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Poetry Out Loud debuts at RAHS

Students at RAHS attend their first Poetry Out Loud competition

By Mauricio Ayon

Freshman Kayla Tran, winner of the School competition, reciting "Dirge without Music," by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Freshman Kayla Tran, winner of the School competition, reciting “Dirge without Music,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

On Jan. 17, students and teachers met in the PLC for the first Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition at RAHS. The competition aims to foster the love of poetry in high schools around the country.

Freshman English teacher, Wayne Storer, was the organizer and mastermind behind bringing POL to RAHS. He believes it will make poetry more accessible by simplifying it.

 

Storer started by involving poetry in his Aviation Theatre course, giving his students the opportunity to perform their poems in front of the class and after school.

“I feel like it’s a low risk way to get kids interested and engaged in poetry,” said Storer. “They don’t have to tackle their emotions, they don’t have to view poetry as this monolith of tough to analyze, cryptic language.”

The competition itself involves students reciting poems in a way that shows the emotion intended by the author. Students are evaluated based on memorization, recitation, and physical expression to determine who will continue to the next level.

“Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation competition,” said Storer. “Once they win the classroom level, they compete at the school level, and then there are regional competitions, state competitions, and a national championship.”

In preparation for the school competition, RAHS freshman and winner of the school wide competition Kayla Tran, had to understand the poems that she was reciting on a deeper level.

“It’s more memorizing and getting down the physical appearances and emotions into the poem,” said Tran. “I would analyze the poem to know at what points I needed to raise my voice or lower my voice and create either anger or sadness.”

Poetry Out Loud offers more than just an easy way for students to understand poetry. It provides a safe environment where they can express their emotions and engage with poetry without feeling intimidated.

“It’s low stakes for them,” said Storer. “They can get in front of the classroom, they can present, and they don’t have to necessarily spill their gut and so they engage with and learn about great poetry …in a manner that there’s not a lot of fear in poems.”

Contestant and freshman Brigitta Nguyen can attest to the difficulty in preparing for the competition.

“What was really hard was …choosing our poems and there were certain parts that were [challenging in] trying to make ourselves understand what the poem meant,” said Nguyen, “as well as standing in front and trying to be brave and confident while [we] recited our poem.”

 

Even though there were hardships with preparing for the competition all of the contestants gave their all. The winner in particular gave a little extra.

 

“They had the ability,” said Storer, “and particularly Kayla, who won. She just has way of expressing these big emotional ideas through the tone in her voice and her expression that is unbelievable, she’s a shy girl, …and to see her be able to be so expressive is really awesome.”

 

With all the contestants bringing their A-game, it was the best Poetry Out Loud Storer could have asked for.
“That was the best Poetry Out Loud event that I had seen,” said Storer, ”and I am way biased because it was my event, but all ten of the competitors were just fabulous, totally committed, totally engaged, just awesome.”

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