Vibrant Voices In The Verses

Photo by Maxwell Reide.
Photo by Maxwell Reide.
Photo by Maxwell Reide.

Twenty-nine high school students projected their voices and spirits through rhyme and verse in the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest’s Mid Hudson Regional Competition on Thursday, Feb. 6 in the Coykendall Science Building auditorium.

The three-hour event saw competitors reciting classic works of poetry from writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman where contestants were judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, evidence of understanding, overall performance and accuracy of the recitation.

Each contestant prepared two poems of their choosing to be recited in the dual round competition.

“[When choosing a poem] it’s definitely something that I personally connect with,” Elizabeth Cory, a fourth-year student at Bronxville High School who took second place at the night’s event, said. “I find that it’s difficult to recite a poem out loud if I can’t find my own voice in it or see myself writing it, so to speak.”

Cory has participated in Poetry Out Loud for the past three years and was titled New York State runner-up in the 2013 competition and was New York City regional champion the year before that. For this year’s competition, Cory recited “[‘Often rebuked, yet always back returning’] by Emily Bronte and “Crepuscule with Muriel” by Marilyn Hacker.

“The goal is to bring my own voice through the poem and connect with the text that way. I wouldn’t really be able to do my best job reciting it trying to act like someone else,” Cory said.

Many contestants incorporated a visual component to their performance by way of body motion, hand movement and facial expressions that aligned with the tone of the poem.

Isabella Ampil, a first-year student at Hackley School in Tarrytown and first place winner of the event said she practices her movements on stage, but does not artificially manifest them.

“I think it’s better if [motion] comes naturally and connects smoothly to the way you’re talking,” Ampil said.

Ampil recited “Monet Refuses the Operation” by Lisel Mueller and “Echo” by Christa Rossetti. This year marks her first year competing in Poetry Out Loud, as well as her first win.

Some of the contestants had selected the same poem to recite and through each others’ performance exemplified varying interpretations of the author’s meaning and tone.

“I usually have to read a poem over a couple of times and then read it out loud in order to really get the emotion in a piece, but I think the second time reading it is when it registers more with me and I decide to perform it,” Ampil said.

Both Cory and Ampil also write their own poetry, to which Cory credited her time with Poetry Out Loud as helping to develop her understanding of poetic mechanics as well as introducing her to different genres and styles of poetry.

“[This competition] is a great way to open up and try something new and access language in a unique way that isn’t around anymore,” Cory said. “I think it’s great that high schools across the country are doing this and with increased popularity.”

Cory and Ampil will travel to the SUNY System Administration Building in Albany to compete in the Poetry Out Loud New York State Finals on Tuesday, March 4.