Poetry Out Loud state competition will feature students from Ridgefield and Battle Ground
CLARK COUNTY — Rhyme, verse and the chance to share what you love with thousands of people. This is the reward so many students chase through Poetry Out Loud (POL) each year.
Like everyone and everything else, the recitation competition has had to adapt to the new online world. Students took it in stride, doing video performances of they’re selected poems, and now two of the three advancing to state are from right here at home.
After each school under the umbrella of ESD 112 narrowed their pools of talented orators down to just one, all the schools’ picks were evaluated by the regional judges and the three were selected. Those three will compete with others for the honor of representing Washington in nationals.
This year there were no live audiences. There was only the camera. And that was enough.
“I feel like when they engage with [the poem], it’s more personal, and they internalize the language and meaning in a deeper way, when they memorize the words, as opposed to just reading them,” said Karen Lovre, a teacher at Camas who had a student go to regionals. “I feel like that’s the thing about this that is really different than just sort of analyzing a poem one day and analyzing another poem the next day. It gets to a depth that just a typical literature study of poems doesn’t achieve.”
After choosing a poem from the Poetry Out Loud list, students memorize them with the help of their peers and families and then practice reciting them. Judges then score students on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy of recitation.
This year, Bethany Tuchardt of Battle Ground High School and Micah Stewart of Cedar Tree Classical Christian School in Ridgefield will advance to the state competition. Last year, Isaac Lu, also of Cedar Tree, made it all the way to nationals as the winner of Washington. In 2013, Washington’s winner, Langston Ward, won the entire competition.
“The program was developed to sort of take advantage of the upsurge in spoken word, and the popularity of spoken word and to help teachers get students to engage with literature,” said Judy Cullen, the POL state coordinator for ArtsWA. “By getting it literally up on its feet and reciting it, poetry of course is both language and thought distilled because of the format. It’s actually a really great format for that kind of engagement.”
The student that wins the national competition receives a $20,000 reward, with the winners of states and other levels receiving smaller awards. POL has held this competition since 2005, with 2020-21 being the first season to be held entirely online.
The ESD 112 regional competition ceremony is normally held as a fancy gathering of friends and family to come and hear each finalist recite his or her chosen poems. This year, each student via Zoom answered questions about the process and the top three had their original recitation videos played.
Tuchardt read a poem entitled “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” which touches on various scenes of life in which the author is reckoning with what it truly means and feels like to be starved for community.
“The most impactful theme of this poem to me was really the connection between the longing to see somebody and wanting to have that feeling of connection again,” Tuchardt said. “Like breathing of life, and having someone long for you, and I just really connected with that, because my grandmother is in a nursing home and I would love for her to feel that again.”
Stewart chose a poem entitled “A Fit of Rhyme Against Rhyme,” and explained that his choice was not immediate, but rather grew out of the process of spending time with the work and learning more about its author’s purpose.
“As I kind of internalized it, I realized, oh, wow, [the author’s] doing this amazing job with the words of mocking different styles of poetry and rhyming, but still using that same structure,” Stewart said. “I had to grow in an appreciation for that instead of actually having it jump out at me at first.”
To learn more about Poetry Out Loud in Washington and beyond, visit them online or via Facebook. To listen to Clark County student recitations and keep tabs on their progress towards nationals, visit the ESD 112 page for Poetry Out Loud.