NEWTOWN >> Alesandra “Sasha” Temerte, a senior at Central Bucks High School East, has been named the 2019 Bucks County High School Poet of the Year, officials at Bucks County Community College announced.
The 18-year-old Jamison resident rose to the top of more than 100 entries in the 32nd annual contest, part of the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program administered by the college.
Temerte, who had placed third runner-up in 2018, won a $300 prize and will be honored at a poetry reading and reception at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 18 on the college’s Newtown campus. She’ll be joined by runners-up and finalists in the contest in a celebration of young poets from across Bucks County. Those attending the free event will receive an anthology containing the winning poems and a poem from each entrant, Writes of Passage Vol. 9.
As in past years, the number and quality of entries made the judges’ task challenging, noted Professor Ethel Rackin, director of the Poet Laureate Program.
“We had 127 entries this year, which made the judging difficult,” said Rackin, noting that the judges named a tie for first runners-up. “Overall, the work we received was thoughtful, and many of this year's poems were concerned with history, as well as the here and now.”
Contest judges were 2018 Bucks County Poet Laureate Carly Volpe and 2017 laureate Katherine Hahn Falk. In addition to the winner, they named Council Rock South junior Kiley Malloy – who had also placed 1st-runner-up last year – and Pennsbury junior Jason Turner as first runners-up; and George School senior Catherine Orescan, a finalist last year, as second runner-up.
Volpe said she was astounded by Temerte’s talent.
“I believe this poet was born a firecracker. Or at very least, a poet,” Volpe wrote, referring to the opening of one of the winning poems. “The line breaks are intuitive. When read out loud, the spacing makes sense. This is incredibly important when writing and reading poetry – especially if you want to be sure that it is just as powerful as you intended and can also translate your message in someone else’s hands. It has.”
Temerte, who has already published her debut poetry book, Peace and Other Radical Ideas, says she’s been writing as long as she can remember, but shifted to poetry in ninth grade after she discovered slam poetry. She says the genre has since provided her with a catharsis for emotions, a platform for creative expression within a supportive community, and allowed her to connect with others on a more meaningful level.
“To me, words in a sentence are more than beads I string together with a pen. They’re vehicles for stories that elicit powerful emotions, raise awareness, inspire generations, and save lives,” said Temerte. “As such, the topics I gravitate towards most in my poetry are love, mental health, and politics/social issues.”
Following graduation from C.B. East, Temerte plans to attain a mathematics degree with a double major in either business, writing, or philosophy, with a goal to work as an actuary and earn an MBA.
"In essence, the plan is to be a leader by day and a poet by night,” she added. “As cliché as it sounds, I hope that through writing and leadership, I’ll successfully make a large-scale difference.”
The 2019 Bucks County High School Poet of the Year reading and reception take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 18, in the Orangery building on campus at 275 Swamp Rd., Newtown, Pa. Admission and parking are free.
The 32nd annual Bucks County High School Poet of the Year contest is another way that Bucks County Community College contributes to the cultural heritage of the region. To learn more, visit www.bucks.edu/poets or call the Language and Literature Department at 215-968-8150.
Kiley Malloy, Council Rock High School South, 11th Grade, and Jason Turner, Pennsbury High School, 11 Grade.
Catherine Orescan, George School, 12th Grade
Sharleen Banatte, Central Bucks High School South, 11th grade; Amelia Betancourt, Central Bucks High School West, 12th grade; Bria DeSaro, Council Rock High School South, 12th grade; Stella Garwood, Central Bucks High School West, 11th grade; Nicole Hediger, Archbishop Wood High School, 12th grade; Emma Hodgson, Central Bucks High School West, 12th grade; Katie Jenkinson, Central Bucks High School West, 12th grade; Zoe Kemp, Pennsbury High School, 11th grade; Sophia Kolditz, Central Bucks High School South, 12th grade; Devon Place, Neshaminy High School, 12th grade; and Margaret Zheng, Council Rock High School North, 12th grade.
// a poem about heartbreak or climate change //
You were born a firecracker,
birthed in flames
and smoke that smothered
your mother when you spoke.
You burned every building
you stepped foot in
without ever lighting a match.
You were born a graveyard,
clutching lives like
the wings of birds,
running across rapid rivers,
just the tips of your toes
brushing the water.
You never drowned.
But the birds' wings
floated as shredded feathers
to the ground.
You were born a paper cutter,
slicing lips with your tongue,
your sharpened nails
carving your initials
into everybody's jaws.
You knew how to destroy.
And I wish I could say
you destroyed everyone but me.
You were born a construction machine,
tearing everything to pieces
that when the earth
is nothing but gravel and dirt,
you will build something new.
Something actually worth
you didn't have much attention.
You were born a black hole
other black holes.
I let you
other black holes.
you were born to burn,
you're taking me with you.
- Alesandra “Sasha” Temerte