If you had walked into the JHS auditorium at the end of a recent school day in December, you would have found 17 students standing on the stage, in a spotlight, reciting poetry, not for a class, but as part of the National Poetry Out Loud competition. The school-level contest, won by senior, Chiara Raimondo, was open to all JHS students this year.
“It was such a great experience, and there were so many amazing performances,” said Chiara, who recited Bleeding Heart by Carmen Gimenez Smith. “Performing poetry allows me to express myself with the most simplistic forms of communication – speech and body language,” said Raimondo. “It’s incredible satisfying to refine these skills into an art form and share with an audience.” Senior, Cellyann Semidey, placed second, reciting Cabezon, by Amy Beeder. A fan of slam poetry, Cellyann commented, “you have to really understand the poem’s meaning and then decide how you are going to express it.”
JHS students are participating in the Poetry Out Loud contest for the fifth year in a row as part of an exciting resurgence in poetry as an oral art form. Students in classes ranging from English 9 to College Level 12, from Creative Expressions to Drama and Public Speaking, entered the Poetry Out Loud Recitation contest. Each student memorized a poem from an authorized list and was evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, overall performance and accuracy.
“Studying a poem, making it your own, and then reciting it as a gift to the audience is a beautifully rewarding experience,” said JHS English Department Chair, Barbi Price. “I believe that human experience can be more easily understood and enjoyed when transmitted through the medium of art and literature. Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills and builds self-confidence while analyzing the themes, tone, and diction of a wide range of poems. The program encourages students to interpret and enliven poems in a way that is powerfully and clearly conveyed to others.”
The two JHS winners must memorize two more poems before they travel to Buffalo on February 2nd to compete against students from across Western New York in the Regional Poetry Out Loud Contest. Winners of that competition will advance to the New York State competition in Syracuse, and ultimately, to the National Finals in Washington DC.