Introductory Phoenix reading draws crowds

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Phoenix Reading Kristine
Photo courtesy of Paula Fraczek.

The first Phoenix reading of the school year, held on Friday, October 17 in the school library, featured a myriad of creative expression in the form of spoken word, prose, visual art, and music.

To open the reading, Mr. Olechowski, assistant principal of Humanities and advisor to The Phoenix, read W.B. Yeat’s poem “Lake Isle of Innisfree,”  a favorite of late Humanities A.P. Lynne Greenfield, in her memory.

Senior Yelena Dzhanova, one of the editors-in-chief of The Phoenix, followed the tribute with an excerpt from Tina Fey’s Bossypants. The performance, a reading of the chapter titled “A Mother’s Prayer for its Daughter,” drew laughter from the crowd.

Tasnim Abdelkarim, a junior in the audience, spoke favorably about Yelena’s reading, saying, “It was really funny and she kind of added her own thing to it when she read.” She also mentioned that Yelena really “got the ball rolling for the rest of the reading.”

Senior Ashton Santo performed a spoken word piece he composed about the expectations placed upon oneself by others. His performance, which pivoted on the word “exceptional,” proved especially relevant to Townsend Harris students, given that, in the style of a college admissions essay, it criticized the toll that being an honor roll student can take on a teenager’s creativity and coming-of-age.

Sophomore Casey Ramos presented a piece titled “Wanderlust,” which was a detailed account of experiences in New York City. The narrative elaborated on what she saw and how she felt as she went through the city, which, according to her work, “feels more like home than home itself.”

However, the event did not focus on written work alone. Juniors Adrienne Cabral and Teresa Deely exhibited their vocal talents for the audience of underclassmen, upperclassment, teachers, and alumni. An unusual amount of freshmen students presented work at this year’s introductory reading. Freshman artist Nadia Kossman presented two abstract self-portraits.

Junior editor-in-chief Kristine Guillaume reflected on the freshman participation. “I was especially pleased to see many freshmen step up to the podium to read their own work,” she said.

Yelena attributed the Phoenix’s large ratio of freshmen to the their plugging the “creative safe haven,” as she describes it, through Facebook, email, and open house this year. “What’s great about the readings is that people can attend them like people would attend a basketball game or play,” Mr.  Olechowski said. “Our incoming students should know there is a space in this institution for creative types.”

Nicholas Rahim, photography editor of The Phoenix, commented on the success of the introductory reading: “The reading went unsurprisingly well in my opinion. Who doesn’t like hearing stellar poetry and singing and viewing amazing art?  What made it even better was the amount of freshmen who presented for the first time.”

“There’s something wonderful about the symbiotic relationship between the performers and consumers of their performances at these readings,” Mr. Olechowski noted, before mentioning that due to the magazine’s rapidly multiplying numbers, they would be making it their goal to host “one reading every month,” for the first time in the publication’s history.

“I think we can do a lot more to attract students to what we have here,” he finished. “We’ll do whatever it takes.”