'The power of words': Portland students share love of poetry

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PORTLAND — There’s an art to performing poetry live, one that Mae Livermore, a junior at Deering High School, is working hard to perfect.

She took first place at the school’s recent Slam of the Dead contest, where her original poem, entitled “Nice Boys,” impressed the judges.

Livermore said her winning poem “came from a dark misogynistic place” and was about “the way we look for someone in life who sees us the way we want to be seen.”

The poetry slam was organized by Deering’s literary magazine, Breccia, which is designed to promote student creativity.

Arlo Farr-Weinfeld, a senior, is editor-in-chief of the magazine this year and was the runner up at the recent Halloween-themed poetry slam.

Her poem was entitled “Dear Man on the Bus,” and was about “creepy dudes on buses and predatory guys in general that we face wherever we go.”

Both girls said writing poetry is a key way to express themselves and their feelings.

“Poetry has always been essential to how I process information and present myself,” Livermore said. “I enjoy figuring out ways to say things in a new way and to be impactful.”

Overall, she’s addicted “to the power of words.”

In addition to poetry, Livermore also writes short fiction and said “writing is my favorite thing in the world.”

In fact, she said, during math class last week she worked on a piece called “Dancing in the Kitchen with No Socks,” because “that’s what someone like me does in math.”

Livermore also participates in the theater program at Deering, does shows with local community theater and said “acting is my thing.”

Farr-Weinfeld doesn’t write much prose and said her writing focuses mostly on poetry, “which gives me an outlet to express my feelings and experiences in a more abstract way.”

She’s also a visual artist who hopes to attend the Massachusetts College of Art and Design next fall, but what she most enjoys about writing poetry is that it provides “an extra outlet to say what I have to say.”

The Slam of the Dead included three rounds and Livermore said judging was based on both the content and delivery. She said each piece had to be three minutes or less and the idea is to “speak from truth.”

Along with participating in poetry slams held at Deering, Livermore and Farr-Weinfeld both also take every opportunity perform at slams held in coffee shops or other venues around the city.

Livermore said she “reads a lot of Oscar Wilde, who’s not my tone but is one of my favorite (writers). He’s really good at symbolism, especially in really dark ways that I enjoy playing with in my own work.”

She also reads Maya Angelou, “who shakes me to the core.”

Farr-Weinfeld said “Emily Bronte is pretty cool,” but she also enjoys reading the “Bum Rush the Page,” poetry anthologies. “They’re just so vibrant and fun to read. They’re just fantastic.”

When both girls are searching for inspiration they often watch Button Poetry videos on YouTube.

Button Poetry describes itself as an online forum that’s designed “to broaden poetry’s audience, to expand its reach and develop a greater level of cultural appreciation for the art form.”

Neither Livermore nor Farr-Weinfeld participate in the annual Poetry Out Loud contest, which is sponsored by the Maine Art Commission, because they don’t like to perform other people’s work.

“Expressing my own self and my own thoughts is what’s empowering,” Livermore said.

Breccia sponsors a total of three poetry slams a year at Deering. Upcoming are the I Hate Love slam in February and the Slam the Fools in April.

It’s also Farr-Weinfeld’s hope that the magazine can host an inter-school slam that would feature poets from Portland High School and Casco Bay High School.

“The Portland schools have a lot of really talented writers and it would be great to showcase them,” she said.

What both girls most enjoy about participating in poetry slams is the way “we all mix and mingle and support each other,” Livermore said.

“It’s also great how the Deering High community comes together at these things to learn and share,” Farr-Weinfeld added.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Arlo Farr-Weinfeld, left, a senior, and Mae Livermore, a junior, took the top spots at Deering High School’s recent Slam of the Dead poetry contest.

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