Language Lovers Compete in Recitation Contest

Jaydi Swanson, Views Editor

O EHS poets, EHS poets. Wherefore art thou, EHS poets?

Poetry Out Loud, a poetry memorization and recitation contest, is captivating EHS once again. The national competition began at the classroom level, where students recited a poem from an approved selection to their class. The winner from each class then performed in the school competition this Wednesday.

English teacher Heather Haskins organizes the event every year and believes it is an important avenue for student expression.

“The competition is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts,” Ms. Haskins said. “Their goal is to promote literacy and the love of language, essentially. They do that through recitation contests at the national level.”

Senior Isabella Brown competed for the fourth time in the school competition after advancing to regionals last year. She said the key to a good performance is finding a balance between emotion and memory.

“When you’re nervous in front of people, it’s easy to fall back onto what you’ve practiced, let your memory take over and just say the words without showing an emotional aspect,” Brown said. “Then again, if you get too into the emotion, you can be susceptible to forgetting words.”

On the surface, POL may look like nothing more than memorization, but to the participants, it means more.

“The search for the right poem can be hard, but once I find one, it clicks with me and I can feel the message pulling at me,” Brown said. “Learning how to deliver the message is a private adventure, and then performing the discovery is a thrill.”

For other students, like senior Kia Smidt, POL is a way to express passions that are otherwise unpursued.

“I like the theatricality of it all,” Smidt said. “I never had the chops nor the schedule for EHS drama club, even though I’ve always liked acting. It’s fun to tap into that rarely-used part of myself to ‘act out’ a poem.”

Smidt was happy with her performance but said she was “put to absolute shame” by Brown and junior Scottlynn Ballard, who will both be advancing to the regional competition.

“Scotti was the one who really blew me away…,” Smidt said. “I would have been furious if she hadn’t placed.”

To Ms. Haskins, all eight competitors were impressive.

“Even though we had the fewest competitors that we’ve had in a long time…every single competitor could have advanced to that regional competition yesterday,” Ms. Haskins said. “Everyone gave a solid performance, and they were well prepared. That speaks volumes to how much they commit themselves to this, and how much they love the language.”