Poetry recitation is a competitive event as old as the Olympic Games. Along with wrestling, long-distance running, and the javelin toss, the ancient Olympics included contests in music and poetry. Jamestown High School has long been known for its award-winning music, championship sports, and accelerated academic programs, but now it looks as though it’s on its way to becoming a “poetry powerhouse,” as well!
In December, nineteen JHS students recited poems before an independent panel of judges in the JHS auditorium. Students were evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy during their poetry recitation. Two JHS winners, Chiara Raimondo and Zac Ricker, headed to Buffalo to compete against other regional high school winners.
JHS Senior, Zac Ricker, won the Western New York Regional Poetry Out Loud competition at Erie Community College with his recitation of “Broken Promises” by David Kirby, “A March in the Ranks Hard-pressed” by Walt Whitman, and “Aria” by David Barber.
“I became involved in Poetry Out Loud through my JHS College-Level Public Speaking class, taught by Mrs. Price,” said Zac. “I had never done anything like this before, but I found that I learned more about poetry, and I also realized that all the arts have a similar relationship. I play the piano and am involved in the JHS musical. While doing so, I must make artistic choices based on how I want people to perceive the music; that is paralleled in poetry, too. By emphasizing certain words or changing my inflection, I can breathe life into a poem’s story. It’s been such a valuable experience.”
On March 9, he will travel to Syracuse, New York with his English/ Public Speaking teacher, Barbi Price, to compete for the New York State Poetry Out Loud title. The winner of the New York State contest will then proceed to the National Finals at George Washington University in Washington DC, where the winner receives $25,000.00.
“Zac’s growth in vocal variation and dramatic performance has been tremendous,” said Mrs. Price. “Part of the fun of Poetry Out Loud is seeing the students blossom as public speakers. Not only do they learn more about the beauty of poetry, but they also gain valuable skill and confidence that transfer to other activities and real-life experiences.”
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with state arts agencies to create Poetry Out Loud, a program which invites the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into JHS English classes. Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills, build self- confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Students who study, memorize, and perform timeless poems are immersed in powerful language and provocative ideas.