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James Smith Captures Poetry Out Loud Victory

Freshman Catherine Early performs “April Midnight” by Arthur Symon during the Poetry Out Loud competition on Thursday, Dec. 4.

22 students competed in the school-wide Poetry Out Loud competition on Thursday, Dec. 4, and at the end of the night, sophomore James Smith, with his recitation of “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, was declared the winner.

Fellow sophomore Kyle Ebbets, who recited “The Kiss” by Robert Graves, was the runner-up.

Smith will now move on to the district Poetry Out Loud competition, which is being held in January. From there, he has the chance to advance to the state competition and the national finals, where the top prize is a $20,000 scholarship.

Poetry Out Loud is a national program designed to promote youth interest in poetry. Tuscarora participates in the program by encouraging English teachers to hold classroom competitions every year. Classroom winners then have the chance to participate in the school-wide competition.

This year the 22 competitors, who came from all grade levels, took the stage at 7 p.m. to recite their poems for the judges: Mr. Rovang, Ms. Benedum, Ms. Cook, and Ms. Hausman. Judges scored students on seven categories such as physical presence, voice/articulation, and complexity.

Meanwhile, Ms. Purvis checked presenters’ accuracy, ensuring contestants said words correctly and didn’t skip lines.

If students forgot any of the words to their poem, which was common during the stress-inducing event, Ms. Pellicano was there to prompt them.

Once students finished recitations that included everything from “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Lord Alfred Tennyson to “The Tyger” by William Blake, the judges’ scores were tabulated and the winner was announced.

After the competition, Smith stated that he was in an “elated, dream-like state.” In order to prepare for the competition, he had read over the poem, watched himself perform in the mirror, and “graphed” each line to decide where to “build and bring it back down.”

Runner-up Ebbets underwent a similar preparation process, and added that during the actual recitation he felt “very confident and calm.” In particular, he enjoyed listening to others’ poems, as he said it opened him up to new types of poetry.

Logan Clem, a junior who recited “Lazy” by David Yelzi, said before the competition that he felt “a little nervous because there are some phenomenal people competing. I feel like I’m prepared, but they’re more prepared.”

Clem also described his reasoning for why poetry is important: “[People use it to] express themselves…it’s an escape.”

Mrs. Kosbob, the host and event organizer, had similar views on the importance of Poetry Out Loud, saying, “it opens up students to possible different meanings,” helps them become confident as public speakers, and gives them an outlet to share a message.

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