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Jamestown Public Schools
Jamestown High School students continue to make poetry their own by memorizing poems and then reciting them in front of an independent panel of judges. On December 19, twenty-six students stood on the JHS stage, in a spotlight, reciting poetry, not for a class, but as part of the National Poetry Out Loud competition. The school-level contest winners were sophomore, Stephanie Beriso and junior, Olivia Ruiz.
“I was a great experience that I really enjoyed,” said Stephanie, who recited, “I am Offering This Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca. “I felt sincere when I recited my poem and I’m anxious, but excited, to face the next round of competition.”
JHS junior, Olivia Ruiz, recited “Spanglish” by Tato Laviera. “Coming from Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian roots, the Hispanic culture has always been a driving force in my life and being able to share it through poetry is a truly priceless opportunity,” remarked Ruiz. Competing for the second year in a row, Olivia commented, “I’ve always been a shy, soft spoken girl but during my three years at JHS, poetry has been a huge asset to my personal growth and self awareness. I have been coached to discover parts of me that I never thought I had, such as Public Speaking. Discovering my love of Poetry Out Loud has brought me a long way, and I can’t wait to grow even more because of it.”
JHS students are participating in the Poetry Out Loud for the eighth year in a row as part of an exciting resurgence in poetry as an oral art form. The contest, which is open to all JHS students, requires the competitors to memorize a poem from an authorized list. Poetry Out Loud is definitely different from a poetry slam because the students are breathing new life into someone else’s words and must use only their voices to make meaning of the words. They are evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. This year’s judges were Simone Sellstrom, Edwin Ramirez, Charlie McKenna and John Twinam.
“Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills and build self-confidence while analyzing the themes, tone and diction of a wide range of poems,” said Public Speaking teacher, Barbi Price. “Studying a poem, making it your own, and then reciting it as a gift to the audience is a richly rewarding experience. This year, the very accomplished contestants interpreted their individual poems in a way that was uniquely heartfelt and poignant.”
Stephanie and Olivia are currently memorizing two more poems each before they travel to SUNY Brockport on February 5, 2019 to compete against other winners from schools across Western New York. The top two finishers of that Regional competition will advance to the New York State finals in New York City, and ultimately, to the National Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington DC. Poetry Out Loud is funded by the Poetry Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts.