Phoenix Silver Lining reading diversifies offerings

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The Phoenix proved to be more than a literary magazine at their “silver lining” event on Friday, January 11, as students gathered in the library after school to watch and showcase literature, art, and music.

The “silver lining” theme, inspired by a writing prompt presented at a Phoenix meeting, represented the idea of finding good in hopeless situations. During the reading, students went up to a podium and presented their work, as others sat or stood around them and listened. Some works pertained to the theme, while many did not.

For the first time, original art and photography were presented to “diversify” the readings.

A symbolic drawing of a peacock and an ink sketch of a cat in a tree were presented. In addition, junior and Phoenix photography editor Sofia Milonas presented several of her original portrait photographs on a slideshow, projected onto the ceiling.

“That was the most amount of people I’ve shown my pictures to at once,” she said. “It was pretty nerve wracking.”

Music, a rare occurrence at past events, was also performed when Phoenix member Adrienne Cabral sang “Fix You” by Coldplay.

“I felt so nervous,” she recalled. “But it was a great experience.”

However, most students stuck to the traditional prose or poetry, both original and published. Original writing ranged from a reaction to a Parthian museum exhibit seen during a MALContents outing to a Harry Potter-inspired poem about the power of love. Others included a visual poem of a “silver lining,” a prose piece inspired by Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts,” and a short poem expressing the pains of a Harrisite’s freshman year, whose introductory lines were “Freshman year leaves me in tears.”

Published writing included a Walt Whitman poem, a prose piece about a couple’s meal at McDonald’s, and an excerpt from the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

With about 90 people, nearly two-thirds more than the expected number of attendees, the reading was so successful that it had to be cut off at 4:15, despite several people not having the chance to present. After the reading, refreshment was served in the principal’s cafeteria- many were encouraged to leave because it was so full.

“[The turnout] was fantastic,” said Phoenix advisor and English teacher Rafal Olechowski. “I haven’t seen this many students enjoy all kinds of creativity. It’s really great to see this.”

This was also the first time the event was titled a “literary event” instead of “poetry reading.”

“…people would say, ‘Well, I don’t really like poetry, so I don’t think I’m going to go to this,’” explained junior and Phoenix editor in chief Jillian Panagakos. “My point in changing what we called them is to show people that it doesn’t matter if you just like poetry, or prose, or photography, or art-we have a little something for everyone. I’m excited we could start a new era of the Phoenix. I hope to make it a regular thing.”

Mr. Olechowski compared the event to more of a “talent fair,” where one can “come in and show things inside of you.”

Many members and attendees agreed with this purpose.

“Singing is such a big part of me that I wanted to showcase it,” said Adrienne.

The Phoenix is Townsend Harris’s award-winning literary magazine that accepts poetry, prose, art, and photography from students.

Mr. Olechowski encourages students to join.

“It’s a spectacular publication,” he says. “And we have so many academic outlets, but the Phoenix is the creative spot. It lets you say ‘yes I’m a great student,’ but also a great writer or photographer. You exist in a new way all of a sudden…you exist beyond some average.”

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