Poetry Out Loud Winners Advance to Regionals

Hannah Thompson, Staff Writer

The crowded media center was silent last Thursday as senior Scottlynn Ballard put her head down, took a deep breath and began her poetry recitation for the school Poetry Out Loud contest.

“I try to clear my mind when I start,” Ballard said. “In the moment, I’m only focused on the poem and how I can make everyone feel how it makes me feel.”

POL is a national poetry recitation contest that requires students to select two poems from a POL database and perform for judges and an audience of their peers.  Eight other EHS students competed with Ballard for three spots to advance to the regional competition.

A number of teachers were selected to judge the school competition, including EHS history teacher Keith Baker.

“The students didn’t write the poetry so our evaluation is largely based on the evidence that the students provide about their interpretation of the poem,” Mr. Baker said.  “Do they understand it?  Have they internalized it? Are they communicating it appropriately?”

While only three students could move on to regionals, Mr. Baker said the event was full of competitive reciters.

“There were some students who were simply magnificent who did not make into the top three,” Mr. Baker said. “There were easily six who could have been selected for the top three.”

The three students who were selected were senior Scottlynn Ballard (first), junior Elannore Bester (second) and senior Henry Gruben (third).

Last year, Ballard was named runner up in the National Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C, where she was rewarded with $10,000.

Although Ballard is happy with her past success, she admits that it has put more pressure on her to succeed this year.

“But the key thing to remember is that the reason I am doing Poetry Out Loud now is the same as when I started: I want to have fun,” Ballard said. “As long as I know I’m having fun, everything else just melts away.”

Gruben was also successful in the competition last year; this is his second year qualifying for regionals.  Being a returning participant has been comforting to him.

“One of the huge parts of recitation is the nerves that come with it and the ability to calm down, and knowing that I’ve done it before is a lot of help,” Gruben said. “Also, the capability to memorize better is great.”

The three advancing reciters will compete against each other and several students from other areas in the South Central region of Illinois at SWIC on Feb. 13.  The top two will advance to the state competition.

“I’m really happy to be working with Elannore Bester and Henry Gruben,” Ballard said. “They’re really fun to be around, and I’m excited to have a chance to compete with them!”