Finding Paradise in Poetry: Coats and Stripes 2022 Competition

The idea of paradise might not occur everyday to Groton students. It is hard to come by when we are constantly being caught up in schoolwork, living amidst a pandemic, and reading daily about a possible Third World War. However, paradise is precisely what the Poetry Club and Library chose as the theme for the The Second Annual Coat and Stripes Poetry Contest in honor of the national month of poetry.

Over spring break, fourteen student poets sat down to write about one place we’ve all experienced at some point: paradise.

The panel of judges was composed of English teachers Mrs. Gracey and Mr. Capen and students Amelia Lee ’22, Julie Xie ’23 and David Wang ’23. To prevent influence from each other’s opinions, all the judges submitted their choices independently.

This was Poetry Club head Julie Xie’s first time judging a poetry contest. Julie paid most attention to how the poem fit the theme, which helped to “invoke a sense of optimism in light of the depressive atmosphere of the pandemic.” She then considered the use of poetic devices, formatting and punctuation.
Julie noticed recurring themes of remembrance, love, loss, everyday snapshots, friends, and family.

The winners of the contest, after thorough consideration were: 1st place to Fiona Reenan ’23, 2nd place to Christina Chen ’23, and 3rd place tied between Johnny Fan ’22 and Will Vrattos ’23.

Poetry has always been part of Fiona’s life. Fiona says she often finds herself jotting down phrases and inspiring moments in her notes app. Then, she returns to her “fragments and half-somethings… when I feel like I’m in the mood to write.” Sometimes she puts two ideas together, other times a single moment extends to a whole poem. Fiona explains that the poem paradise is the space in between the lines stemmed from a phrase she has written about “wildflowers on the side of the freeway by my family’s house in Laguna Beach.”

Christina interpreted paradise through music and inspired her free verse poem from her experience during the GEO choir trip to San Francisco. As a non-religious person, Christina had found it difficult trying to connect with the primarily religious music filled with Biblical reference that the Groton Choir sings. However, “on the choir trip it just seemed to click, especially because we were singing in a community so close to where I live in California and interacting with the people there.” Christina finally found paradise in music she once felt so distanced from.

Poetry club did a poetry slam night on April 11th inviting all contestants to deliver their poems. All submitted poems will also be displayed in the library during April as an appreciation for sharing memories and interpretations.