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The Phoenix kicked off its introductory reading for the year in the school library. Townsend Harris students and alumni came together to express themselves through poetry, stories, songs, and spoken word pieces.
The reading began with an introduction from Rafal Olechowski, advisor of the Phoenix, and two new Editors-in-Chief: juniors Aaron Fernando and Ciara Burke.
This year, as opposed to having one senior and one junior running the club, both Editors in-Chief are now from the same grade. Aaron jokingly said that the Phoenix’s reasons for the change are “classified,” before adding that “this was unexpected, and hasn’t happened before. It’s a big year for the Phoenix.”
While the two admit to initially being nervous about their positions, Ciara summed up their feelings by saying, “I’m excited to see what we will accomplish this year. It’s not going to be easy, but it will make us prouder of everything we do.”
Ciara started the reading with a tribute and dedication to one of her best friends, former THHS junior Gustavo Delgado. Seeing as Gustavo moved to Florida earlier this year, Ciara read his poem titled “Leftovers,” which was featured in the Phoenix’s first ember.
Politics were brought up by junior Ashley Zhao. Her poem “Colorblind” discussed the Black Lives Matter movement. Before beginning, she explained how an argument with her parents about their differing views prompted her to write the piece. Ashley’s compelling reading resonated with the crowd, and THHS alum and former Phoenix literary editor, Jason Lalljee announced that her poem had him “woke.” Junior Emma Fujita agreed with Jason and said, “Ashley’s poem was powerful and stood out, since it connected with the events that have been happening for the past year or two.”
To conclude the event, Jason took to the stage with his “on-the-spot poetry,” choosing a handful of freshmen to provide him with random words. Using these words, he was able to write a poem in two minutes. Jason’s incorporation of the freshmen was described as a “clever move” seeing as it helped in making the newcomers feel at ease.
The introductory reading proved to be a success: as people began to trickle into the library, the Phoenix soon ran out of tickets and resorted to recording people’s names on a piece of paper. The reading was predominantly full of juniors; however, there was a large group of freshmen. This time around, there were no freshmen presenters. “Next time I would really like to see more freshmen and underclassmen presenting. Right now the Phoenix is kind of overrun by juniors,” said Aaron.
Freshman Sandy Wong recounted her overall experience at the reading, stating, “This reading was good, and I might come back for next month’s [reading].”