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At Walt Whitman home, Super Poem Sunday

Banners of well-known poets like Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes hung from the wood-paneled ceilings, as poets sang, rhymed and read their own original works.

While football fans were readying beer, chips and chicken wings for the Super Bowl, poets at the Walt Whitman birthplace in West Hills were doing the same for the fourth  Super Poem Sunday slam.

“We’re having team spirit,” said Doug Swezey, a board member of the Long Island Poetry Collective, which hosted the event. “Instead of a television screen, we see it live.”

The afternoon was filled with readings of poems that both made listeners laugh and cry.

Jay Vegas, 29, of Freeport, won the first-place Golden Football award, a gold cup with a gold-painted football on it. His poem was about his father, who he says was never there for him.

“This is the best thing my dad ever got me,” Vegas said. “I wrote the poem in 10th grade and decided to read this poem because I’m about to be a father.”

The runners-up were James Wagner in second place. He read his poem lightning fast, and had people laughing at how well he spoke at that speed. In third place was Marq Wells, who recited a number of poems, one of which was inspired by a New York Times article on a tsunami.

There was also a mock half-time show that included singing and dancing. 

Other readers included Max Wheat, the first poet laureate of Nassau County, who read a poem to his wife (it was their anniversary); George Wallace, the first poet laureate of Suffolk County; and Lois Walker, 82, a founder of the Long Island Poetry Collective.

“Poetry is not supposed to be something to despise having had to take in high school,” Wallace said. “It’s supposed to be something to enjoy because it’s popular art form.”

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