Spoken Word, Center Stage

Poetry Out Loud participants get ready to recite their poems to an empty auditorium.

Olivia Connell

Poetry Out Loud participants get ready to recite their poems to an empty auditorium.

On Friday, December 17,  the 10 Poetry Out Loud finalists took center stage in front of an empty auditorium and a Zoom camera to recite their chosen poems.  The auditorium was silent—the only audience listened virtually—so the heavy breathing and smooth voices of the finalists rang out loudly. 

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a poetry-reciting competition for high school students held nationwide. Competitions begin at the school level and then progress to regional and state levels before culminating in the national competition. The finalists competed after they were selected during classroom levels of competition and then from the semifinals that took place in November. The 10 students each recited two poems that they had been preparing since the semifinals and were judged on a rubric that evaluates their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and accuracy. 

Finalists this year featured a mix of returning participants and students competing for the first time. “It was not my first time competing,” said junior Katie Park, who first performed in the 2019 finals, “but I was so excited to get back on stage this year.”

For first-time participant Valeria Veras, performing on stage was nerve-wracking. Before reciting her poem, the freshman said, “I am feeling a bit nervous, but I’m more excited. I decided to practice a lot at home, and with Mr. Train a couple times.”

According to English teacher Jeffrey Train, who runs POL every year, the competition this year was “incredibly close.” Sophomore Dhriti Somas was ultimately named the school champion and will now go on to represent NVOT at the regional competition. Somas is the first person in the last four years to win first place within the school without previously being a winner or participant. 

Train is glad to be continuing the tradition of POL and returning to the auditorium stage. He said that “in these challenging times, with many ups and downs, poetry is really something that we have access to that allows us to be human together.”