Poetry Out Loud 2021


Lenora Lee, Writer

Congratulations to Emily Lee on her 4th place win at the Poetry Out Loud state-level competition!

With many changes and bumps in the road due to COVID-19, the Poetry Out Loud competitions continued and remodeled their format to be virtual. Mrs. Nichole Murray, a Poetry Out Loud sponsor, recalled that “The competition had to be held via video entries and Zoom meetings. This was a big change from past competitions because we could not enjoy face-to-face competitions” and that “We did not get to see any of the competitor’s videos until we participated in the State Poetry Out Loud Zoom Awards Ceremony.” Mrs. Murray also expressed that “Normally, I have about 25 students in the schoolwide competition, but this year we had less. I am so proud of the girls who won the school competition and went on to continue with the regional and state competitions.”

Emily Lee rose to the top as she competed in three different competition levels to be qualified for state competition and memorized three separate poems: Sonnet 29: When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes by William Shakespeare, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, and The animals in that country by Margaret Atwood.

Emily emphasized her passion for continuing her participation in the Poetry Out Loud competitions as she said, “I had so much fun and learned many things from the Poetry Out Loud competition last year that I decided to get involved again this year to see if I improved.” With her involvement, she conveyed how much her experiences led to a change of heart with “I used to think that poems were dull pieces of literary work that I had to analyze in English class. However, I realized that poetry is another unique way to develop my emotional intelligence as it allows me to express my feelings and see the world through different perspectives.”

Due to COVID-19, Emily disclosed that all of her preparation tactics were solely virtual. Because she could not attend in-person workshops for feedback, she relied on poem annotation, the analysis of well-known poets, reflection, and her own practice performances to invisible audiences! 

All of Emily’s poems were carefully chosen as she outlined “I chose these poems because I could make a connection to the messages of all of the works.” She detailed her decision process explaining that “Sonnet 29 caught my eye because contrary to Shakespeare’s other love poems about physical beauty or desire, the central message was about how love has the power to positively affect one’s mindset by offering compensation for setbacks in life. As I read the poem, I thought about how I gained motivation to overcome my little challenges as I thought about my family. I chose my second poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” because as I read the poem, I could imagine myself hovering over a serene landscape of a never-ending stretch of golden dandelions dancing in the breeze.” Her final poem reflected great importance as she characterized, “I chose “The animals in that country” because it allowed me to reflect on human behavior where people are not able to see worth in things that do not resemble them” and that it “Served as a reminder about the importance of understanding that there is value in things that do not resemble the individual’s uniqueness, belief system, ethnicity, culture, food habits, or way of life.” 

Emily encouraged future participation at Poetry Out Loud because “it will change how one views poetry and offer an additional way to express oneself and communicate with others.”

Mrs. Murray wholeheartedly agreed that this competition is “a wonderful opportunity for students to showcase their love for poetry and to write original poetry to share with a large audience.” She said, “As an English teacher, this competition allows me to show my students another way of expressing themselves. I feel like a proud mom when I see my students perform recitations and original poetry. Each student who competes in the classroom and the school competitions loves poetry and it shows.” 

With the hopeful future of controlling COVID-19, Mrs. Murray ended her statements by saying, “Next year, I would like to see the competition flourish again. I encourage each student to consider opening their hearts and minds to poetry.”