An introduction to this year’s Freshman Poetry Battle contestants


Rohan Vaswani

Here are this year’s Freshman Poetry Battle contestants, as introduced by their teachers.

The 11th annual Freshman Poetry Battle will be held in the Eagle Theater during ACT this Friday, February 10. English teacher Jonathan Kwan is hosting the event, and English teachers Caitlin Hannon and Carrie Abel Shaffer will judge. The 11 contestants were either chosen by their English teacher and/or selected by their classmates.

The quotes in this article have been edited for clarity.

This year’s competing poets, as introduced by their English teachers, are:

Hannah Cohen

“Hannah was chosen by her peers for her delivery of her poem during the final. It was fully memorized (which was not required in my particular Survey class) and passionately delivered. What makes Hannah unique is her drama background. I think Hannah will win given this advantage and comfort level of performing in front of her peers. ” – Jennifer Eneriz








Payton Jones

“I chose Payton because her poem felt focused on a very clear and specific topic, and I really liked the central metaphor she’s using, comparing women to vases. I’m hoping she’ll win because her poem is strong and her performance was really compelling! She really nailed the intensity of the feeling behind the poem, as well as the dismissive way some men view women.” – Jasmine Mark









Caila Kim

“My class chose Caila to represent them because the poem she shared with the class was well-written and thought-provoking, and she delivered it with poise and expression.” – April Oliver









Emma Lewis

“Emma’s poem is a really cool extended metaphor poem. Like many students at this school, Emma can get overwhelmed with the many academic and extracurricular activities crowding her life, and she uses the metaphor of a steam engine blaring through its one-track path to demonstrate this. I think Emma will win because she’s a very thoughtful person who puts a lot of care and creativity into her work!” – Babak Shahrivar










Ishika Modi

“Ishika showed me she has what it takes to be a spoken word poet, and I could see her performance playing out in Eagle Theater. Her excitement for the opportunity ultimately meant she was the best choice to represent Aguirre’s classes this year. Let’s go, Ishika!” – Bianca Aguirre










Ella Omura

“I think Ella’s poem is on an important topic. If the poem is really close to someone’s heart, that’s a good reason to pick someone, especially when they’re performing the poem really well.” – Michael Kanda











Amitee Salcido

I chose my poet, Amitee Salcido, because I like her message about not having to follow in a parent’s footsteps. Amitee’s poem is unique because it focuses on what she wants to make of herself as an adult, and I think most freshmen poetry focuses on issues or themes that are more focused on the present.” – Arantxa Arriada









Jaz Santos

“Jaz’s peers chose her for both the power of her performance as well as the power of her poem. I love her insights, the details she includes in her poems that bring them to life, and her musicality in creating rhythms and rhymes. I could not be more proud of her for all the effort she is putting into her writing. Whether or not she wins on Friday, she is a talented poet with important ideas to share! I am her number one fan!” – Keren Dawson-Bowman








Nora Saraci-Alonso

Nora’s poem resonated with so many people in the class. During our workshop, her peers made it clear that she had struck a chord with them. I think the strength of her voice in contrast to a piece about the difficulty of finding self-worth is something that students will be drawn to.” – Lisa Battle










Jeronimo Sepulveda Sagaseta

“Jeronimo’s performance was so pure, authentic and really embodied all elements of a gifted slam poet. He surprised and delighted the entire class with his performance and he was unanimously voted as the top slam poet of my class.” – Lisa Bonanno










Lev Zeiger

“I really like Lev’s poem because it has an important message about judgment and acceptance that I think every high school student needs to hear. It is a good reminder about human nature and being our better selves. The way he wrote the poem with lots of clever metaphors, wordplay and strong imagery made it stand out for me and I appreciated how he presented it to our class.” – Margaret Bennett









Come to ACT this Friday to support the poets!