EHS Student Takes Second at Poetry Out Loud Nationals

Jacqueline Glenn, Staff Writer

Junior Scottlynn Ballard rose to the podium in George Washington University’s auditorium, shut her eyes for a moment and glanced up at the anticipating audience and judges at the National Poetry Out Loud Competition. Then the words began to flow.

“There’s definitely a feeling of nervousness beforehand: there’s the shaking, the trembling, the questioning your life choices,” Ballard said. “But when I walked out into the light and stood before the mic, it melted away.”

At the competition, which occurred on April 30 and May 1, Ballard recited “Worth” by Marilyn Nelson, “Self Help” by Michael Ryan and “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. Her voice both thundered and softened in emotion, performance attributes that helped advance her from the school competition to the regional, state and national competitions. According to Ballard, participants were judged on components of “dramatic appropriateness, accuracy, voice and articulation, physical presence, evidence of understanding and overall performance.”

The judges awarded Ballard second place out of 52 applicants and prizes of $10,000 for herself and $500 for EHS. Ballard is the first person from Edwardsville to achieve that title.

Meanwhile, Ballard’s family — and her Edwardsville fans back home— erupted in cheers.

Many had watched the livestreams of Ballard’s performances posted on Poetry Out Loud’s YouTube channel. Also, some EHS students attended her send-off, which Ballard’s English teacher, Ms. Heather Haskins, organized. The send-off took place in the EHS auditorium on April 26 and included celebratory music by the band and orchestra. Ballard performed “Worth” and “Self Help” as well as an original she wrote herself, called “Chicago.”

Starting with the send-off, Junior Natalie Loveridge followed Ballard’s journey as closely as she could.

“Encouragement from peers is important,” Loveridge said. “She went to a very stressful competition, and knowing that so many people from your school fully love and support you in it probably helped a lot with her confidence.”

And Ballard said it did.

“Knowing that both my friends and teachers supported this, that this was something everyone could find happiness in and could get behind — it’s unreal,” Ballard said.

When the judges announced Ballard’s win, Loveridge said that she “totally lost it” while watching the livestream.

“My whole neighborhood probably heard me scream,” Loveridge said.

Ms. Haskins said that she knew from the early stages of the competition, like Regionals and State, that Ballard had the talent to advance far in the competition.

“She’s definitely very one of a kind when it comes to living and breathing poetry,” Haskins said. “I’ve never had a student who does that and embodies it as well as she does.”

But Ballard said she was “shocked” when she learned that she earned second place on the national stage.

“I didn’t have a tremendous reason to do well for my audience: there’s no need for impending reason, no frantic need for fame or fortune. I did it because I wanted to,” Ballard said. “I needed to show somebody just how happy poetry makes me.”