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Celebrating Francophone Poetry at Waring and beyond by Marianne Durand and the French Department

Apr 20, 2021 9:32:39 AM

Jean de La Fontaine was born four centuries ago, on July 8, 1621 in Château-Thierry. Inspired by the fabulists of Greco-Latin antiquity, and in particular by Aesop, he wrote more than two hundred and forty Fables, bringing this hitherto minor genre to a degree of accomplishment that remains unequalled. Moralist without being moralistic, La Fontaine uses animals to depict human failings, thus taking a lucid look at human nature and power relationships.

The art of style, the humor, the moral aim of the texts - much more complex than it seems at first sight -, have determined the success of this unique work. The Fables of La Fontaine are still considered one of the greatest masterpieces of French literature.

Then on April 9, 1821, Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris. Two centuries have passed but the beauty of his imagination has not been withered by time.

To celebrate the birthdays of these two giants of French poetry, Waring school French Department has decided this year to take the traditional "Concours de poésie" to another level, opening its doors to other schools for the first edition of a regional concours!

To begin with, in February, each class studied and learned a recitation. La Fontaine, Baudelaire, but also Isabelle Callis-Sabot, Jacques Prévert, and other poets from the French-speaking world: Issaka Soumaïla Karanta, Nigerian, Tahar Bekri, Tunisian, Anna Gréki, Algerian, or Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, Innu. In total, no less than twelve poems were studied, explored in detail, explained and commented on.

Then the students judged their peers, naming the best reciter in their group, according to four specific criteria: memorization, pronunciation, diction and clarity, and interpretation.
These are the same criteria that were used by the jury for the internal concours at Waring, on February 17th, to determine the best reciter in each level. The jury was composed of Dr. Elizabeth Blood, Professor of French at Salem State University, Vanessa Darling, Boston French Interpreters, and Elisabeth Karnoub, Director of Education at the French Cultural Center Alliance française of Boston. 

Micah Byron-Smarra for "À l'école de la forêt" and Lucy Schaeffer for "Les animaux du musée" by Issaka Soumaïla Karanta, won the first round for Débutants and Core levels. Elli Gile for "Février" by Isabelle Callis-Sabot, was one of the finalists for the Intermediate level.

The finalists in the internal competition for the Intermediate and Advanced levels were also Sebby Wells for "Le corbeau et le renard", by Jean de La Fontaine, and Rowan Mulder for "Même en hiver" by Anna Gréki. For the latter, the adventure in the land of Francophone poetry did not end there…. Joined by Olive Lyons-McLin for "La cigale et la fourmi" by Jean de La Fontaine, Lumiere Kazadi for "Bleuets et abricots" by Natasha Kanapé Fontaine and Julie Durning for "L'albatros" by Charles Baudelaire, they all met on Thursday, April 9, with their counterparts from Marblehead High School. On Zoom, they were asked to recite and interpret their poem again and let the jury decide who were the best among them.

The jury was quick to say that the task of pronouncing a single winner was increasingly difficult, as the level was so high! 

Waring earned three first place awards with Olive, Sebby and Rowan. Marblehead High School got the same number! From Marblehead, Alexis Earp tied for first prize with Rowan Mulder, Julia Greenway for "Blueberries and Apricots", and Kate Simcoe for "The Albatross" won first prize as well.

The winners were offered French pastries; for the advanced category, the prize was a membership to the French cultural center, for a different kind of appetite! The students, the teachers present, and the jury were delighted to have had such a good time, sharing their interest and passion for the French language. To be continued next year!

Congratulations to the students whose names appear on this list, they have honored their teachers and can be really proud of their work!

Marianne Durand
Written by Marianne Durand

Marianne teaches two French classes and one 4/5 Journalism Class in our Writing department. She most recently taught French at Lexington High School and lives in Marblehead. Marianne is French and lived in France for many years where she worked for Coca-Cola before moving to the States. She is currently a practicing journalist who writes for a French newspaper about U.S. politics.