Apito wins Berks County Poet Laureate title in thrilling competition

More than 100 poetry lovers packed into Reading City Council Chambers Friday night, April 26, to witness the crowning of Adrian Perez-Roman, also known on stage as Apito, as the 10th Poet Laureate of Berks County. He also made history, becoming the first Puerto Rican to hold the honor.

Apito snatched the title and the $1,000 cash prize, after four thrilling rounds of astoundingly fierce competition from his fellow finalists: Aries Franklin Ortiz, also known as The Poet Smiley; John Zabala, also known as Soul Papi; and Madelyne Snader.

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The contest was conducted by community engagement nonprofit Barrio Alegria and the four finalists were selected out of more than 20 written and recorded manuscripts from poets all over Berks.

Perez-Roman, 31, said he was taken aback by the victory that took place in front of a lively and supportive audience.

“I was just shocked,” Perez-Roman, of Reading, said. “You write poetry because you love to do it, you do it because you want to be heard, you do it to connect with people. And when you are used to losses and being overlooked, to be seen by a crowd— it shows me to believe in yourself and have faith in yourself and fully accept yourself.”

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Judging for the evening was conducted by published author and Reading native David Nazario, arts activist and Reading School District parent liaison Arleny Pimentel, and Reading poet Noah Ayala, who represented the United States at the Ditet e Naimit International Albanian Poetry Festival in 2018.

Perez-Roman will hold the title of laureate for two years and in that time, he is expected to advance the art form of poetry in Berks County. He is working with his fellow finalists and outgoing poet laureate Anthony Orozco to plan what that looks like for his community.

“My thing is connecting with creatives and bringing it to the youth,” Perez-Roman said. “I truly want our community to come together and put creativity into action.”

Orozco said he is immensely proud of Perez-Roman and all of the other finalists who displayed their fearlessness and poetry prowess in the head-to-head competition. He also said the evening is an example of how empowered artists can change the status quo.

“Usually, when City Hall is packed to the brim, it is because residents are frustrated, divided, and calling for change,” Orozco said “Friday night, it was packed because they were joyful, unified, and because change was taking place in real time.”

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Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly is an independent and locally owned digital newspaper covering the City of Reading and Berks County. Subscribe today: berksweekly.com/subscribe
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