Cat Mong (10) to compete at state-wide poetry contest


Clara Stevanovic, Staff Writer

This coming Saturday, Cat Mong (10) will compete at the New York state-wide Poetry Out Loud (POL) recitation contest. 

This event will be Mong’s third round of the contest after the school-wide and regional rounds. At each stage of the contest, Mong recites three poems: “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, “A Fixed Idea” by Amy Lowell, and “A Hunger for Something” by Chase Twichell. Mong said she selected these poems because they resonated with her own experiences.

Last year, current POL co-president Emily Wang (10) also advanced to the state level. If Mong wins the state-wide contest, she moves onto the National level taking place this April. “No Horace Mann student has ever made it to nationals,” Wang said. 

Mong loves reciting poems because they create a unique story for each reader and listener’s own interpretation, she said. “You become the narrator and talk to the audience when you recite, which is really cool.” 

Even though each poem is different, Mong is able to elicit emotion from them all, Wang said. Of the three she performs, Mong’s signature is ‘Ozymandias.’ “In the line from the Ozymandias poem ‘my name is Ozymandias, King of Kings!’ she essentially takes the king’s form and projects so powerfully that she knocks the breath out of you,” Wang said. “When she’s up there, it’s like she’s not Cat anymore.”

Upper Division English teachers Sarah McIntyre and Dr. Jonathan Kotchian have been working with Mong to analyze the poems she is reciting. For example, McIntyre and Kotchian spent a significant amount of time studying the poem ‘A Hunger for Something’ by Twichell with Mong, which contains nuanced imagery and complex grammatical structure to unpack, McIntyre said. 

“Cat has a very strong understanding of the three poems she chose, but she also is very experimental with her interpretations,” Kotchian said. One scene from the poem Ozymandias describes details on the sculpted face of king Ozymandias’ fallen statue. Leading up to the POL contest, Mong worked through imagining the visage of Ozymandias’ statue and translating that analysis to performance, Kotchian said.

McIntyre is moved by Mong’s rendition of ‘Ozymandias,’ she said. “I have never heard a more passionate and engaged reading of that poem. I think Cat does Shelley proud,” she said. Mong’s deep understanding of the poems she recites is evident in her performance, McIntyre said. “Having that sort of grasp of what the emotional stakes are is what makes Cat’s readings extraordinarily powerful.”