This January at Seton High School three students from each grade participated in the all- school round of Poetry Out Loud, a national competition for reciting poetry. First, students competed in their English classes, trying their best to not only recite their selected poem’s multiple lines with accuracy, but also trying to speak the poem with clear annunciation and strong emotion. Those who each class decided had the best combination of emotion, accuracy, and overall powerful recitation moved on to be judged by teachers, who then determined who would move on to compete against the rest of the school finalists. These finalists, three per grade, competed by reciting in front of the whole student body. The winners of this competition were: Sammy Riegler, junior, first place; Rylee Jung, senior, second place Mya Moser, senior, third place. These three, as well as the rest of the competitors, recited their poems passionately and exceptionally. Sammy Riegler will move on to compete against local finalists, and Seton wishes her all the luck in the world. She competes Friday, February 23. But one might ask: why might poetry be so important to a high school student? The Seton Connection tried to find out.
Poetry Out Loud was created in 2005 by The National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. Its mission? To “help students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life” (“Poetry Out Loud”). Just as Seton does, schools all over the country encourage their students to participate in the contest by memorizing and expressively reciting a poem of their choosing, the best of the reciters moving on through school, local, and state rounds and onto eventually competing at a national level against students from across the United States.
Seton High School’s first experience of Poetry Out Loud was just a few years ago, beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. Mrs. Karen White, Seton’s current principal, had been made aware of the national contest in previous school positions, so she encouraged the English department to bring the contest into the curriculum, “I think it is important to our curriculum because I believe it fosters an understanding and love for poetry that otherwise might not happen for high school students,” says Mrs. White. Poetry Out Loud “tends to be an outlet for student who might not otherwise choose to perform in front of their peers. The students who tend to be involved and win are those that otherwise might like to be in the background. Even those who may not otherwise want to really study it, can get excited about learning poetry.”
To understand a student’s perception of poetry and the Poetry Out Loud contest, The Seton Connection spoke with senior Mady Nutter, who happens to be focusing on poetry for her senior project. Mady wants to focus on this topic because “poetry and writing in general has allowed me to free and express my thoughts, and in the realm of mental health, I wanted to invite other people to perhaps experience a similar feeling of liberation from the thoughts and ideas we so often keep hidden inside us.”
As you can see, it’s easy to get excited about poetry at Seton at the moment. Though there are some students who might not completely enjoy participating in the Poetry Out Loud contest, it does allow students to enrich their literary education in a way that they might not have been able to without the opportunity, and there are many who enjoy the experience of deepening their love of poetry. It may also strengthen students’ ability to publicly speak, while hopefully growing a deeper appreciation for the art of poetry. Whether they’re participating in Poetry Out Loud or contributing to Mady Nutter’s senior project or (hopefully) allowing themselves some time to enjoy a bit of poetry on their own, Seton students have many opportunities to experience the joy of poetry in all its beautiful, artistic glory.
See below for the rest of Mady Nutter’s interview!
Q&A with Mady Nutter
The Seton Connection: What do you like about poetry?
Mady Nutter: Writing poetry allows me to reveal truths within myself that I didn’t even realize I needed to discover. I love just writing down my thoughts and seeing what poetic product comes from it. However, when I read poetry, I like to discover other people’s truths that can help shape and prompt a personal discovery for me. Whether it’s a poet expressing a story similar to something I’ve gone through, or even giving a completely different perspective of something I’ve gone through, I find the creative revelations of truth to be the most appealing aspect of poetry.
How important do you think it is for students to familiar with poetry? How relevant do you think it is to our education?
Like other literature we study in school, I think poetry not only has the ability to teach us different styles of writing, but a different type of voice through which we can express ourselves. This voice is so rarely cultivated within young writers especially, and I think the study of poetry can aid students in the discovery of their unique and personal tone, topic, and form.
How do you feel about the Poetry Out Loud contest at Seton?
Personally, I love seeing the interpretations of the different poems performed, and overall think it’s a really great competition. However, I feel as though some students may be able to connect deeper to a poem that they are able to create, rather than recite a poem they have simply found. I find that poetry is most effective and carries much more gravity for an audience when it’s personalized for the poet or speaker.
Favorite type of poetry?
I really don’t have any preference in regards to the form or type of poetry, but I really like spoken word. I love to hear the poet’s voice rather than read their words. Sometimes the biggest thing that moves me about poetry is not what a poet says, but how they say it. I really think their personal tone, inflection, and rhythm is what makes a greater impression on me than any specification made in regards to the poem’s form.
I’m a big fan of Rupi Kaur or another poet on Twitter and Instagram that goes by the name Miriella Marie. I admire them because they are able to artistically verbalize the thoughts and feelings so many of us have, but struggle or feel afraid to express.
Favorite poem or poem collection?
Ahh! My favorite poem ever? That’s so hard! I have no clue. Maybe like ‘One Fish, Two Fish?’ [Referring to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss.]
My favorite poetry collections are “the sun and her flowers” by Rupi Kaur and “No Matter the Wreckage” by Sarah Kay. You should check them out, they rock.
How can someone contribute to your senior project?
Anyone can contribute to my senior project by submitting their poem(s) to the google form I am in the process of creating and attaching to an email containing all the information about my project. However, I made a point of speaking with every English class in the school to inform people about my project, so keep writing, and you’ll just have to submit your poem by the end of February!
Nutter, Mady. Personal interview. 30 January 2018.
“Poetry Out Loud.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/foundation/poetry-out-loud.
White, Karen. Personal interview. 5 February 2018.