Keeping the art of poetry alive

The 11th Annual Poetry Contest took place at the Medford Arts Center on Dec. 3.

Pictured are all winners and honorable mentions of the Medford Arts Center poetry contest.

“I love words, I love conversation, I love poetry — poetry is art, words are art.”

Those are the words of Naomi Dispenza, coordinator of the 11th Annual Poetry Contest, that was held at the Medford Arts Center on Dec. 3.

Ten local poets read their winning pieces at the event, with topics ranging across the spectrum, but each poet shared a similar desire to spread the message of keeping poetry alive.

First-place winner Robert Price became familiar with poetry by reading it at a young age, however, he began writing his own poetry about five years ago.

His winning piece titled “The Time Master” stemmed from his love of time, inspired by the book “Time Machine” by HG Wells that he read as a teenager.

“I want to promote poetry, I hope this whole thing will just grow,” Price said. “It’s one of the few art forms that everybody knows, you study it in school, and it never really gets that ultra-high recognition that it should.”

For second-place winner Julianne Basile, her involvement with poetry began at the age of 7. Her teacher noticed her talent developed at such a young age, and that encouraged Basile to continue writing.

“Poetry is like water to me. I need it to survive, that emotional release, the ability to get my soul out on paper, is just immeasurable in effect,” Basile said.

Basile’s winning piece “Atrial Septal Defect Repair, Female, Aged 6 Years” was written about the experience of her daughter’s surgery that took place this past summer.

Basile said poets need to come together to keep the art alive, and that performing poetry is a distinctive way to impact the audience.

“Reading it on paper you can’t really garner all the inflections and unique pauses and placements of words that the author intended,” Basile said.

She feels there is a growing movement toward spoken word poetry and anyone interested in poetry should take that into consideration.

Unique to the poetry contest this year was a high school student portion, where high schoolers from the area could submit their work alongside their peers’ work.

Ben Brandreth, a Cherokee High School sophomore, performed his third-place and honorable-mention pieces titled “Eclipse” and “Invitation.”

Brandreth became inspired to write poetry through his love of music. Once he began writing, his mother encouraged him to continue to write poetry, and from there it became a habit.

“I feel like it’s a good way to write out your own ideas but also inspire other people to think,” Brandreth said. “Everyone interprets poetry differently.”

He said a lot of high school students focus on other hobbies, such as playing video games or participating in sports, but he feels they would also benefit from an artistic form of expression.

“I think more kids should be writing poetry,” Brandreth said. “I feel like the arts are something that need to be preserved more.”

The remaining winners are third-place winner John P. Dennison, and honorable mentions Wendy Abramowitz, Lyn Esposito, Pam Spice, Louis Sprouse and Hara.

The first- and second-place pieces for the high school portion were written by Penelope Duran.

The poetry contest was sponsored by Payton Press, LLC, awarding the first-place winner of each portion a $100 prize, the second-place winner a $50 prize and the third-place winner a $25 prize.

The Medford Arts Center hosts free poetry workshops every fourth Friday of the month, beginning at 7:15 p.m.

For more information or to view upcoming programs offered, visit