OAKHURST – “Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary,” said writer Kahlil Gibran. All of these elements will be in evidence as students from area high schools gather at Yosemite High School (YHS) for Poetry Out Loud county finals, Saturday, Feb. 9. The public is invited to attend the free program which is set for 12 noon in the YHS Theater.Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national contest that encourages youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud partners with U.S. state arts agencies, including the California Arts Council and Madera County Arts Council.
Students from Yosemite, Glacier, Chowchilla, Liberty and Madera High Schools have been practicing their poems since last fall, and will compete Saturday for the chance to go on to State finals in March. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.
A splash of music will add to the event, as the jazz combo Mountain Aire will be performing between recitations.
Among the poems being read Saturday, recited by Michelle Linn from Glacier High, is “The Empty Dance Shoes,” by Cornelius Eady.
Competing from Yosemite High School are sophomores Jocelyn Boe and Olivia Pearson, and senior David Nobles. Boe will recite “Life” by Edith Wharton, and “My Father in the Night Commanding No,” by Lewis Simpson.
Pearson will read “The Tables Turned,” by William Wordsworth and “A Certain Kind of Eden,” by Kay Ryan. Nobles will recite narrative poem “Richard Cory,” by Edwin Arlington Robinson, and “To David, About His Education,” by Howard Nemerov.
Poet, teacher and Wawona librarian L. Anne Molin is the Area Coordinator for POL and California Poets in the Schools for Madera County. She’s been working with YHS English teachers Kellie Solomon and Amy Weigel to ready students for their places in Poetry Out Loud.
“It’s a wonderful program. I think one of the most gratifying things besides the way the kids step up for this is the way the teachers step up,” says Molin. “I know they’re slammed, I know they don’t have time for this, but some teachers just go ahead and do it anyway.”
Students choose poems to recite from a vast list of pre-approved choices, ranging from traditional to contemporary, and covering the alphabet from A-Z (though budding poets may wish to note that no poem on the list starts with X). Rules are strict: students are cautioned to be neither overly emotive nor dramatic. A total of four judges will determine who moves on to the next level.
“Students who participate in Poetry Out Loud are competing for a trip to Washington D.C. where they will ultimately compete for a $26,000 college scholarship,” explains Molin. “It’s a really good thing for them to put on their resume or on their college applications.”
Perhaps more importantly, adds the poet/organizer, “It’s wonderful that they’re doing this sort of contemplative exercise because you can’t read poetry, much less memorize it, without it setting you to thinking about things.”
Also competing are Madera High School student Mansoor Farooq, Liberty High School students Emily Zavala-Aguilar, Andy Hart and Patrick Aguirre, and Chowchilla High School’s Zachary Littleton and Tyler Palmer.