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The Road less Traveled by

Chiara (left) and Carol (right) receive their certificates from Ms. Kosbob on Friday, December 9th, 2011 for the final auditions for POL. (Photo credit: Liz Staley)

By: Erica Walker

LEESBURG, VA-   Imagine yourself in front of thousands of strangers who are patiently waiting for you to speak; fellow students’ eyes are all on you. You take a deep breath then begin to explain the feelings expressed in the poem of your choice. You become the narrator. Next thing you know, you’re announced the winner of the school competition and you’re moving on to a state level competition. The 2011 State competition winner, Carol Decker, who also won last year, continues to compete in Poetry Out Loud.
Poetry Out Loud was created by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; this program began in schools coast-to-coast in the spring of 2006. According to the Poetry Out Loud Website (URL:, this competition is gradually increasing the number of entrants. In 2010 to 2011 alone, about 365,000 students joined POL (Poetry Out Loud).  Students may wonder how the competition is organized. First, the students who chose to participate in the school level will have a contest at their school; the judges there will choose one person to represent their school at States.  The judges at the State level will then choose five or six students to go on to the Regional competition. Lastly, whoever the judges select at Regionals will compete at the National level. Judges’ evaluation of students is mostly based on physical presence, the actual recitation of the poem, and the students’ knowledge of the poem. Students must exhibit confidence and poise to win the judges over in the physical appearance portion. When reciting the poem, students should express the mood of the poem as if they are the narrator. Dramatic expressions during the recitation may help gain points with the judges because it helps the judges and audience understands the tone and mood of the poem.
Most high school students aren’t particularly interested in events such as POL. Judith Echeverria, 11th grader at Tuscarora High School explains that POL “can be nerve wracking because most people are shy. It takes courage to go on stage [and perform.]”  Judith herself competed in POL last year, and she explains that she was nervous because it was her first year in the competition. Ms. Kosbob, an English teacher at THS, explains that high school students don’t participate because “a lot of [students] don’t like poetry.” However, POL is helpful to students as well. Ms. Kosbob states that POL can help young adults have “exposure to poems they may never read.”  As a teacher, Ms. Kosbob believes that rather than being taught poetry, it is better for students to read and understand poems. Carol Decker, senior, describes her experience as amazing because she got to meet wonderful people while competing. “You get to connect with something bigger than yourself,” Carol adds.  Carol would recommend students to participate in POL based on her exciting experience.
This year’s Poetry Out Loud included students presenting classic poems from poets such as William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson.  22 students from Tuscarora High School participated in the event. This year’s runner-up is sophomore Chiara Solitario, who recited “Happiness” by Jane Kenyon.  As previously mentioned, this year’s winner, Carol Decker, will move on to the state competition.
Those of you who have participated in POL or something related to it have taken “the [road] less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Here stand all of the students who participated in POL 2011. (Photo credit: Liz Staley)


Q&A with last year’s state winner of Poetry Out Loud, Carol Decker (12th Grade)

Q: What made you join POL? When did you start participating in POL?
A: “I found out about it last year [Poetry Out Loud] because it was a grade for my class.”
Q:  Are you used to public speaking? How so?
A: “I do drama, so I’m comfortable on stage.”
Q:  How do you get prepared for performing your poem?
A:  “I go over the lines and dance backstage [to calm my nerves] backstage.”
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