RV’s 4th Annual Poetry Out Loud contest brings drama and emotion to the stage

Junior Victoria King wins RV’s yearly contest, and will advance to the regional competition next month.


Alexis Chester

POL contestants Victoria King, Glynnis Bastas, Maggie Blackburn and Melody Glover

Maya Martin, Arts & Culture Editor

Poetry Out Loud is a national competition that begins within contests at the high school level and continues throughout different competition levels for awards and scholarships up to $50,000.

This year for RV’s 4th annual contest, the contestants performed classic and contemporary poems in two rounds and were scored by the panel of RV staff judges. Judging overall performance were Mrs. Sherman, Mr. Burns and Mr. Joseph. Serving as accuracy judge are Mrs. Garvey and to tally scores was Mrs. Becker.

Mrs. Filauro and Mrs. Stopek helped guide the contestants in the selection of their poems and worked behind the scenes for the event.

“We’re preparing materials for them, and then prior to [the event] helping them analyze the poems,” said Stopek. “We help them find ‘What’s the message here?’, ‘What’s the tone?’ and trying to make sure they pick two poems that are pretty different.”

Each contestant chose poems that spoke to them and were something they could deeply connect with. Through memorization, resuscitation and staging, the ladies were able to put on a great competition. Their time and effort put forth for the contest throughout the weeks leading up helped prepare the students for their passionate performances.

Performing first was sophomore Melody Glover, who recited “The Lyric in a Time of War” by Eloise Klein Healy and “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” by Emily Dickinson. Emily Dickinson’s poetry is known for unconventional writing and bold verse which Glover was able to capture so deeply. With a slow and enticing rhythm, she captured the audience and intrigued the audience.

Sophomore Maggie Blackburn recited “Beginning” by James Wright and “The Mortician in San Francisco” by Randall Mann. “Beginning” is a poem with a solemn tone which Blackburn was able to present with a soothing yet powerful voice. Through her deep connection and passion for the poems she selected, she was able to internalize and present the poems in such a heartfelt manner. Watching from the audience during Maggie’s performance, you could feel her powerful passion and stage presence.

Junior Glynnis Bastas performed two weighty poems, “Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper” by Martín Espada and “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson. Bastas’ use of gestures and expression in the piece made the poem feel alive and lifelike for the audience. When performing “Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper” one of the moments in her performance that stuck with me was her use of a quick and sharp movement with her hands while saying “slide along suddenly sharp paper.” Her liveliness and precision added a unique aspect to her performance that fascinated the audience and judges.

POL winner senior Victoria King (Photo courtesy of Dr. Maniglia)

Finally, winner Victoria King performed “I am Offering This Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca and “Won’t You Celebrate with Me” by Lucille Clifton. King’s use of rhythm, dramatic pauses and hand gestures came together for an outstanding performance. After King finished there was a brief pause until the audience clapped because of her breathtaking stage presence and powerful voice.

“I really resonated with my second poem, just being a black woman in America and having to make your own life and make the best out of what you have,” says King. “My first [poem], the way I thought of it was how I want my future to look with whoever I decide to be with. I’ve always been a loving person, so I felt a love poem would be fitting.”

King will advance to the next round of regional competitions in February. “I don’t know the kind of poem I want to do for regionals yet,” she said, “but I do know that whatever I decide to do I have to make sure it’s strong and powerful because I have a strong and powerful voice when I choose to use it.” Excited to move on, King also expresses her excitement about continuing to be in Poetry Out Loud next year and getting more involvement from more students in the program as well.

All the contestants this year have been not only successful themselves, but so supportive throughout their performances and leading up to the event. “This year, their kindness and support of one another is so sweet and heartwarming,” said Filauro. “It’s almost as if they’re not competing against each other because they just want everyone to do so well.”

Both Ms. Filauro and Mrs. Stopek encourage other students to get involved within the program and take advantage of this great opportunity next year. Stopek said, “If you have a little bit of desire to perform, even if it’s small, and you like poetry, that’s like the perfect meld.”

For only being RV’s 4th contest, the event was coordinated and executed very successfully. All the contestants were remarkable to watch, and I loved to see how different each person was in their presentation and delivery of the poems. I highly encourage other students to get involved within this program and the kind group of people involved. This was such an exciting moment for the RV arts program, and I cannot wait to see how Poetry Out Loud continues to grow and develop.