Poetry Out Loud, a national poem recitation contest, began its first year at CarmelHigh School last week, as four CHS students battled it out to become the school’s winner. With her masterful performance and eloquent articulation, senior Carissa Redfield won the school-wide competition and will go on to compete in the county competition Feb. 9.
The contest was started by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in 2006 after a trial run in select states showed potential. Since then, tens of thousands of students have participated in the program each year, including locally on the MontereyPeninsula.
While the competition is national, it begins at the school-wide level, with the winner of the school’s competition going on to compete at the county competition. From there, winners go to state, and finally onto the national competition in Washington, D.C., in April.
This fall, Poetry teacher Barbara Steinberg decided to start the competition at CHS and open it up to interested students in all grades.
“The material for the contest gets mailed to me each year,” Steinberg says. “I have been wanting to involve our school for the past few years, and I decided to go for it this year.”
Redfield, who has been a part of the Poetry Club since her junior year, immediately knew she was interested in competing in the contest.
“I enjoy every aspect about poetry and this competition really encompassed both my love for poetry and my love for the performing arts,” says Redfield, who recited Robert Pinsky’s “Poem About People” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “Alone.” “When choosing my poems, I really just tried to find pieces that called to me and that I felt I could portray with genuine emotion.”
The contest revolves around a memorization and recitation format with a specific database of poems from which contestants may choose. Students are judged on not only their accuracy in recitation, but also their performance, while judges are trained to comment on each contestant’s articulation, physical presence, dramatic appropriateness and evidence of understanding of the poem.
Junior Helaine Ridilla prevailed as runner-up and will read her poem at the county competition, though not for a score.
And while Redfield is excited at the prospect of competing at the county competition, both she and Steinberg recognize that CHS is just getting started in Poetry Out Loud.
“I think it is valuable any time students get to interact with great works of art,” Steinberg notes. “Being able to connect with poetry in the way the competition allows is very powerful, and I would love to make the competition more well-known at CHS for future years.”