Photo Credit: Lindsay Calka/used with permission
Academy of the Holy Names has been holding the annual Poetry Out Loud competition for 8 years.
Poetry Out Loud encourages students nationwide to learn about poems and poets through memorization and recitation. This program encourages students to practice public speaking skills, gain confidence, and indulge themselves in literary history and contemporary life.
On Tuesday, January 31, Poetry Out Loud was a great success with freshman Georgia Ruffalo* placing 4th, junior Abby Rodriguez placing 3rd, sophomore Hira Khan placing 2nd, and senior Lizzie Dolan placing 1st.
Following the competition, ACHONA received the chance to chat with some of the contestants about their experience.
1) Have you ever done any poetry before this/ are you interested in poetry?
Dolan: “I live off poetry. Period. That’s final. Literally. It is my life, my breath, my sustainment. I write when I’m mad, I write when I’m happy, I write when I have nothing new to write about. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without this love. I’ve performed once or twice at a slam place, but I’ve been writing since I was in 4th grade. I also did POL freshman year.”
Rodriguez: “I’ve never written any poetry, but I actually competed in the Poetry Out Loud school competition last year too. I honestly don’t really like writing poetry, but I do enjoy hearing it and speaking it.”
Khan: “I made it to the over 9th grade class finals as a freshman last year, however I haven’t really done anything past that. I do love poetry, not so much writing it- but I enjoy reading little pieces of it here and there. I have a few poetry books, they allow the imagination to really just create visually stunning images in your mind, due to the constant element of description, which I absolutely love.”
2) Were you nervous before your recitation?
Dolan: “I wasn’t that bad actually, probably because I still remember Freshman year and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. I will say that I was really stressed out about my second poem, though, because I literally memorized it the night before and still had trouble with some lines.”
Rodriguez: “I thought I was going to be really nervous and before everyone came inside, I was as nervous as I thought as I would be, but as soon as I was backstage, I wasn’t nervous at all. I knew my poem and I knew I knew my poem. I was extremely confident in myself which didn’t make me feel as nervous.”
Khan: “I was anxious, but I managed to control my nerves in the end. I was the most nervous backstage, right before my turn, as I was afraid I would blank out and forget my piece.”
3) How did you memorize your poem?
Dolan: “This one is funny…I memorized my poems in the bathtub. No joke. I would turn on the hot water, throw in some lavendar bubble soap and wait until the water was really bubbly, and then I would open my laptop and just read the same lines over and over and over again until I got the rhythm down. It’s interesting, I don’t really memorize the words…I memorize the rhythm of the sentence, the way it rises and falls. Then the words just naturally come with it (of course with some tweaking here and there).”
Rodriguez: “I broke up each into four small parts so I could learn a part a day without a problem. I started memorizing them two weeks in advance to give myself the best chance too.”
Khan: “I just wrote it down a few times and recited it as much as I could until I was completely comfortable with the piece.”
4) What was it like to recite your poem in front of the entire school?
Dolan: “It honestly was fun. I had a blast. I just really want people to love poetry the way I do, that’s all. I think some people think it is weird or give it this angsty label before they even get to understand it. It is honestly one of the best releases for me, so performing today put me on this high that lasted the whole way through the school day.”
Rodriguez: “It’s honestly not that bad. The lights blind you so you can’t really see anyone, but I like to make eye contact with my audience, which can be difficult. When I do see past the lights though, it’s really entertaining to see how interested or amazed some people look while you’re reciting the poem and it makes it all worth it.”
Khan: “Nerve-wracking, but equally as enthralling! I was so excited to share the beauty and eloquence that my poem contained with the student body.”
5) What did you take away from this experience?
Dolan: “I think I have realized how much I enjoy performing live. I write…a lot. But I never perform for the most part. Maybe it’s time I start pushing myself and actually start saying them”
Rodriguez: “This second competition for me only built upon my confidence and I totally want to do it again next year and hopefully win.”
Khan: “I realized the Poetry Out Loud competition wasn’t much of a contest, rather, it was really just one big celebration to appreciate the beautiful impact of literature. Through listening to recitations we are able to delve into the various interpretations of the performers, as it promotes new perspectives of old works. It also lets the entire school discover the talents of their peers, because it permits students to embrace and indulge in a previously unknown side of themselves. I noticed this competition inspired so much unity throughout each representative’s grade as well, the entire class joined each other in rooting for their friend.”