, so I came to support her and to share this experience with her.”

About her experience on the stage, she said, “Standing in front of a throng of strangers and talking about yourself and your personal sentiments is not easy.”

Tianna Mendez-Kelley, a CCC student and poetry club member, has composed a lot as well.

“This is my third time coming to this open mic; I’ve placed second in each event,” she stated. “It’s not crucial to be in the top three. It’s vital to be yourself on stage, write what you’re feeling and express yourself in your own way. This is the only place in which you can truly be yourself and do not get negatively judged by others.”

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