Birukti Tsige, a senior at Malden High School, recently represented Malden High School at the state finals for the 2019 Poetry Out Loud competition. Tsige has participated in POL for all four years of her high school career, advancing to the school finals in her freshman year, when she placed second. Although she did not place her junior year, she persisted and went on to win first place her senior year.
Birukti was introduced to Poetry Out Loud when she was a freshman. Before coming to high school, she was not very interested in poetry because she had never been given the opportunity to perform, which changed once she arrived at Malden High, where participation in POL is mandatory.
Tsige likes that POL is mandatory because, while there are some students who do not like performing, “[poetry recitation is] a chance for [students] to really take something to heart and memorize that for a long time and work on it and perform it in front of [their] class.”
She likes the aspect of taking a poem and making it unique because it is not just about reciting, “[it is] about performing it and making it come alive.”
Tsige practiced her poem repeatedly so that, by the time she got up to perform in class, “it felt really nice and [she] felt like [she] really owned [her] first poem because it had attitude, it had swagger, it had this southern vibe to it.” For that reason, she felt really connected to the poem.
Tsige made it to the state competition, however, she did not advance to the next stage. There were two rounds and she said she liked the first round and thought “it went pretty well”. Other students presented their poems and Tsige felt like they did very well too. After everyone finished reciting their poem, POL representatives announced who made it to finals. Unfortunately she did not, but all her persistent effort was the reason she got up on that stage and passionately performed her poem.
On stage, Tsige normally gets stressed and anxious, but she said “[it is] a healthy type of stress that makes [her] want to perform better.” Throughout her experience in high school, she has always been performing poetry. She has done poetry for Junior Varieties and Speech and Debate, so this helped her improve her skills in reciting poetry and it gave her confidence when she was up on the stage. “Seeing all the contestants from the other schools was kind of intimidating”, she stated. However, she felt like she owned her poem which added to her confidence.
Not only did she make it to States for Poetry Out Loud, but she is also going to States for Speech and Debate. She loves listening to poetry online and on Youtube because it gives her ideas of quotes she can use in Speech and Debate when she is competing.
Tsige loves Poetry Out Loud and even though people may write poetry, she feels like “poetry is meant to be performed.” Overall, she enjoys watching people perform poetry because “people bringing poems to life and using their own voice to show what they think the poem means is so special.”