Finalists of Poetry Out Loud Announced

Lawrentians competed in the semifinal rounds of the annual Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition this past Tuesday and Wednesday in the Heely Room.

Lawrentians competed in the semifinal rounds of the annual Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition this past Tuesday and Wednesday in the Heely Room. The finalists are Kelsie Choi ’22, Kate Feiner ’22, Bernice Hightower ’21, Natalia Ibarra ’20, Eleni Lefakis ’21, Delaney Musgrave ’22, Ayan Schwartzenberg ’22, Kylan Tatum ’21, Asmat Taunque ’21, Francesca Weil ’21, and Aaron Zander ’22.

The selected winner from Lawrenceville will move on to compete at the regional, state, and national rounds. Through this competition, Lawrentians have the opportunity to grow their love for poetry and to challenge themselves by performing in front of a live audience and judges.

Reflecting on this mission, coordinator of the Lawrenceville POL event and English Master Jessica Magnuson said, “Reciting a poem is a great skill to have, as it helps build confidence and present yourself in front of a large group of people. It offers the opportunity for students to be vulnerable and put themselves out there.”

Three judges were present at each semifinal round and four will be present during the final round. In addition, Spanish Master Alison Stewart y Fonseca P’12 will check for accuracy of the poem recitation. While Magnuson recognizes that “there are a lot of nuances to how [students] are judged” and “it’s a relatively complicated process,” she believes the overall competition has a lot of value.

III Formers qualified through a selection process from their English classes. Class winners moved onto the semifinal rounds, while IV and V Formers were only required to sign up in advance to participate.

Participants first selected a poem of their choice from the POL website. They then recited the poem in front of an audience of judges and students. According to rubrics, all performances were judged based on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and overall performance.

Feiner said, “I felt really nervous prior to the semifinal round because I didn’t have much experience reciting poetry, but once people started to perform, it was really awesome to be a part of it.”

To Feiner, poetry is intriguing “because of the power it has to evoke emotion whether or not we understand the literal meaning,” so it was very enjoyable to see “how others chose to interpret and convey that meaning throughout their recitations.”

Tatum, also a finalist, selected the poem “There Are Birds Here” by Jamaal May because he enjoys picking the poems of authors “who look like [him] or have gone through similar experiences” as it helps him better connect to and express the poem. The poem uses birds as a metaphor for children, specifically children of color, and highlights how they are trapped both in certain physical locations and by the societies they live in. As a IV Former, Tatum decided to participate in the competition again to delve in deeper to poetry.

Tatum said, “I write poems myself, and I typically only have the opportunity to create them, but with Poetry Out Loud, it is really interesting for me to be able to see another side of poetry, spoken word, that I have less experience with.”

Because Tatum did not struggle as much with the memorization aspect, the main areas he focused on during his preparation were “balancing [his] vocal expression to make sure [he] was not over-expressing or under-expressing” himself. He also worked on highlighting the nuances of each poem, including how to properly use hand gestures or tonal inflections to best express the poem.


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