Poetry Out Loud: Semi-Final Competition

It is Poetry Out Loud season and Malden High School is ready for another competition with performances of all sorts of poetry. Poetry Out Loud (POL) can be exciting with effort, creativity, and ability to overcome obstacles, especially for those who are not usually comfortable speaking in public. 

Students first choose a poem they want to recite, then they analyze it and start memorizing it. For the recitation, it is important to incorporate the meaning of the poem, be present, and show an understanding of the poem through controlled tone and facial expressions. 

Shannon Alexis, an English teacher at Malden High School, brought her students to the Writers Den, located in B327, for their POL performances. Alexis invited students to bring food so they could share and celebrate what can be, for some, a very stressful experience.

During class competitions, students arrive prepared for the presentation, each and every student has the right to ask for a line at any time during recitation by saying “word,” or, “line.” Teachers try to make the students comfortable by giving them lines so that all students can focus on a better performance. 

Senior Omar Asousy reciting his poem. Photo by Julia Custodio.

Students are graded based on their physical presentation, their understanding of the poem and how prepared they are.  Alexis also mentioned how she imagines POL can be a really difficult thing to deal with, for people who are new to the language because, “not only do [students] have to memorize it, but [they] also have to get up and put [themselves] out there.”   

Malden High School held the Semi-Final Competition of Poetry Out Loud where students represented their English class and gathered together at the auditorium to perform their class-winning recitation. 

Alexis has held Poetry Out Loud almost her entire career, around 12 years of her life, [she] says that [she] is always surprised with the people who tend to be quiet, and who suddenly have amazing, powerful performances. “[It is] sort of like a hidden talent.” Alexis also mentioned how she imagines POL can be a really difficult thing to deal with, for people who are new to the language, “because not only do you have to memorize it, but you also have to get up and put yourself out there.” Teachers try to make the students comfortable so they can perform well.

Ruthma Eugene is one of the performers that was selected for the Semi-Finals. Eugene performed “The Mothering Blackness” by Maya Angelou. She states that she chose this poem because it reminds her of her childhood and the problems that interfered with her life including racial comments from her skin to how different she was. One of the lines that spoke to her was “…threats of northern winds die on the desert’s face” because it represents how to face hurdles like mean comments and unsupportive friends. 

Eugene claims how “difficult” it was to memorize her poem. At first, she had problems understanding the poem until it was read over again. The strategies used to memorize her poem were writing it down, recording herself, reading the poem, and practicing in the mirror with hand gestures. Overall, Ruthma felt “proud” to be part of the Poetry Slam final although it was nerve-racking at first but in the end, she says it was a “great” experience. 

The Poetry Out Loud (POL) Finals will be held at the auditorium on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

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