Celebrating Long Beach student poetry


A crowd with noisemakers in hand celebrated student and resident poets from Long Beach at the Nassau County Poet Laureate Society Scholarship Ceremony on June 12.

Hosted by the Long Beach Library, whose goal is “to encourage and welcome all voices,” the NCLPLS honored Long Beach High School students Shea Rehnback and Nikki Kane, who received the Nassau County Poet Laureate Society Scholarship and Poetry: It’s a ‘Shore’ Thing! Award, respectively, as well as NCLPLS Shore Poets Winners. Both recipients read their poems to the audience at the event.

The NCLPLS’ mission is to support a laureate and to encourage the poetic voice, which is done in part with the younger generation by presenting a high school student with a scholarship. They also have an annual poetry contest and publish a Nassau County Poet Laureate Society review book, all in an effort to make residents aware of the culture in Nassau County.

Long Beach librarian and poet Nicole Menzzasalma echoed this, saying, “It’s so important to bring poetry into the community and it’s so nice to see two young people writing poetry.”

Rehnback is a student of the talented writer’s program at LBHS. Her poems submitted had alternative voices and were described as “micro-memoirs” by Nassau County Poet Laureate Paula Curci. She has won regional Scholastic awards including a Silver Key recognition and honorable mentions, and explained that writing helps her “deal with everyday stress that can seem so draining and it allows me to express my feelings.”

Kane is a junior at LBHS, who “views writing as a portal to the soul, allowing readers to discover aspects of themselves that they wouldn’t have understood otherwise. She is fascinated by the ability to bring her experiences and those of others to life through collaboration with talented writers, editors and more.”

Rachell Koegel has taught at LBHS for 28 years, in part teaching creative writing, and is a mentor to Rehnback.

“I let them take risks and be authentic and I don’t try to control the process,” Koegel said. “Not at all robotic or formulaic, and gently and not so gently direct them. Students working together tops any other type of education you can give them because they learn from one another. If they’re looking for my approval, that’s not writing. They’re writing for themselves and an audience, and they learn how to take feedback and develop a thicker skin to separate their work from who they are, and not to indulge in personal issues but to reflect and use that.”

Koegel stood on stage with the two student recipients, saying, “Besides being wonderful writers, they’re really great human beings.” Shore Poet Harold Michelman read a poem of his and also presented gifts to the two students.

“The teachers and talented writers at Long Beach High School for helping us create that pathway that we like to create for any pastime, any career goal,” Curci said. “It’s of important value to the health of our society, city and youth that we have this community pathway.”

Poetry: It’s a Shore Thing! Micro-Memoir Readings were also a part of the evening, with Kayra Callum Omer, Poetry: It’s a Shore Thing! Micro-Memoir Contributor; Pearl Ketover Prilik, second place winner of the NCPLS Poetry Contest; Nina Malkin, NCPLS Honorable Mention; and Jim Coulter, NCLPLS Honorable Mention, all receiving recognition and reading poems of their own. A poetry open mic was held after the ceremony.

Curci also took time to deliver a poem titled “Words,” which is a mix of music and spoken-word poetry.