The Rienzi Poetry Showcase: Nostalgia

Lucy Goldberg, Deputy Arts Editor

The Poly Community held the Rienzi, a beloved annual event that celebrates communication through language at Poly. This was held on March 8, with preparations for the performances taking place in and outside of language classes in the month prior, where students and faculty selected and memorized poems that share a collective theme. 


Rienzi’s name comes from a French teacher, Kathy Rienzi, who retired from teaching in 2009. She had worked there for many years and the World Language Department wanted to honor her with the current title. Originally, the name for this event was The Language Burns. Every year since Rienzi has occurred, Kathy still joins the Poly community in the audience. 


This year’s theme was “nostalgia.” A Spanish teacher at Poly, Maité Iracheta said, “there’s a word for the feeling of nostalgia in every language.” The theme served as a commonality throughout society, and more specifically, language. Nostalgia can be understood as a longing for the past or joyful association with a moment. As the term is not very tangible, art allows one to express this well-known feeling in a multitude of ways. 


Other contenders for 2023’s theme were protest, folk songs, and animals. It was agreed amongst the World Language and Classics Department that the chosen theme, nostalgia, was a stronger theme across literature and the way we communicate. 


Iracheta is a deep believer in understanding and utilizing language. “Languages represent ways of understanding our existence; they are vehicles of history and stories for every culture on Earth,” said Iracheta. 


Although Rienzi creates a beautiful and inclusive atmosphere, teachers understand the anxiety in some students. “For many students it’s very difficult to stand in front of their peers and recite by memory a poem in a second, or third, language,” she said. “There’s the challenge of memorization and interpretation; poetry requires effort.” Rienzi can also be difficult because along with being required to memorize and recite a poem, one must also interpret and emphasize specific lines to create a real story.


In terms of the process behind selecting a student to be in the showcase, according to Iracheta, “The student who recites the poem with the most accurate pronunciation, fluency, and interpretation competes with other students from other same-level sections.” While it is important for all teachers to find a minimal amount of students per language-level, Iracheta and other teachers strive to have many students present in other languages.


Students’ words are more powerful than just a translation. “There’s nothing like hearing the lines of the crashing waves from the ocean itself,” said Iracheta.