Sharing Their Voices

NVOT’s ninth annual Poetry Out Loud


Siena Griffin

The Poetry Out Loud stage before the event.

The clapping dies down as a student takes center-stage. They raise the microphone to their mouth, take a deep breath, and recite the poem they have been working on for the past month. The auditorium goes silent as the speaker shares their voice with the crowd of their peers.

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a poetry reciting competition which starts as a class-wide contest, and later narrows down to 15 finalists for a school-wide event. Students from all grade levels competed in the auditorium on Tuesday, December 17 with the goal of moving on to the regional event, then to the states, and finally to the national competition.

Competitors prepared their poems since the semi-finals, which took place in November, setting up the competitors for a more rigorous and challenging event. Senior Rida Qureshi, this year’s winner, described the process as “seeing what was right for me in the moment.” She continued by listing how she prepared, in order. “First, picking the poem, and then memorization. [Then] it was a matter of getting in front of a mirror and testing out hand motions and inflections.”

English teacher Jeffrey Train, who worked with all of the POL finalists, enjoyed learning about each of the competitors and the poems that they chose. Train said, “It’s always just fun. I get to meet with students who I don’t have in class, and get to know them.”

Qureshi, who was crowned the champion both this year and in 2017, described her experience as exciting. “I went in knowing that it was my last one, and I just wanted to enjoy it.” This, in her mind, made her perform better as a result. “This year, I went in wanting to do my best,” she stated. “As a performer, I put less pressure on myself in the moment, and did what felt right. As a person, I applaud myself and give myself credit for doing my best. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.”

Last year’s winner, junior Marie Yamamoto, placed third in this year’s event. For her, going into the competition after having won it before was still a similar experience. “I didn’t feel much different. There was no serious pressure from anyone to win again; I just wanted to do something I enjoy with the end goal of making something that will stick with the audience (at least for a bit).”

Train echoed this sentiment saying, “Poetry Out Loud is not about winning; it’s about people sharing their voice with the world.”

Due to the event’s success, Train plans to carry on the tradition of POL for years to come. Since next year will celebrate a decade of NVOT’s holding the event, Train plans to commemorate its 10th year in a special way.