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Reynolds Student Wins 2016 Poet Laureate Competition

For more pictures, go to Your Permanent Record 

Poet 90 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

APRIL 20, 2016 – On Thursday night, Celeste Cervantes, a senior at Reynolds High School, won the 2016 Poet Laureate competition.

Cervantes said that she likes writing poetry, in part, because it gives her time to reflect. “I have always had a problem expressing myself in the moment,” she said.

Cervantes, who plans to teach English in middle or high school one day, said that she was surprised to win. “I was expecting anyone else.” 

Devin Singleton, who is a senior at Atkins Academic & Technology High School, placed second.

“It felt good,” he said.

When he writes poetry, Singleton said, he likes to go deep. “I don’t hold back,” he said.

Next year, Singleton is going to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he is planning to major in communications and minor is music production.

Singleton also received a special recognition as the first student to participate in the Poet Laureate competition for three years running.

Poet 91 Nathon Göthe, who is a sophomore at Reynolds High School, placed third. Her poem was called “Dancing on Glass.”

This was the eighth year that the Forsyth Education Partnership and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools have sponsored the Poet Laureate competition. Twenty poets from 11 high schools participated.

All of the students’ poems were published in a book illustrated with art and photographs by high school students. This year, 23 artists from six high schools submitted work to be considered.

Judges had already read the students’ poems and had awarded points based on content. On Thursday night, students recited or read their poems – some did a little of both – and judges awarded additional points for presentation. The combined scores determined the winners.

The majority of the poems dealt with emotions of one kind of another, some quite serious. Many include humorous elements, and one – “Kansas” by Abby McMullenof the Career Center – was straight-ahead funny as it compared “every humid, sweltering, vapid moment” of Kansas with “every joyous moment that constitutes Colorado.”

The imagery in the poems was often quite vivid, such as Göthe’s “I am a drop of crystal coal on glass – A smudge yet to be wiped clean.”

Although the pictures were submitted independently, as Carol Kirby, a co-chair of the event, pointed out, several looked as if they could have been especially created for a particular poem. Those pairings included Reynolds student Emma Scott’s picture of a girl with wings and West Forsyth student Callie Koeval’s poem “Flightless Bird” and West Forsyth student Kelsey Gilion’s picture of an elephant and Career Center Rayell Pfleuget’s poem “How Many Elephants in a Room.”

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“Did it feel as if the art was created to go with the poem?” Kirby said after all of the students finished performing.

Denna Thompson of Reagan High School was recognized for creating the artwork used on the front cover of the book and Neil Williamson of Atkins was recognized for creating the artwork for the back cover.

Before the competition began, some of the students talked about what they get out of writing poetry.

Faith Baity is a senior at Forsyth Middle College.  She doesn’t mind performing but the writing is the part that brings her the greatest satisfaction. She finds that it helps her sort out her feelings.  

This was her second year participating, which made her less nervous than she would have been otherwise. This year, she wrote a piece called “I Left My Heart in Ohio,” which was about a friend who moved to Ohio.

Her parents, Steve and Cheryl Baity were there, along with Andrew Ridenhour, a friend from Middle College. Asked what made her daughter special, Cheryl Baity said, “I think she is special in terms of the way she expresses herself. She speaks from the heart.”

“She overcomes adversity,” Steve Baity said.

Ridenhour said that she is good at motivating others.

This was the first year that Sydney Beatty, a sophomore at Early College of Forsyth, participated. In the past, she had participated in Poetry Out Loud, a competition in which she recited poetry by other poets. “I enjoyed it but I would rather do my own poem,” Beatty said.

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In general, what she likes to do through her poetry is tell a story.

“She is so talented,” said her mother Trish Beatty. In addition to a gift for writing, she also dances and creates art.

The co-chairs of the event were Karel Chandler and Carol Kirby. Amy Nail, the school system’s executive director for instructional services, served as the master of ceremonies, and Sharon Freeman, an administrative assistant in program services, took care of many of the organizational details.

The judges for the competition were Cindi Briggs, Angel Caudill and Jacinta White.

Angell Caudill was a high school history teacher for more than 20 years. She now serves on the executive board of Winston-Salem Writers and writes poetry, plays and fiction as well as directs theatre productions. Her illustrated book Hope Swirls has been described as part poetry, part allegory, part philosophy and "not your average fish story."

Jacinta White is a N.C. Arts Council Teaching Artist. She was the first person to receive the Press 53 Open Award in Poetry in 2008. Finishing Line Press published her first chapbook of poetry, broken ritual, in 2013. Most recently, Jacinta has been published in Prime Number Magazine and the What Matters anthology published by Jacar Press.

Cynthia Briggs is a professor of counseling, a speaker and consultant, a documentarian, and a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction. She’s the co-editor of Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing. Her memoir and essays have been published in numerous print and on-line journals. She teaches expressive arts and writing.
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The students who performed were:

Faith Beatty, Middle College

Sydney Beatty, Early College

James Bochette Jr., Parkland

Celeste Cervantes, Reynolds

Nathon Göthe, Reynolds

Kamille E. Graham, Paisley IB

Mary Hansley, North Forsyth

Callie Koeval, West Forsyth

Hannah-Rose Mabe, Early College

Abby McMullen, Career Center

Marie Francheliz Montanez Morales, North Forsyth

Rayelle Pflueger, Career Center

Divine Pope, Middle College

Kalila Roche, Paisley IB

Noor Shehata, West Forsyth

Devin Singleton, Atkins

Becca Wall, Atkins 

Kim Underwood