Classical High School student wins 2023 Poetry Ourselves original poem competition

Natasha B. Connolly, right, a junior at Classical High School, poses with National Endowment for the Arts Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, left, as she accepts the award for winning the 2023 Poetry Ourselves competition in the written category for her original poem, Birdfolk at the End of the World. Photo by James Kegley

With her original poem, Birdfolk at the End of the World, Classical High School junior Natasha B. Connolly won the 2023 companion competition to Poetry Out Loud, Poetry Ourselves.

Connolly traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 9 and May 10 to compete in the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud Annual National Finals as Rhode Island’s Poetry Out Loud State Champion. In Washington, she also took part in the optional competition, Poetry Ourselves, where she submitted an original poem and garnered first prize. The competition was curated by poet Mahogany L. Browne.

Connolly’s Poem follows:

Birdfolk at the End of the World
By Natasha B. Connolly

you did not bear wings until the last of it,
the final days when the world burned and we set fire to its ashes.
only then did they trace the curve of your bones,
admiring: here is someone who was made for flight.

the shadow of your own escape might swallow you
when acid oozes from the sky like rain
the dark clouds, the drops falling like feathers
the imperceptible outline of you against the night

sprung from your shoulders, your late-grown wings
like crumpled paper, flattened out by the wind.
nothing special, these days, your trash protrusions,
your traitorous and inhuman back, your spine so bright.

in the atomic cloud we are all sick, all dying, all dead,
so what is one more broken thing carving out its home against the sky?
the sky is coming down in a downpour all around you,
yet the crowd surrounds you whispering fly, fall, fight.

Poetry Out Loud: National RecitationContest, a partnership with RISCA, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. For more information, visit

National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit NEA website.

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes and programs.

Community Poem – The Rhode Island Public Health Association Public Health Summit 2023

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The Rhode Island Arts and Health Partnership (RISCA and RIDOH) presented at the inaugural RI Public Health Association Public Health Summit on April 19, 2023, alongside artists and health professionals working in the field integrating arts to promote individual and community health and well-being.

This 2-day conference showcased innovative approaches in public health and included speakers with a focus on health equity and public health. The conference was open to healthcare and human services clinicians and providers, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, patients, health plans, researchers, public health officials, students and anyone interested in health equity and public health.

As part of our Arts and Health break-out session, co-presenters, Wendy Grossman invited all of our session attendees to co-create a community poem on wellness. Everyone was given the same prompt: My wellness feels like…. and asked to finish the line. Wendy collected the cards and created a poem from the submissions. She read the poem to the group before we closed our session.

(contributors: Amanda, Anisa, Deep, Denise, Eric, Karen, Kelsey, Kenya, Laura, William and 14 other Anonymous poets)

My Wellness Feels Like

My wellness feels like
a great day       a summer day
sometimes like a cold winter day that turns into a winter night
my wellness feels like the calm of the ocean on somedays
but also the crashing of the waves
my wellness feels like the peace and tranquility
and stillness after a rainstorm
feels like finding the perfect song that matches how I feel
my wellness feels like my baby kicking me
and reminding me he is there
my wellness feels like a breath of fresh air
like playing the right chord on my guitar
my wellness feels like sipping hot Guatemalan coffee (café Bombon)
at or around the PVD pedestrian bridge on a sunny day
feels like hanging outside, after family lunch,
blowing bubbles with my grown nephews
my wellness feels like the blooming cherry blossoms outside of the library
where I’m curled up by a huge window with my favorite book
and a steaming cup of coffee
my wellness feels like a healthy family around me and time to enjoy them
a positive sense of physical and mental well-being
my strength pushing me forward each day!
my wellness feels like contentment
like an exciting opportunity for self-care
my wellness feels like a hyacinth trying to keep itself up
sunshine beating down on my face
a warm summer sunny day enjoying all aspects of nature
and the wonder of all things
my wellness feels like selfcare, is surfing and music
the perfect combination of calm and energy
a balancing act held in equipoise, delicate but durable
my wellness feels like happiness
like a well-tuned cello
my wellness feels like the sound of my toddler’s snores and quietness of the night
I am finally able to hear myself think before dozing off to sleep
my wellness feels like understanding, acceptance,
needs that are easily accessed, harmony, peace, pain reduction,
community resources used to assist all, a universal love for all living things,
sharing of experiences to be known, to be heard and help others be heard,
to create better understanding and connectedness
my wellness feels like a cloudy night, waiting for the moon to come out!


More info on the session:

Break out Session: The impact of Arts and Health on individual and community health and well-being.

Co-presenters included Anisa Raoof, Arts and Health Grants Program Manager, RISCA and Steven Boudreau, Director, Office of Workforce Development and Employee Engagement, RIDOH along with:

Melody Gamba is a dance artist, educator, licensed mental health counselor, and board-certified dance/movement psychotherapist. She has collaborated with organizations to explore building connection and community through arts and was the 2022 Arts and Health Artist in Residence in partnership with RIDOH, RISCA, and Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). 

Wendy Grossman is an Activities Therapist and Coordinator of the Healing Arts Program at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Providence. Also, a writer, Wendy has over twenty-five years’ experience in utilizing the arts as a tool of engagement to promote individual and collective well-being in a variety of communities including adults experiencing homelessness, adults with mental illness, adults with physical and developmental disabilities, adults in addiction recovery, and with elder adults and youth.

Rachel Balaban is a Rhode Island teaching artist and movement educator. She is the regional coordinator for Dance for PD, and the founder of Dance for All People (DAPpers []), a multigenerational dance program designed for people with movement challenges and aging bodies. Rachel leads movement workshops for schools, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities, in addition to her extensive work in academia where she is an Associate Teacher at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University educating future doctors on the importance of dance for health. She is committed to helping people access their vitality and health through using their own bodies and to make dance accessible to all populations.

Nicole O’Malley is an Assistant Professor and founding director of URI’s Music Therapy program and founding Executive Director of Hands in Harmony, a local 501c3 nonprofit that oversees music therapy programming throughout RI.   

Artworks by Cynthia “Listens to the Wind” Ross Meeks to be on display at the Atrium Gallery at One Capitol Hill, April 11 – June 7

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Artist Cynthia “Listens to the Wind” Ross Meeks
Mark your calendar for the opening reception on Thursday, April 20, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) announced today works by Native American artist Cynthia “Listens to the Wind” Ross Meeks will be on display from April 11 to June 7 at the Atrium Gallery at One Capitol Hill on the main floor of the state’s Administration Building in Providence. The exhibit, called In Flight, features Indigenous circles formed by an assemblage of exquisite feathers.

The opening reception in the gallery will be on Thursday, April 20, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Meet the artist on Thursday, May 11, from noon to 1 p.m. Both events are open to the public.

“Knowledge of my ancestry and culture was the catalyst for the creation of this exhibition of Indigenous circles,” Ross Meeks said. “The work emanates from a sacred circle shape, used in cultures around the world, as a form of spiritual practice. I draw my inspiration from a rich history of using shields in Native American culture.”

Ross Meeks traced her ancestry back to the Royal House of the Pokanoket Tribe, a direct descent of Massasoit. Narragansett, Pequot and Wampanoag tribal nations are part of her family tree. Ross Meeks communes with the Native American community and incorporates love of her ancestry and anthropology into the artwork she creates.

“We are all under the same sky” – Cynthia “Listens to the Wind” Ross Meeks

Upcoming Gallery events

  • Opening Reception, Thursday, April 20, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Meet the Artist, Thursday, May 11, from noon to 1 p.m. 

Both are at the Atrium Gallery at One Capitol Hill on the first floor of the state Administration Building in Providence, and open to the public.

Exhibit details
What: In Flight, by Cynthia “Listens to the Wind” Ross Meeks Solo Exhibition, Atrium Gallery at One Capitol Hill, Providence.
When: On display, April 11 – June 7. Open to the public, weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Where: Atrium Gallery at One Capitol Hill is on the first floor of the state Administration Building in Providence