This time of year, the words of Whitman, Rossetti, Coleridge, Dickinson, Keats, and many others will find a new voice as thousands of high school students participate in Poetry Out Loud competitions across the nation. Poetry Out Loud is an annual recitation contest that encourages youth to not only learn great poetry, but also practice public speaking skills and build self-confidence.
Students from eleven Eastern Washington high schools will recite their chosen poems at the Bartlett on February 3rd at 7 p.m. for the chance to move to the state finals and then the national competition in Washington D.C.
I myself am eager to hear what poems these high school students are drawn to, as I remember back to my own time in high school, when my goofy friend Blake endeavored to make it through “Danse Russe” by William Carlos Williams. He soared confidently through the first few lines, but lost all composure completely when he reached “if I in my north room dance naked, grotesquely before my mirror,” which of course caused the entire classroom of sixteen year olds to erupt in laughter, as I’m sure he hoped it would.
I’m not sure if any of the students have chosen “Danse Russe,” but I’m excited to listen to all the wonderful works they’ve brought to life. Local poets will judge categories such as “Dramatic Appropriateness”, “Voice and Articulation”, and “Understanding of the Poem” in selecting the winning student to move on to the state competition in Tacoma.
Everyone is encouraged to support the local high school students as they engage with great works of poetry. The event will take place at The Bartlett on February 3rd at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.