Poetry Out Loud

By August Kissel and Julia Skeval 

If all you had to do to win $20,000 was recite a few lines by Shakespeare, would you do it? Patrice Martin and Urmi Roy, two students at Jamesville-DeWitt High School, certainly thought so, and now they have advanced one step closer to claiming that prize.

In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation partnered together with state arts agencies to put on Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. The competition was created to help students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage. The contest uses a pyramid structure that begins in the classroom/school-wide level, with the winners advancing to a regional and/or state competition and then ultimately to the National Finals. On Jan. 14, 2014, J-DHS hosted a Poetry Out Loud Competition that attracted eight students from all different grade levels.

English teacher Matt Phillips, who ran the competition at J-DHS, said that because this is a national competition, there is a strict set of guidelines for how it’s supposed to be run. “Three judges score the contestant, another judge concentrates solely on the accuracy at which the contestant recites the poem and a final judge tallies the score,” Phillips said. According the teacher’s guide for the Poetry Out Loud contest, the judges are not allowed to speak to one another when the performances are going on or while scoring each contestant.

Junior Patrice Martin earned first, reciting the poems “A Song in the Front Yard” by Gwendolyn Brooks and “To Elsie” by William Carlos Williams. Participants are supposed to choose two poems that contrast one another and must be found on the Poetry Out Loud official site. “I chose (these poems) because I felt like they conveyed the emotion in the words that I was feeling as I recited them,” Martin said. When it came to winning, she said she was surprised, as it was very unexpected. “However, I was very excited, of course.”

Sophomore Urmi Roy came in second place, having recited the poems, “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” by Lord Byron and “Sonnet 18,” by William Shakespeare. Roy chose the poems she did because, “Shakespeare’s poem was sweet and about people in love, while Lord Byron’s was all about destruction and a Syrian warrior. They contrasted perfectly against one another.” Though she finished second, Roy was still really excited because she can still win the ultimate prize of $20,000. “I found this competition a little difficult at first because I’m more of a theatrical person while this is just saying lines,” Roy said. However, she also said that she enjoys being up in front of people and making them feel, which is what she was focusing on while reciting these poems.

“The two winners from the school wide competition now travel up to the regional level,” Phillips said. The Regional Competition will be held at Onondaga Community College on Feb. 2nd at 7:00. In the case of one contestant not being able to attend, the third place finisher would take their place. Freshman Ellie Anbar came in third, reciting the poems, “Difference,” by Stephen Vincent Benet and “Eagle Poem,” by Joy Harjo. Anbar was excited with her third place finish and said she chose the poems because “(they) sounded good when I read them to myself and they were really fun to memorize and recite.”

For more information on the Poetry Out Loud competition, see Mr. Phillips in room R26 or visit the contest’s official site: www.poetryoutloud.org/