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Three students still choose to compete; however, the students were required to schedule a time outside of school to record their poems as an alternative to presenting them live because of the ongoing pandemic.

“This year, we definitely did things a little bit different than we’ve had in the past,” said NS language arts teacher and Poetry Out Loud Advisor Kaylene Johnson. “We didn’t hold a live event like we usually do, and the recording process was a little chaotic. Luckily that didn’t stop kids from participating in Poetry Out Loud.”

To compete in Poetry Out Loud, each student must have two poems memorized. The poems must also fulfill two required categories for at least one to be 25 lines or less or Pre 20th Century. One of the two poems may satisfy both requirements.

However, Madsen has to have three poems memorized as she goes and competes virtually at region. The poems Madsen presented are “A Poison Tree” by William Blake, “Ways of Talking” by Ha Jin, and “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

“I started doing Poetry Out Loud as a freshman because I wanted to do something new,” Madsen said. “Now that this is my fourth year competing, it has definitely been a little crazy and weird this year where it’s not in person. Looking at the bright side, though, I’m happy that I got to do it because I really enjoy performing my poems.”

Madsen enjoyed the stories the poems told; therefore, she chose them because she felt she could perform in a meaningful way. Gracie Kjar, a freshman, also competed in the competition with the poems “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat” by Thomas Grey and “A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky” by Lewis Carol. 

“I liked to choose ones that had a story,” Kjar said. “When they have a story, I’m able to connect with them more and understand them better. For some reason, it also makes them easier to memorize.”

On the other hand, first-time competitor Bradley Power chose the poems “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Lord Tennyson and “Noiseless Patient Spider” by Walt Whitman for the pure satisfaction of memorizing the Pre-20th Century poems.

While the circumstances were not ideal, Poetry Out Loud is still an enriching experience for students. It gives a chance for students to explore a new activity and express themselves in a new way. 

“It isn’t what I expected exactly,” Kjar said. “But I’m really glad that they still had it at all because if they would have just canceled it or something, I would have never got the chance to do it, and I’m glad I did because the whole experience has helped me get out of my comfort zone.”

For many, it is a terrifying thought to recite a poem in front of others. Nonetheless, Poetry Out Loud helps students to branch out and explore new interests. It also becomes a learning experience in other aspects of life.

“I ended up liking poetry a lot more than I thought I would,” Power said. “Not only did I learn so much about poetry from analyzing my poem as in class, but the actual process of memorizing and performing I really think will help me communicate with others more clearly and confidently.” 

NS usually does well at region and state in past years because NS language arts teachers take the time to teach kids how to analyze poems. 

“It’s probably the number one reason why we do so well,” Johnson said. “When we focus on memorizing and learning how to analyze poems, students learn how to better understand what they are reading. So then, when we go to compete out, kids often have a deeper understanding because they’ve practiced in class. I love to see the kids grow a love for poetry as they’re learning.”

Johnson hopes the school continues to do well, but she’s the happiest just watching the students improve and succeed. 

Altogether, having a virtual Poetry Out Loud competition did not prevent the fact that it is a great growing and learning experience for students.