Middle School Celebrates Rienzi 2021

Jared Winson

The beauty and power of language was on display through Middle School presentations of poetry in Mandarin, Spanish, and French by poets from countries around the world including China, Mexico, Cuba, Senegal, Syria and Lebanon, and Haiti, all with the theme of justice.

The World Languages Department continued a much-loved annual tradition when the Middle School Rienzi Poetry Showcase was presented virtually on April 16. Students created artistic videos to accompany their presentations. French teacher Jared Winston served as host for the Rienzi, which is named for a beloved former Poly French teacher, Kathy Rienzi.

Grade 5

Grade 5 began the celebration of poetry singing in Spanish “El Pueblo, Unido, Jamás Será Vencido” (“The people united will never be defeated”) a Chilean folk song, filmed as they marched around the Oval carrying protest signs. The program described  “El Pueblo, Unido, Jamás Será Vencido” as a “solidarity chant,” which the people “used for centuries to stand up for justice in the face of racism, state violence, labor abuse, and more.”

Grade 6

The Grade 6 presentation began with Spanish classes presenting “Soy Como Soy” (I Am Who I Am”) by Basho, a storyteller, educator, instigator, and growth catalyst for social change organizations. According to the Rienzi program, “Rooted in his bilingual teaching experience, Basho brings simplicity, clarity, compassion, joy, and dynamism to all of his work. Passionate about the power of music to unite, delight, and transform, Basho publishes videos weekly on his YouTube channel and can also be found collaborating with folks such as Sesame Studios, Sesame Street, Cool School, and Treehouse Direct.”

Other Grade 6 presentations included “2020” by Fei Ma in Mandarin by three students: Pharaoh B. ’27, Jesse R. ’27, and Sasha L. ’27.

Sasha L. ’27 presents “2020” by Fei Ma.

“Entre Tes Yeux et Moi,” by Syrian poet Adonis was presented by Harper B. ’27, Neeka A. ’27, Emma L. ’27, and Jack C. ’27. It begins: “When I plunge my eyes into yours/ I see the deep dawn/ I see the old yesterday/ I see what I don’t know…” “Greenhouse Effect” by Fei Ma in Mandarin by Zoe K. ’27 and Francis V. ’27; and “Moon and Stars” by the Persian poet Rumi by Neeka A. ’27.

Neeka A. ’27 reading “Moon and Stars” by Rumi.
Grade 7

The Grade 7 presentation began with Eden G. ’26 reciting “Un Poema,” “a testimony of the human soul…” by Mexican poet Francisco X Alarcón, which was also read by Sylvie D. ’26. According to the Rienzi program, “Alarcón was an award-winning poet who wrote for both children and adults. Born in Los Angeles, California, he considered himself ‘bi-national,’ having spent time as a child in both Mexico and the United States. He expressed this in a poem: ‘I carry my roots with me all the time/Rolled up I use them as my pillow.’ Alarcón’s poetry was inspired by songs he heard from his grandmother, which he presents for readers in both English and in Spanish. Alarcón also spoke and composed poetry in Nahuatl, an Aztec language native to Mexico and the second most spoken language in Mexico today.” 

Sylvie D. ’26 reading “Un Poema” by Francisco X. Alarcón.

Margot C. ’26 and Eve H. ’26, respectively, also recited “Entre Tes Yeux et Moi,” and “Greenhouse Effect.” Jasper I. ’26 presented “Make a Wish” by Yu GuangZhong in Mandarin, which included: “Let all the fish be free/ Back to the pure river/ No longer afraid of the dirty downstream/ and the fermented river bank,” while he created a simple painting of a fish. Beckett Z. ’26 recited “Entre Autres Massacres” by Haitian poet Aimé Césaire, whose writing is described as expressing “the need for revolution, for change in a flawed and prejudiced world. All of his plays, especially the triptych, draw on history, African myth, and European literature to create a portrait of the Caribbean that both avows the damage done by capitalism and colonialism and underlines the difficulty of achieving liberation from this legacy.” Lucy G. ’26 recited “Nostalgie” by Senegalese poet Annette M’Baye, who was described in the Rienzi program as “Senegal’s first female journalist, 82-year-old Annette Mbaye d’Erneville, has been an active pioneer and campaigner for gender equality since the earliest days of the Senegalese women’s rights movement. Today, she’s regarded as the figurehead of the movement and a modern-day icon and role model.” Finally, Louis Garbe  ’26 recited “The Last Graveyard” by Xu Lizhi in Mandarin.

Jasper I. ’26 presented “Make a Wish” by Yu GuangZhong in Mandarin.
Grade 8

The Grade 8 presentations began with Annakaecia C. ’25 reciting “Cultivo una Rosa Blanco” by Jose Marti,  a Cuban poet and journalist who spent his short life fighting for Cuban independence from Spain. “Martí is considered a Cuban national hero because of his role in the liberation of his country. He was also an important figure in Latin American literature.” Alice B. ’25 and Frances B. ’25 also recited the poem by Marti. Leo M. ’25 recited “Plouf” by Haitian poet by Jeffte Saintermo, who is “the Spring 2020 winner of an international poetry competition, ‘Chansons sans frontières’ (Songs Without Borders), organized annually with the theme of human rights and freedom of expression. ‘Plouf,’ (the sound that a single drop of water makes), is an ode to the many migrant workers who have risked their lives to cross waters for better opportunities, and for the value of having access to clean, fresh & potable water.” 

Annakaecia C. ’25 reciting “Cultivo una Rosa Blanco” by Jose Marti.

“Conflict” by  Xu Lizhi was presented in Mandarin by Selena W. ’25 and then by Kiran S. ’25. Max Penachio recited “Cher Frere Blanc” by Senegalese poet Leopold Senghor, as did Drew W.  ’25. “Senghor was a Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist who, for two decades, served as the first president of Senegal. He was an African sociologist, theorist and academic. His poems often grapple with themes of justice, race, racism and identity.” Macaleer C. ’25 recited another of Xu Lizhi’s poems, “A Screw Fell to the Ground.”

The last two Grade 8 presentations were sung. Stavroula G. ’25 sang the French folk song “Sur Le Pont d’Avignon.” The Rienzi concluded with Sadie S, ’25 singing the Edith Piaf standard “La Vie en Rose.”

Sadie S, ’25 singing the Edith Piaf standard “La Vie en Rose.”