Art & Culture

Local student earns honorable mention at state poetry competition

Angelo Hillstock shares his poem about the pandemic.

Local high school student Angelo Hillstock recently won an honorable mention at the California Poetry Out Loud competition put on by the California Arts Council. He placed first in San Benito County’s contest in February.

Hillstock added a new poem to his repertoire at the state competition—“And If I Did, What Then?” by George Gascoigne—but it was his own composition that earned him an honorable mention. He wrote the poem “Tinnitus” about his experience of the pandemic.

Amanda Chiado, local poet with California Poets in the Schools and Director of Arts Education at the nonprofit San Benito County Arts Council, coached Hillstock for the competition.

“Angelo is a talented, intelligent and kind young man,” Chiado said. “He showed poise and style in delivering his recitations and original work. It was very exciting to see how his narrative voice came through in both the recitations and in his original work. I most appreciated his support of his peers during the competition. His original poem ‘Tinnitus’ was incredibly relevant, lyrical, and entirely hopeful. He’s got a bright future ahead of him!”

Hillstock will enter his junior year at San Benito High School this fall and hopes to enter Poetry Out Loud in front of a live audience next time.

“It is strange to do it without an audience,” Hillstock said.

“Tinnitus” by Angelo Hillstock

You know that ringing noise in your ears when it gets real quiet?
That’s called tinnitus.
My tinnitus began the last time I walked off my school’s campus,
But I didn’t notice it then.
The world was shut down, the streets hollow and empty,
A pandemic taking over the world. But I was fine.
Everything was silent, sitting inside my room, and I was content.
But then my dog died.
Many places were closed, no one there to help, and in the end
I didn’t get a proper goodbye.
And so my tinnitus became audible.
Around the country protests began to break out,
People screaming at one another.
All the while I sat in my room, my tinnitus getting louder.
Every time I logged into Zoom, it got louder.
Every time I forgot to put on a mask, it got louder.
Every time I woke up, did nothing all day, and went back to sleep
It got louder. It got louder everyday.
Nowadays, the once unnoticeable ringing in my ears roars every second,
Stabbing my eardrums, shrieking like a crude violin.
I pace back and forth in my room, wanting somewhere to go, anywhere,
So I could outrun this horrid ringing forever.
I want to go back, back before I had tinnitus, back when it was silent.
And I know I’m not the only one either.
It’s easy to forget, but others can hear the ringing too.
Perhaps you can as well.
Perhaps we’re both longing to go back.
But I know it will grow quieter, someday.
Not silent, but quieter. All we have to do is wait.
That’s the hard part.
But it gets easier when you have someone to wait with.

Other related BenitoLink articles:

Poetry Out Loud competition moves online


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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.