CCHS Students Win Top Prizes at Sullivan Youth Poetry Festival
by Kelly Adams
HURLEYVILLE, May 2022 — Two Homestead Collaborative College High School students took home top prizes at the first annual Sullivan Youth Poetry Festival. Colin Kinney, a ninth grade student at CCHS, won first prize for his poem “A Fickle Young Mind” and Sindhu Villarheal, also a ninth grade student, won third prize for her poem “Sestina”.
The Sullivan Youth Poetry Festival was held at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 2, and was organized by the Sullivan County Poet Laureate, Eric Baylin. More than 70 students from area schools submitted their poetry, and many of them read their work live at the event. Mr. Baylin said the turnout exceeded his expectations, and the reading had a standing-room-only crowd.
In addition to the two award winners, six other CCHS students submitted poetry, and five of them read their poems in front of the audience. All of the CCHS students who submitted poems were part of a poetry elective. During the elective they read novels-in-verse, studied classic and modern poetry, and spent time trying out different poetic forms.
Colin Kinney’s poem was inspired by reading a poem by Billy Collins about turning ten, and then reflecting on his own childhood memories. Colin’s poem exhibits an outstanding use of specific imagery in contrast to the generalities many young poets tend to focus on. His poem evokes a strong mood, uses beautiful alliteration, and invites the reader to question the way memories evolve.
Sindhu Villarheal’s poem, “Sestina”, uses a complex poetic form where the poet ends each line with one of six words, varying the pattern with each stanza. It’s a challenging piece of poetic wordplay, and was inspired by David Elliot’s novel-in-verse, Voices. Elliot uses forms such as the sestina, rondel, triolet, and others to tell the story of Joan-of-Arc’s life. Students read the poems in class and then tried the forms out themselves.
“It was a real treat to hear such a variety of teen voices from around the county represented at the Youth Poetry Festival,” CCHS Director Jack Comstock said following the readings. “My family and I were struck by the courage that it took for these young poets to stand before a packed room and share what often were very personal reflections. The students encouraged each other so sweetly. Having our CCHS students so well represented and recognized at this event was very affirming of one of our core program aims, the development of self-expression.”