Spring Grove poetry event: An escape from routine

Alina Garcia reads during the Spring Grove School poetry event held last week on the rural San Benito County campus.

Spring Grove student Natasha Blankenship walked to the front of the school auditorium, took command of the room, and articulated each consonant and vowel of the 288-word poem, “If.”
She paused between phrases, soaking in the meaning of the poem about finding one’s place in the world. The seventh grade teenager spoke to the squiggling first graders in the front of the room and the eighth graders—older than her—slouching in the back.
Every teacher in the school watched. So did the audience of moms, dads, young kids and grandparents. The teenager turned her head to emphasize words and ended with a slight smile:
“If all men count with you, but none too much; /
If you can fill the unforgiving minute /
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, /
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, /
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Blankenship, just 13, was one of 24 students who recited lines during the Poetry Festival Friday at Spring Grove School, a campus located in rural San Benito County outside Hollister and across from houses with green pastures surrounded by white, farm fences. The teenager picked the lines after doing a Google search for “long, sad, poems,” she said.
“I just came across that one and I fell in love with it,” she said.
Each class held a poetry competition and the top three students competed in the grade level semifinals with judges selecting a first-, second- and third-place winner to perform at the festival, explained Jenny Bernosky, the principal and superintendent of the school.
“I like it because a lot of the time, we’re focused on just the smart kids or just the athletes,” the principal said. “So this is just one more thing that can get another group of kids involved. And sometimes the kids that win aren’t the kids that win other things.”
In the audience, Kelli Scimeca, 34, an adjunct professor at Gavilan and a Hartnell College teacher, waited on the sidelines for her child to perform. Scimeca’s son, Tim, 6, had placed second in the class competition and was set to perform a poem called “I have a little frog.”
“It has the name ‘Tim’ in it, so that’s why he picked it,” she said. “I’m an English teacher so we read a lot, since birth.”
The winners of the competition will share their poem at a school board meeting and with the Hollister Rotary Club, Bernosky told the students. Students were judged based on poise, volume, eye contact, pronunciation/enunciation and how well they delivered the poem, she told the Free Lance.
Blankenship placed first in her seventh grade class competition but didn’t realize she had won right away, even though it had been announced over the loudspeaker.
“I actually didn’t hear it at first,” she said. “I actually had to have people tell me.”
As the teen stood just outside the doorway of the gym, several adults complimented her on the poem choice and her delivery.
“I picked my poem because I thought it was really inspirational and that it would really touch people,” Blankenship said.

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