Combined Poetry Cafe and Women’s Day celebrations: students read poetry and give presentations to fellow classmates


Seniors Sally Kuan (left) and Sandra Riano (right) make a presentation on the portrayal of women in the media as a part of Women’s Day. They examined women in television, advertising, journalism, and politics. Other presentations for this event included Through a Global Lens, Animation and Feminism, Global Feminism, and Gender and Sexuality.

Emily Ma and Rebecca Muratore, Staff Writers

The English Honors Society’s Poetry Café and Schreiber feminists’ Women’s Day occupied the library on March 27.  The beginning of the day was dedicated to the genre of poetry, while the later periods focused on women and equality.

Poetry Café was first period, and its main purpose was to focus on a form of literature not emphasized in regular curricula.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to express their love of poetry and share it with other students,” said freshman and Poetry Café participant Adi Levin.

Seniors Olivia Mann and Sameer Nanda emceed the event.  Preparation for the café required coordination between these student facilitators, English teacher Ms. Cohan, and English department chair Ms. Joan Lisecki.   Any student was able to sign up to read their choice of poetry, and on the day of the event, students were selected randomly to share their poems.

Students were encouraged to read any poetry that they felt would spark discussion and thought. While Poetry Café did not have an official theme, some students chose to read poems about women and gender.

The theme of Women’s Day was “Celebrate Women!” Student facilitators created four interactive presentations: Animated Feminism, Women in the Media, Global Feminism, and Gender and Sexuality. They analyzed statistics and current events through a feminist lens.

“The presenters were very prepared and motivated everyone to take another look at the media and the way it portrays women,” said junior Aliza Herz.

English teachers Dr. Helen Sachs and Ms. Evelina Zarkh acted as staff coordinators for the event.

“We just want to offer definitions of what feminism is, as well as what its origins were in the past,” said Dr. Sachs.   “Its goal is equality for everybody, all genders, and equality in a better life in terms of opportunities and education for all people.”

The event raises awareness for women’s rights but promotes equality for everyone, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Coordinators also encouraged attendees to think about sexism not only in the United States but also in less developed countries.

“Feminism is important to me because I live in a society where I am privileged, for the most part,” said senior coordinator Sandra Riano. “I am able to obtain an education to seek out opportunities in the workplace to sustain myself economically, but when I look at women’s rights around the world I see girls who are not given some of these basic rights. Feminism is not just about ending wage discrimination. It’s about empowering women in all societies where they have been underrepresented, oppressed, and had their voices silenced.”

Women’s Day coordinators wanted to teach all students about themselves, and how to make a difference in the world.

“We feel it is very important for teenagers in high school who are facing a lot of labeling and are conflicted about who they are, their identities, and what they want to do in the world.  Women’s Day allows students to learn correct definitions of feminism and what it means so that their lives can be better,” said Dr. Sachs.

Women’s Day and Poetry Café are normally held separately, but this year, they were held on the same day. Originally, Poetry Café was to be held four days after Women’s Day.

“It was most convenient schedule-wise,” said Mann.  “Otherwise, we would have had to make the Poetry Café the day before break.”

Event coordinators worried that many students would not be in school the day before a break, and that fewer people would therefore be able to attend and experience the event.

Dr. Sachs thought that having the two events on the same day would be a natural fit.

“I love poetry, so I suggested that it would be a good idea to combine the events, and those in charge of the Poetry Café said they would do a theme of poems by and about women,” said Dr. Sachs.

“While I think it’s a great idea combining the two into one day, I was a little disappointed that two rather underrepresented school events were pushed together into one day,” said Nanda.  “While I think that both events definitely have the potential to couple each other extremely nicely, it would’ve been nice to have them spaced out so that students would be able to immerse themselves more readily and fully in both events!”

Even so, students engaged in topics and issues that they did not normally study or discuss in the classroom.  It worked to inform students of many of the ongoing issues in the world involving feminism and equal representation.   Additionally, those who read selections of poetry were able to express their ideas and opinions, and discuss those ideas with others.

“I respect both events and think that they are great ways for Schreiber students to get the opportunity to present and speak about things that have spoken to them in some way, shape, or form—whether it is poetry or women,” said Nanda.   “And that’s what I think this day is meant to symbolize: a day where students can come together and celebrate what they want to celebrate, and share what they want to share.  But what makes it even better is to know that there are other people and teachers ready to help you and share in that experience with you.”