Protagonist kicks off poetry contest

Stephanie Peng
Staff Writer

For the Protagonist, Cal High’s literary magazine, the end of the annual photo contest this month means only one thing: the annual poetry contest has begun.

Open to all students, the contests are important to the Protagonist’s mission – celebrating the amazing, and often hidden, artistic talent of Cal students.

Every year, unique pieces from the entry pool are showcased in the Protagonist’s final publication in June. There are only two requirements for the contest: a poem must demonstrate a creative and thought-provoking perspective, and meet the deadline.

“We’re looking for variety,” said editor in chief Karishma Pareek, a junior. “Every year we get a lot of work from the same students, which is awesome, but the contest helps us achieve a broader, more varied representation of the creativity at our school.”

The poetry contest allows more literary-inclined students the chance to craft and submit prose inspired by one of the five winning photos, which will be featured in the main building’s third floor display case. Each winning photo and its accompanying poem will appear together in the Protagonist’s final publication. The poetry contest begins after winter break and runs through the spring.

For those students who have a passion for the arts, but lack the confidence to submit, Pareek offers a word of encouragement.

“You’ve got nothing to lose. Even if you’re not a major part of the club, this is a great opportunity,” said Pareek. “We want to show off your work.”

Senior club member Erica Tsai submitted her first photo freshman year and has been actively involved since.

“I had no idea that the Protagonist would be able to use my work to inspire others so much,” said Tsai.

Although compiling photography and poetry for the magazine is the Protagonist Club’s main activity, it also offers students other ways to get involved.

Members help advocate for the club by speaking to classes about the contest during tutorial, and generally trying to foster an enthusiasm for the “artistic spirit at Cal,” as Pareek puts it. There’s even a possibility for the Protagonist holding Cal’s first poetry slam this year, which is still under consideration.

Despite the energetic and artistic spirit that seems to have infected its members, the club is not without challenges.

Long-time advisor Barbara Foss retired last year after 26 years of teaching at Cal. For each year of publication, Foss has headed the effort to make the Protagonist something of which Grizzlies could be proud.

“Foss was very, very meticulous,” said Pareek. “She checked everything, including subject and grammar, and gave us the final OK. I can’t even imagine the sheer number of hours that go into that.”

Although Foss’ contributions to the club will be missed dearly, English teacher Michelle Mascote has stepped up to serve as club adviser this year.

“Mrs. Foss and I spoke at length about the Protagonist. I’m very pleased to follow in her large footsteps,” said Mascote, “and I’m excited to work with such creative and thoughtful students in creating such a high quality work of art.”

Poetry entries can be emailed to [email protected] or dropped off at Room 301 at any time after the winning photo entries are posted.