If you had walked into the JHS auditorium at the end of a recent school day, you would have found 17 students standing on the stage in a spotlight, reciting poetry, not for a class, but as part of the National Poetry Out Loud competition. The school-level contest, won by senior Brianna Harris, was open to all JHS students this year.
"It was such a great experience, and there were so many amazing performances," said Brianna, who recited "And Soul" by Eavan Boland. "Reciting poetry helps your public speaking skill because you have to really understand the poem's meaning and then decide how you are going to express it." Abbie Johnson came in second, reciting "The Death of Allegory, and Johnna Graham placed third with "A Locked House."
The JHS students are participating in the contest as part of an exciting resurgence in poetry as an oral art form for the third year in a row. Students in classes, ranging from English 10 to college level 12, from creative expressions to drama and public speaking memorized poems from an authorized list and were evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy.
JHS Poetry Out Loud winners: Third place, senior Johnna Graham, second place, sophomore, Abbie Johnson, and first place, senior Brianna Harris.
"Studying poetry and then reciting it is a beautifully rewarding experience," said JHS ELA Department Chair, Barbi Price. "Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills and builds self-confidence while analyzing the themes, tone and diction of the world's most beloved poems. The program encourages students to interpret and enliven poems in a way that is powerfully and clearly conveyed to others."
The three JHS winners will travel to Buffalo on Feb. 12 to compete against students from across Western New York in the regional contest. Winners of that competition will advance to States, and ultimately, to the national finals in Washington, D.C.