Poetry Out Loud Competition

The following article originally appeared in Juniata High School's newspaper The Arrowhead.

On the afternoon of December 14th, a group of students gathered in the hallway between the courtyard and the auditorium, preparing for the Poetry Out Loud competition that would begin any minute. Poetry Out Loud is an event in which students memorize poems and recite them, not just plainly, but in a way that makes the words come to life. The judging panel that determined the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd placements, as well as an honorable mention, consisted of Mrs. Wagner, Mrs. Storey, Mrs. Heidenreich, and Mrs. Shertzer. A mixture of juniors and seniors were scattered throughout the hallway. Mrs. Wagner’s 11th grade CP English class had the option to participate for extra credit, while Mrs. Heidenreich’s 12th grade AP English class had to participate for a grade in the class.

While waiting for their individual turns in the first of two rounds, many students were sitting silently on the floor, reciting their poems to themselves. Some were pacing up and down the hallway, or even laying on the floor. They were doing anything to keep themselves focused on the task at hand. When asked how they were feeling, most people responded with “nervous” or “extremely stressed” and once or twice even “nauseous”. A few participants, however, were nonchalant about the event, simply shrugging their shoulders.

Right around 3:30, Mrs. Wagner came into the hallway. She first explained the process  the participants would go through once they entered the auditorium, such as when to start and where to look. She also confirmed that Mrs. Storey would be the prompter, and told everyone to just “do your best.” The very first reciter, Hailie Shertzer, was up. Reactions when coming off stage were varied. Some came out pumping their fists in the air, and another came out and fell on the floor. It was a very stressful environment to be in, to say the least.

The next day, the results were announced. 1st place went to Brenna Strawser, who will advance to the regional competition. 2nd place was given to Hailie Shertzer, 3rd place went to Josie Rice, and the honorable mention went to Yanelys Melara.

When asked what she hoped students would take from this experience, Mrs. Wagner said that “when you commit good poetry to memory and share it… it becomes a living thing.” She hopes that Poetry Out Loud participants chose poetry that “strikes an emotional chord in them” and that parts of these poems “get lodged in their soul, deep down.”

Congratulations to the winners and good luck to Brenna at regionals!

By: Haylee Yocum 

Mr. Trotman is a Civics and Political Science Teacher at Juniata High School.

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