• Poetry Out Loud Award Goes to Alisal High’s Florencia Gregorio

    Parents, fellow competitors, and judges sat rapt in the Seaside Community Center as tiny Florencia Gregorio of Alisal High School filled the room with a soul-felt rendition of  “Bent to the Earth,” a poem by Blas Manuel De Luna about a van full of Mexican field workers stopped by immigration officers. She will represent Monterey County at the State level, where others from Monterey County have triumphed in years past and gone on to the national level in Washington, DC. Florencia also recited “To the Desert” by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

    Her team mate, Christian Quiroz, a runner-up, was a show-stopper with “El Olvido” by Judith Ortiz Cafer, a piece about forgetting one’s cultural identity in an effort to fit in.

    Pacific Grove’s Parker Staples chose “The Redeemer” by Siegried Sassoon as her first piece and followed it up with “Little Girl,” a poem by Tami Haaland about a child captured in a photograph. It portends, 

    “She has things to do,
    you can tell. Places to explore
    beyond the frame…”
    Parker placed third, while her team mate Jordan Modisette was runner-up with “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye. 
    Other competitors were Jose Sanchez, Gonzales High; Ceclia Trujillo, Gonzalez High; and Keishawn Robinson, Seaside High who placed second.
    Here is the poem with which Florencia Gregorio won the day:

    Bent to the Earth

    By Blas Manuel De Luna

    They had hit Ruben 
    with the high beams, had blinded 
    him so that the van 
    he was driving, full of Mexicans 
    going to pick tomatoes,  
    would have to stop. Ruben spun 

    the van into an irrigation ditch, 
    spun the five-year-old me awake 
    to immigration officers, 
    their batons already out, 
    already looking for the soft spots on the body, 
    to my mother being handcuffed 
    and dragged to a van, to my father 
    trying to show them our green cards. 

    They let us go. But Alvaro 
    was going back. 
    So was his brother Fernando. 
    So was their sister Sonia. Their mother 
    did not escape, 
    and so was going back. Their father 
    was somewhere in the field, 
    and was free. There were no great truths 

    revealed to me then. No wisdom 
    given to me by anyone. I was a child 
    who had seen what a piece of polished wood 
    could do to a face, who had seen his father 
    about to lose the one he loved, who had lost 
    some friends who would never return, 
    who, later that morning, bent 
    to the earth and went to work.

    • “Bent to the Earth” by Blas Manuel De Luna. From Bent to the Earth, © 2006 by Blas Manuel De Luna, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 11, 2017

    Topics: Front PG News


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