The SCCOE Takes On Poetry Out Loud: A National Recitation Competition

On Thursday, February 1, high school student finalists from the county competed in the Poetry Out Loud competition at Bookshop Santa Cruz. It was a high-energy event with contagious enthusiasm. Michael Watkins greeted the students and graciously thanked them, their beaming parents, and their families for their support and belief in their children’s artistic and literary abilities.

smiling adults and students with name tags at book storePoetry Out Loud is the first annual county competition in the Arts. Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It takes place in partnership with County Offices of Education and State Arts Agencies such as the California Alliance for Arts Education. Students select poems from the website’s poetry anthology. They are responsible for learning about the poem so that their recitation reveals their deep understanding of the meanings contained in the poem. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that starts at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, next to the county level, then the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals held in Washington D.C. Last year, the winner of the National Finals won a $20,000 scholarship.

The staff at Bookshop summed up the night with the following:

“Last week, the students of Santa Cruz County floored us with incredible, heartfelt, affecting poetry performances that got huge applause! Speaking in front of a crowd of 65+, these dauntless young people spoke without shaking and gave brilliant performances. From the range of their selections to the intensity in their voices as they spoke, the group of students in this first-ever local iteration of Poetry Out Loud set a high bar, wowing the community of adults and peers who turned out to hear them speak. Virginia O. at Aptos High bravely led the way as opening speaker, performing a rendition of ‘Megan Married Herself’ by Caroline Bird that had us laughing right away, invited into joy and ease by her performance. Our subsequent speakers were equally adept with complex works, with selections by William Butler Yeats and Kenneth Patchett, A.R. Ammon and Carmen Giménez Smith. Two talented multilingual speakers even offered poems in Spanish and Farsi. We couldn’t be more proud of the performers, and special congratulations to Owen S.  for his winning performance of ‘On Quitting’ by Edgar Albert Guest, and to runner-up Alina A. for her unforgettable rendition of Max Ritvo’s ‘Dawn of Man.’”

For more information about this county-wide competition, contact:
Audrey Sirota, Arts Coordinator at the SCCOE