How Poetry Out Loud shares the wonders of words with students
Poetry doesn’t seem to have a tidal presence in modern literature. However, it’s alive and thriving, and Poetry Out Loud, an organization and competition that inspires students to share, has a lot to do with it.
Juniors Thea Ward and Stella Georgian competed last year, in Poetry Out Loud when it was fresh on the ELHS scene.
“My sophomore year in English, we had to read poems everyday day, and Barber pointed out to me that I would be good in Poetry Out Loud,” said Ward. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone.” Ward won the regional level but chose not to compete at states.
Georgian was invited to the 2017 workshop and was first runner-up when she went to states.
“Coming into [the competition], I thought I would do poorly, but it was an amazing experience. You learn so much, and you feel so vulnerable presenting the poetry, but after you finish reciting, it leaves you feeling satisfied,” said Georgian.
Following the success of their first year, both Ward and Georgian decided to attend the Poetry Out Loud workshop in downtown Hartford on Dec. 20, 2018, along with seven other students from ELHS new to the competition. Sophomores Grace Barnhart and Ella Rupe were among the new recruits venturing to the workshop.
“It was exciting, because now I have a confidence that I can do it. But it’s hard because you have to know what your poem is about first before you can present it,” said Barnhart.
During the workshop, everyone was split into two groups with mentors guiding them about how to storytell with tone.
Poet John L. Stanizzi was also a significant person at the workshop and helped coach students to read their poems with more power. Rupe valued the constructive criticism she received from Mr. Stanizzi: “It really does help, because you’re not just seeing your poem from your point of view, you’re seeing it in a published poet’s point of view, too. You want that criticism you want as much as you can get.”
During the competition, poems are graded on how effectively the message of the poem is communicated through the student and audience. Reading a poem with the right amount of dramatic appropriateness was very important.
With many years of experience under his belt, Mr. Stanizzi was in awe of the number of people who went to the workshop in pursuit of poetry, and shared that being there to feel the emotion from the poems made him feel alive.
“Too many high school kids only know about Robert Frost, or Emily Dickinson, or older poets, but the truth in Poetry Out Loud is that most of the poets are living, writing people,” said Mr. Stanizzi.
“The important thing that students should understand is that poetry is not dead, it’s alive, and it’s relevant,” said Mr. Stanizzi.