Bringing Poetry to Life

Poetry Out Loud participants participate in the semi-final round at Jefferson with a mixture of anxiety and excitement


At the Poetry Out Loud competition, senior Yash Shekar presents his poem, using a variety of hand gestures and demonstrations to bring the poem to life.

Aumena Choudhry, Staff Writer

Last Friday, Nov. 30th, the Poetry Out Loud (POL) semi-final round was held at Jefferson. The POL is an annual poetry competition that holds the preliminary rounds at the school level with two rounds, then state-level, and finally, the national level.

The first part for POL is selecting the right poem carefully, which can take hours. Aspects that go into choosing a poem include the personality of the person reciting the poem, the prose of the poem, and the depth of the poem’s concepts.

“My favorite aspect would be looking through poems to find ones that I think I can interpret well,” Junior Aarushi Tripathy said. “I basically hit the ‘Random Poem’ button multiple times and read the poems I get in order to see if I can understand the poem after reciting it once or twice. If I can’t find poems that way, I watch past Poetry Out Loud competitions and get my poems from there.”

Other participants chose more methodically, utilizing the vast variety of poems within the POL database over the span of several days, to ensure that they chose a poem that resonated with them.

“I invest a fair amount of time into choosing and memorizing my first poem, because for me, choosing a poem that really speaks to me and that also sounds good are really important. I browsed through the POL database, which you have to select your poem from, for maybe two hours or so over the course of a few days looking for a poem that stood out.” junior Miranda Khoury said. “Then, I’d say I spent another thirty minutes researching and analyzing the poem to get an idea of how to interpret it and then maybe another 30 minutes to an hour memorizing it. So, I was glad I moved on to the next round since I had spent a fair amount of effort rehearsing for the first round.”

During the actual competition, however, many participants felt a variety of mixed feelings. Whether it was nerves from participating in the competition, or the excitement of watching their peers’ interpretations of the poem, many felt a combination of the two.

“For me, it’s really nerve-wracking, since I look at reciting poems as a fun thing, but once it’s a competition outside of the classroom, it becomes very intense. That’s what makes me really stressed about the competition,” Tripathy said. “Other than that, I think it’s a really cool experience where I get to focus on something other than math and science and try and be good at it.”

Other competitors feel that the thrill of the competition and being able to support the other participants is exciting as well.

“My favorite aspect of the competition is getting to watch everybody’s poetry,” junior Joshua Muterperl said. “There are some really beautiful pieces out there and people have really interesting ways of bringing them to life, I find it so wonderful to watch.”

Furthermore, several participants felt that the novelty of interpretation of poetry excited them the most. No two people will present the same poem in the same manner, and this is what separates one interpretation from another, as well as adds depth and meaning to the poems.

“My favorite aspect of the competition would have to be listening to all the other poems. Everyone has their different ways of interpreting their poems and they each do them with their own uniqueness,” freshman Damilola Awofisayo said. “Just experiencing a poet’s words through someone else’s eyes is truly a special experience that cannot be found anywhere else.”

A few participants felt that they were able to retain the poem not only mentally, but also physically as hours of work paid off.

“For me, the moment right before I have to go up and present is a little nerve-wracking, because I worry I’ll mess up the order of the poem or skip a line, which gets you a deduction,” Khoury said. “Once I’m speaking, though, muscle memory kicks in and I just focus on my tone and expression.”

Yet, in retrospect, the participants agreed that they had all given their best efforts, and they had learned about far more than poetry.

“I felt pretty satisfied and proud of myself that I could work and do my best for this contest and I went pretty far, being my first time and my preparing mostly last minute,” Awofisayo said. “I did also feel determined though to do better for next time, and I also found an interest in poetry recitations, something that, three years ago, would probably absolutely bore me.”

Those who made semifinals felt proud of their efforts, and reflected on the journey thus far as being one of finding one’s own interests as well as talents.

“I’m glad I made it past the first round. Originally, Poetry Out Loud was just something I had to do because my English teacher made us do it. After getting through the first two rounds last year, however, I realized that if I put more effort into the competition that I could do better at reciting poetry,” Tripathy said. “This year, I tried harder to find poems that I would be able to interpret and I also spent more time practicing my recitations in order to get better. That got me past the first round, so I’m happy with the effort that I put into Poetry Out Loud.”