For the third year in a row, students had an opportunity to share their voices and ideas at an in-school poetry event on Oct. 26 in the Barnes Performance Art Center.
English teacher Erin Holtz, the creator of Poetry Day for Oswego High School, stated that the reason Poetry Day is crucial is because “There’s a lot of students in our school community who don’t necessarily go to the dances or participate in Mr. Oswego, and they have different interests… I think this is a way that our school community can serve that group of students and help to encourage their voices.”
Poetry Day is sponsored by the Student Council, led by April Ponte and Jacob Cafaro, and National English Honor Society sponsors Erin Holtz and Ben Spears.
Students participated in writing poetry and listening to the guests, slam poet Adam Gottlieb and DJ Ca$h Era. Ca$h Era earned her bachelor’s in Radio Broadcasting and Video Production from Columbia College. She won Chicago’s Best Hip-Hop DJ titles in 2022 and 2021. She even performed in the 2023 Lollapalooza.
Gottlieb is a singer, songwriter, and poet. Gottlieb competed in the 2008 Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival as an 18-year-old senior at Northside College Prep High School. He was awarded at that competition for his remarkable spoken word poetry and personality. Now, at the age of 34, Gottlieb is a singer and songwriter in a band called Adam Gottlieb & Onelove, a Chicago-based Fusion band that creates songs about revolution.
Holtz’s favorite part of Poetry Day is the open mic portion of the event. “Watching the students in the open mic is definitely the highlight because if you’ve experienced it you know, it’s really special,” she said.
Her hope for future poetry days is “that the right people who need to find a place to belong in our school and who need to find a way to express themselves and feel valid within our school community are able to find poetry day so they can find that part of themselves… yeah, I think that really important and it is important to build community because a community of writers in a school like this can help so much with building empathy and understanding among the student body… which is also… one of the missions of our school.”
This event was very well received by the audience and the curated atmosphere of support and comfort prompted way more engagement in the open mic than last year’s two Poetry Days, along with a bigger turnout than last year as well.
Audience members said participating in the event and learning about poetry was a very reassuring experience and allows a space to express feelings. Several noted that Poetry Day was a nice break where students can truly be themselves, not worry about their school work, and learn something more creatively engaging.
Senior Melissa Olivan said she had a pleasant experience overall, but she “expected more time to write.”
“[I] liked [Gottlieb’s] poems,” Olivan added. “He does a [good job at catching you back]. So when you’re… losing focus, he automatically drags you back [in].” She also talked about “his music aspect” stating, “his song! I was about to start crying, like it’s beautiful what he said!”
When asked if she would attend Poetry Day again, she expressed, “It depends. Are we going to have more time to write? If so, definitely yes.” She added, “I love the poems, but sometimes [Gottlieb] gets… a little sidetracked.”