By Sophia Cetina
Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation competition, cultivates a love for the art of poetry through performance of the written word. This process begins in the classroom and extends to school-wide, regional, and national events.
This is the third year that Rye High School English students have scoured the Poetry Out Loud online anthology database to find a poem that called to them. After memorizing a chosen work, they braved the intimidation of reading in front of the classroom as they shared their piece. On January 10, students and a panel of their English teachers met in the Chorus performance room for the school-wide competition. The teachers judged the students in categories that included accuracy, presence, and gesture, with an emphasis on adhering to the written work and expressing it in passionate ways. Mr. Roni Sarig, English teacher and judge, said, “It was a lot of fun to see students I’ve taught in recent years engaging in poetry and deriving joy from it. Poetry Out Loud is a program that allows students to see poetry as a living art form.”
Poetry Out Loud has influenced over 3 million students, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy feat for those who participate. Senior Phoebe Frenchman said, “Preparing for the poem took a lot of time. It felt different reciting it alone versus in front of the entire class, but I felt accomplished after.” The poem she selected, Stuart Dybek’s “Peligro”, is one of hundreds that comprise the online database, which features, for example, pre-20th century poems that are 25 lines or less.
The recitation experience yields benefits beyond discovering new poetry and the impact of hearing it spoken. Julia Mackey, a senior AP Literature student, notes, “I think more kids should take advantage of opportunities like these because it gives us the chance to speak in front of a crowd and develop the confidence to do so.” Practice with public speaking, memorization, self-confidence, and stage presence is incredibly valuable for young minds. It isn’t easy, but it does get easier, and Julia adds, “Once I started, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.”
Ms. Christen Klewicki, English teacher and project coordinator, said, “I’m impressed with the students that participated and I hope that the program will grow. We all need more poetry.”
<The author and classmate Sasha Spitz, both juniors, will represent Rye High School at the regional competition at SUNY Purchase College February 7 at 6 p.m.>