Competitors face annual Poetry Out Loud competition

Kayla Tran, winner of this year’s and last year’s POL competition, performing “Ways of Talking” by Ha Jin.
Photo Credit: Ryan Lipour

Poetry Out Loud (POL) competitions took place in three different classes this year: AP Literature and Composition, Sophomore English, and Aviation Theater. RAHS English teacher Wayne Storer ran the competitions in Aviation Theater and AP Literature and Composition, while Sarah Fitzpatrick and Mr. Storer ran the competitions for Sophomore English.

POL is a national poetry competition where students pick a couple of poems, memorize them, then recite them in different competitions. The goal of POL is to get students involved with poetry.

“POL helps students learn about poetry in a different way,” said Storer, “other than the scary, oh poetry is so hard and I have to analyze it and I don’t understand and it has so much depth and meaning. It is a different relationship and understanding of poetry, and for many kids, it is a different introduction to poetry.”

Going into the school wide competition, Storer believes that all the competitors are fully prepared, yet can’t emphasize enough the importance of practice outside of class.

“Like most things in school, the more you work at it, the better you get,” said Storer. “If they are preparing, if they are working on their recitation at home, if they are reciting to other people, they will be better.”

In the competitions, students stand in front of an audience and judges, and recites their poem from memory. The objective is to present the poem in such a way that shows a deeper understanding of the already complex piece of work. Storer believes that with a little bit more practice, the students will do very well during the school competition.

“They couldn’t possibly just prepare from the time in class, and win. Period.” said Storer. “They have to work outside of class. From the class competition, it looked like the winners are as prepared as they ever have been in my class.”

Senior Cole Graham won the in class competition for AP Literature third period. Heeding Storer’s advice, Graham prepared his recitation in a variety of different ways.

“I practiced in class in both my Aviation Theater class and my AP Literature class,” said Graham, “but I did most of my preparation in my first period TA class, with my friends. Whenever I would mess up, they would laugh, so I learned how to perform with adversary and distraction.”

Presenting in front of a large group, regardless of how much you prepare and practice, can still be a daunting task. Going in to the competition, especially when you don’t like speaking in front of a group, can be a nerve wracking experience.

“Yes, I was nervous,” said Graham, “because I don’t really like speaking in front of people, but I was excited at the same time. I was nervous that my friends would hold up posters and make me laugh in the middle of my performance, so I was nervous.”

Battling through the nerves, and coming out the other side successful, can lead to a sense of accomplishment and desire to compete further. However, in some cases, the nerves of a larger scale competition can deter students, such as Graham, and take away any interest in advancing further.

“For me, poetry is a private thing,” said Graham. “I write it and I share it with those who matter to me the most, and I don’t want to share my poetic musings with people who may not know me, like the general public.”

With the in-class and school competitions over, the POL recitation winners are looking to expand outwards and compete in larger venues.

“National finals are in the spring,” said Storer. “Students that win their schools go to either regional or state finals, and the winners of the state finals go to the national finals.”

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