By JULIA PARKER
As the school year descended into the third quarter, the stakes rose for the Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition. The final competition arrived to the Jenkins auditorium on Jan. 28. 2014, bringing a lot more pressure with it for the fourteen competitors.
Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation contest, which “uses a pyramid structure that starts at the classroom level,” and then proceeds to a school wide competition, the winner of which advances to the regional and/or state competition, the ultimate goal being the National Finals. The purpose of the competition is to “[encourage] the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation.” Since the pilot programs in Washington D.C., and Chicago, were a success, Poetry Out Loud was launched in high schools around the country in the spring of 2006. Since then, the program has been helping “students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.”
Although, it is not unanimously enjoyed throughout Malden High School, the competition is something which many students and staff look forward to each year. Before the final performance at Jenkins Auditorium, participant, junior Alan Shooteech was “nervous,” and “not sure of how [he was] going to do,” but he stood in front of the audience and recited his poem expertly, despite his feelings.
Hava Daniels, a math teacher at MHS “[enjoys] the Poetry Out Loud competition because it brings the poems to life, and makes learning them much more interesting,” than sitting in an English classroom, listening to the teacher drone on. The competition is something which can show students a new side to poetry, and many times changes their perception of it.
A different aspect to the school’s final competition, as opposed to the semi-finals, is the fact that students must memorize a second poem, to go along with the first. While this adds to the stress of going up in front of their peers and reciting words that are not their own, it shows how dedicated students can be towards their poems. This also increases the difficulty of the competition and motivates students to work harder to win the coveted title of school wide champion.
Students are not the only ones which are put under pressure during the final round; each year, some teachers, voluntarily, have to as well. During the “intermission” between the students’ two poems, there is a small teacher competition, where the teachers get their piece.
Daniels stated that her favorite part of the teacher competition “[was] the opportunity to show the students that [they] respect what they do”, and that the competition is just as stressful for the teachers, as it is for the students. English teacher Sean Walsh shared similar sentiments, stating that “[it is] not just one class or one group of students, [it is] all of us celebrating poetry.”
Junior participant Sebastian Patino stated that the participation of teachers is encouraging and “levels out the playing field,” seeing them work as hard as they have been for weeks.
This year’s final competition was a close one. The heavy talent in the room brought on a lot of competition among 12 participants. First place winner was junior Fitzgerald Eloi, reciting poems “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth and “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman, and because of his successful recitation, he will be performing at the regionals competition.
Second place went to junior Angelica Carberry, reciting “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens, and “Often Rebuked, Yet Always Back Returning” by Emily Bronte, where she almost moved further on, but she was not quite there.
Last, but definitely not least, third place went to senior Larissa Fiote reciting “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats and “Zacuanpapalotls” by Brenda Cárdenas.
A final congratulations to all the participants and good luck to first place winner Eloi who will be representing MHS at the Greater Boston Regional Competition on March 1, 2014.