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Although the windows outside were beaten with a downpour, the holiday enthusiasm in Townsend Harris was in no way diminished. After school on December 23, Harrisites scurried away from their classes to the school library to partake in Polaris, the annual pre-winter break Phoenix reading. In the warmly lit room, Townsend Harris High School alumni, teachers, and students donned their holiday apparel and crowded around a podium, eagerly awaiting the event that would take place momentarily.
To kick off the reading, Kristine Guillarme, editor-in-chief of The Phoenix, recited Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Typically delivered on Christmas Eve, this poem evoked the holiday mood and put everyone in good spirits.
Sarah Iqbal, an alumna who graduated from THHS just last year, returned to read two original poems, one titled “The Rivers,” that drew a parallel between the art of poetry and rivers, comparing rivers swollen with water to a poet “inundated” with emotions when deprived of expressing her feelings through poetry. Using her body and words, Sarah drew together both the essence of her poem and, as junior Marie Kessel said, all those “connected by poetry.”
Sophomores Francesca Reinoso and Pridha Kumar presented the Spanish poem “Will the spellbound world die with you” by Anthony Machado. Francesca recited the Spanish lines while Pridha provided the English translation. Commenting on her performance, Francesca said, “I’ve always found poems written in romance languages superior to others because of the beautiful flow of words. I was nervous during my performance. I was a bit worried I wouldn’t do [the poem] justice.”
Sophomore Aaron Fernando delivered an original poem “Rock-Paper-Scissors Shoot.” His poem, presented with varying voice inflections, compared the simple games of Mother May I and Rock Paper Scissor to the recent gun shootings that transpired, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place in 2012. Francesca said that this was her “favorite word piece since it resonated deeply with everyone.”
The reading was not only limited to poetry but also a display of various other talents. Junior Marie Kessel said that she “liked how lately there are more skits and songs so there is a variation from just reading.” Sophomores Brian, Jamie Rosen and Lizzy harmoniously sang Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” and Lizzy and Jamie Rosen later returned to sing Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts.”
The highlight of the evening was senior Priya Amin’s standup comedy. Priya relayed to the audience recent events from her college road trips, incidents that occurred at her job, and cultural issues that she had and will continue to face. Seniors Jason Lalljee, Nicholas Rahim, and Teresa Deeley acted out these events as Priya narrated and elicited much laughter from the audience. When asked about his feelings prior to his performance, Nicholas said “I was nervous about the whole thing because I know Priya. I know that she is quite a character so her stories must be just as zany. But if the amount of phones that were whipped out are an accurate indicator, I’ll say it was successful enough. Besides, it got people to laugh, and that’s usually the goal.”
The Polaris Phoenix Reading was seen that evening as a sanctuary for both those in Townsend Harris keen on exhibiting their talents and those seeking entertainment. “I felt at ease that afternoon, surrounded by people who valued poetry and the arts and enlightenment in general,” commented Junior Noel Du. “Nothing beats that.”