BY TOBY PITAN & SARA ZAKARIA
Starting right after the holiday break, the semi-finals of Poetry Out Loud took place on Thursday, January 5, and Friday, January 6.
Poetry Out Loud is a tradition at MHS, taking place every year. Students are required to memorize a poem of their choice off the Poetry Out Loud website, and recite the poem in front of their English class. The winners of each class gets to move onto the semi-finals, reciting the same poem, but this time in the Jenkins auditorium, pitting winners of different English classroom competitions from the same period.
There was a new addition to the Poetry Out Loud, or POL, competition for all English classes this year. This year, all students were presented with optional ways of reciting their poem to their teacher apart from the traditional classroom renditioning. Apart from the standard class recitation, students were allowed to go after school and recite their poem to their teacher, create a song out of their poem, or record a video themselves performing their poem. These options were presented for students who may not have wanted to participate in the class recitation, but still wanted to complete the assignment. Though, students who did not recite their poem aloud to their classmates were not eligible for the school wide competition.
Senior Jia Huang stated that she likes that there are options and choices regarding recitation this year because “not everybody is comfortable when standing in front of [their] class and reciting a poem.” Huang also stated that she likes that POL “brings out the confidence out of people…who you wouldn’t expect to talk and put emotion in their voice, even if they’re scared.”
Senior Zanta Ephrem said how “[POL] makes people to face their fears, people [are able to] memorize their poems [even if it is] just to get it out of the way.”
Likewise, Senior Tamala Mkandawire stated how she felt that POL “should be optional [though] it [does] bring everyone out of their comfort zone.”
Another Senior, James Garcia felt that POL “can help you in the future,” since it is an experience that can help with public speaking and could be especially helpful for those who may usually be shy or more reserved.
The Poetry Out Loud website offers students a plethora of categories of poems, which adds variety to the students’ potential experience. Students could choose from types of poetry including pre-20th century poems, modern poems, and poems based on specific literary techniques such as Ars Poetica or “the art of poetry”, free verse, dramatic monologue, etc. The website also offers tips and techniques for reciting poetry, videos of past finalists from across the country, and audio clips of poetry for students to listen for preparation.
All English classes in grades 9-12 from English 9 CP to AP Literature and Composition were required to memorize a poem and perform it via one of the aforementioned options to their teacher or fellow classmates. Any student from any class, as long as they received the highest score in their class could participate in the auditorium semi-finals and potentially the penultimate finals held in late January.
Depending on the class, students were given multiple weeks to prepare in and out of class for their recitation. Along with the memorization and recitation, many students were given multiple assignments to be completed to help them better understand their selected poem, the competition, and to just be able to appreciate the art that is poetry recitation.
POL state and national finals are composed of 3 rounds of competition. For every round a student progresses though, they must memorize another poem of their choice off the POL website. Semifinals and finals are judged yearly by MHS English teacher Jennifer Clapp and an additional judge, which this year was MHS teacher Allen Phelps. POL is moderated by Play Production director and MHS English teacher Sean Walsh. Walsh also scores each contestant on accuracy.
One of the winners of the period 4 group, sophomore Jenna Vanella, chose to recite the poem “Little Girl” by Tami Haaland. She successfully had moved onto the semifinals this year as well last year. This time, however, she was able to move beyond the semi-finals, winning in her group, and advancing to the finals.
Compared to last year, she said this year’s semifinals was “different, because [she] knew the people who were on stage with [her].” She stated that she was delighted to be competing with her friends, which made some of her uneasiness go away.
“It’s nerve racking to be on stage,” she noted, “but it’s a whole lot of excitement after you finished reciting.” Vanella’s advice to newcomers competing next year, is to try to have fun and stay calm. “It is scary to have to recite your poem to an audience, but the only thing that could go wrong is that you forget a line and try again next year.”
After the semi-final round which began on January 5, the following students have progressed to the final round of school competition: seniors Paul Araiza, Nathan Ghebremicael, Marisa Vasquez, James Mac, Victoria MacDonald, and Gaudenz Brooks, juniors Meghan Yip, Christina Charles, Jenny Huynh, Antonetta Remedi-Brown, and Alexa Murray, and sophomores Sammy Lee, Paige Pimental, Vanella, and Libby Taylor.
Finals will take place during long block on January 25th.