Poetry Out Loud

by:  Lynn Johnson, Associate Director of Education at 03/17/2011

For the past several months, the Huntington’s Education Department has been busy gearing up for the sixth annual Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest for the state of Massachusetts. The Huntington Theatre Company’s Education Department is the state facilitator for Poetry Out Loud, along with the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

In the past six years, the competition’s participation has grown from 12 to 78 high schools. For the past two years, thanks to our aggressive recruitment efforts, Massachusetts has ranked fourth in the country for number of students participating in Poetry Out Loud. This year, over 19,000 Massachusetts High School students took part in this amazing competition here in Massachusetts. We are extremely proud to have beaten the state of New York. Hopefully our beloved Red Sox can do the same this coming season.

19,000 students recited poems in 78 schools, and after the school-wide competitions were held, the numbers were reduced to 65 students participating in four semi-finals.

Unfortunately, the various meddling snow days we had this winter knocked thirteen schools out of the competition due to school-wide competitions being continuously cancelled. We can control a lot of things, but not Mother Nature.

Each of the 65 students recited two poems, but had to memorize three poems in case they were to make it to the finals.

Four semi-finals were held over the March 5th & 6th weekend. Two semi-final rounds were held in Boston and Framingham on Saturday, with Cape Cod and Springfield on Sunday.

We are proud to say that this years' semi-finals in Boston were held on the Huntington's Boston University Theatre stage providing a wonderful backdrop with the set from Educating Rita. We are so thankful to Todd Williams and the production staff for generously accomodating our needs for Poetry Out Loud, and for embracing and enhancing our student programming.

Twenty-two finalists competed at the Boston Finals on Sunday, March 13 at the historic Old South Meeting House.

Highlights of the competition included poetry performances from Massachusetts poets Jamele Adams, January O’Neil, Regie Gibson, Christine Rathbun, and the Huntington Theatre Company’s own Lisa McColgan. Faith Pyne and Mwalim added musical interludes between poems; Faith on the violin in Framingham and Mwalim on piano and vocals at the Old South Meeting House. The Cape Cod Cultural Center had a special art exhibit blending poetry and art which served as a backdrop for the semi-finals there. The arts were truly in blossom over both weekends. The Ashmont Hill Chamber Orchestra performed selections from 3 Songs (poems by Carl Sandburg) by Ruth Crawford Seeger.

Our judges at various locations included some featured guests: David Wimberly, Bill McQuillan, Barbara Boger, Noel McCoy, Valerie Ching, Todd Williams, Lisa McColgan, Mary O’Donnell, Michelle Baxter, poet Aafa Michael Weaver, and playwright Lydia Diamond to name a few.

Poems of many lengths and depths were recited by students whose job was to bring the poems to life, and were judged on the following criteria: Physical Presence, Voice and Articulation, Dramatic Appropriateness, Level of Difficulty, Evidence of Understanding, Accuracy, and Overall Performance.

Featured poems throughout the contest included: Chicago by Carl Sandburg, For the young who want to by Marge Piercy, Dog by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Who Understands Me But Me by Jimmy Santiago Back, My Last Duchess by Robert Browing, and Dulce et Decorum Est by Wildred Owen.

Top six students at the finals were Michaela Murray (Massachusetts State Champion ~ 2011) - John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science of Roxbury, Kori Alston (1st Runner Up) - Monument Mountain Regional High School of Great Barrington, John Oliveras (2nd Runner Up)- Claremont Academy of Worcester, Allison Davis – Avon Middle High School, Derek Butterton - Newton North High School, and Noelle Micarelli – Hingham High School.

The two weekends were a labor of love for the Huntington’s Education Department and one of many Education Programs to be proud of.

Poems and competition details can be found and enjoyed here.

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About me

One of the most extensive and admired programs in the country, the Huntington’s Education Department serves more than 10,000 students, teachers, and community organizations each year with student matinees, state-wide Poetry Out Loud and the August Wilson Monologue Competition

This blog will feature updates from Donna Glick, Director of Education, Meg O'Brien, Manager of Education Operations, Alexandra Truppi, Education Manager for Curriculum & Instruction, as well as students and community members who have been involved the Huntington's programs.

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