EHS Speaks Out at Annual Poetry Competition

Joshua Perry, News Editor

A large gathering/Lovers of verse must decide/On their champion.

Students with a passion for poetry participated Wednesday at EHS’s Poetry Out Loud competition, reciting works from prominent writers in front of their peers.

Senior Maeve Huemann placed first for her second year in a row, with junior Isabella Brown as runner-up. Both are set to attend the regional competition at Southwestern Illinois College on Feb. 16, which is open to the public.

Huemann made it to the state competition “by accident” last year, she said. This year, however, she intends to give the competition her all.

“This year, I’m deciding to do it for real, for myself,” she said. “So . . . this year I chose poems that I wanted to do.”

Brown, who has been competing since her freshman year, said she plans to study creative writing in college, and Poetry Out Loud is a great opportunity to explore her interest in the art of verse.

“I love the raw emotion in poetry,” Brown said. “Reading it can evoke all sorts of things in me, as well as help me understand what I’m feeling, or inspire me to write even more.”

Junior Ben McNabnay is also on his third year competing, but he said he started on a whim.

“Freshmen year I had Ms. Haskins, and she urged everyone to do it, just because, you know, ‘Try it and you might like it,’ ” he said. “I tried it. I liked it. I actually went to the school competition, and I’ve done it ever since.”

Other students were compelled to compete for different reasons. Junior Anna Farrar’s interest was piqued when she saw videos of past performances by students who could elucidate each poem’s meaning with emotions. And her teacher incentivized the competition a bit, of course.

“I decided to compete mostly because of the extra credit involved,” Farrar said. “Also, I thought it would be fun to work on my public speaking. It’s a valuable skill that can help you later in life.”

It may seem simple—just telling a poem aloud to a quiet audience—but it’s much harder than it looks. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for success.

Brown said she reads through her poems and makes sure she fully comprehends their meanings before even beginning the memorization process. This helps her “connect” with the poem more. Huemann also stresses this step in the preparation process.

“It’s important that when you recite your poems you really feel the words and the meaning in them so you can convey the message and really feel confident on stage,” Huemann said.

But even after preparing, the performance can be a daunting task. Huemann said that whenever she faces mental “blankness,” she has to find her words quickly or risk losing points and compromising her performance.

Stage fright is something Brown has also dealt with ever since middle school theater, she said. However, when she gets far into a poem, she never lets it get in her way.

“Once I’m up there and performing, the anxiety all goes away,” Brown said. “The thrill that waits after a performance is unmatchable.”