Posts Tagged With: Poetry Out Loud

Students shine at Poetry Out Loud Finals

After months of preparation, the Poetry Out Loud state championship took place March 13 in Frankfort at the Capital Plaza Hotel. The winner, Taryn Syck, of Pike County Central High School, will travel April 28-30 to Washington, D.C., for the National Poetry Out Loud Championship to represent Kentucky. While she was a tough competitor through the first two rounds, it was Syck’s third poem, “The Great Blue Heron,” by Carolyn Kizer, that put her on top.

I love the moment when everything comes together: The words, the delivery and the passion. Before I became the arts education director for the Kentucky Arts Council, I was not overly impressed with the Poetry Out Loud program. I did not appreciate the value of reciting poetry written by other people. I have seen some very powerful performances at high school poetry slams. So I believed having students perform their own poetry would be much more effective.

Today, I understand the value of this kind of poetry recitation. All 14 school champions were impressive. I am so glad I was not a judge. Each student in the program had been coached by one of the arts council’s teaching artists. They won their school competitions to advance to the state finals. All competitors recited two poems and then five finalists made it to the final round.

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Mary Hamilton, one of the teaching artists that worked with the champions, attended Thursday’s championship and later shared some of her thoughts about the day with me.

“There were three specific performances today that, if they would be available for Kentucky Poetry Out Loud programs to view, would provide excellent examples of very specific performance successes,” she said.

“Beautiful Wreckage” — recited by Titus Carter — “That recitation was stunning, absolutely stunning. He so captured the emotion of that poem. A video of that performance would provide a wonderful demonstration of how thrilling and amazing a recitation can be when the student allows their emotional connection to the poem to come charging through.  So many young men tend to be exceedingly reluctant to allow feelings to show. I think providing his recitation of ‘Beautiful Wreckage’ as an example of an emotional connection to a poem would especially encourage young men to give themselves the permission he clearly gave himself for that recitation.”

“I Remember, I Remember”  recited by Gabrielle Thompson  “That recitation provides a fantastic example of how pauses are not empty, but full. The spaces between the two ‘I Remembers’ at the beginning of each section were handled superbly. Sitting in the audience we could feel strongly that all memories are not remembered the same way. Her face, voice, and especially her communication during pauses, were wonderful to behold.”

“Famous”  recited by Haley Reed  “This is a lighter poem, and Haley did a marvelous job of clearly conveying the lighthearted nature and even the humor within the poem. There was also a clear change from when she was talking in third person and in first person. I considered it a wonderful example  well worth providing for future Poetry Out Loud students.”

Each of these performances, as well as Taryn Syck’s recitation of the “Great Blue Heron,” will soon be available on the arts council’s website. I invite you to visit our website to view these amazing performances by high school youth. And, next year, I hope other teachers and schools across the state will give their high school students the opportunity to participate in the Poetry Out Loud program.

Jean St. John, arts education director

Categories: Literary Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Back to School

It’s back to school. Right now, across the Commonwealth, there are children dreading the thought of another full academic year. They are lying in bed, reflecting on their carefree summer full of ice cream, blue swimming pools, barbecues and theme-park vacations—lamenting that it is the last night of the sweetest time of year. New shoes and a new backpack are little consolation for all the anguish they will meet in the morning.

I was not one of those kids.

Although I wasn’t much for waking up early, I loved going back to school. All summer I tried to anticipate what we would be learning the next year. I tried to skip ahead and get a leg up on the other kids. I was thrilled when they implemented summer reading programs, because I had some direction. Summer was hot, I was bad at sports and we went to historic sites for vacation. I was ready to go back.

I know there are some of you just like me. You might have played it off in front of your friends and joined the “school is whack” rallying cry. But deep inside, you really liked your teacher, the classroom and all the new things you would learn. Well, this is for you!

The Kentucky Arts Council is going back to school too. We have implemented some new programs and made positive changes to existing programs for the 2012 – 2013 school year. Check out these opportunities for districts, schools, classrooms, teachers and (above all) students

  • SWAT (Specialists with Arts Tactics) Team: consultancies for schools and districts with specialists trained in the Program Review for Arts and Humanities. Fee is paid by the arts council.
  • Teaching Art Together (formerly Teacher Initiated Program grants): grant enabling teachers to collaborate with teaching artists to design authentic arts experiences for students across the curriculum.
  • TranspARTation: funding to support field trips to designated museums, performance venues and arts centers.
  • Poetry Out Loud: a national poetry recitation competition through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

We have brochures available upon request!

If you are a teacher: what are you waiting for? The best days—for kids of all opinions about school—were the days where something different happened.  If you are parent, tell your kids’ teachers and school administrators about these opportunities. More importantly, let them know that you want art in your students’ education. If you’re a teaching artist: good luck and good year.  If you’re a student: it’s only about nine more months until summer comes back around.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Arts Education | Tags: , , , , , ,

What do kids get from reciting poetry anyway?

Here’s  one final thought for National Poetry Month. When I was in fourth grade, my teacher was Mrs. Flannery. Some days I loved her; some days I hated her. She challenged me; she expected great things from all of her students and she was sensitive to kids who had no academic opportunities outside of her class. She could also be mean (according to the solipsist sensibilities of a fourth grader), her breath smelled like cough drops and she gave us hours of homework every night. But the cruelest thing she did was make us recite poetry on Fridays.

We had one week to memorize a poem she chose from her personal literary canon then accurately recite it in front of the entire class. The first poem given to us was “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. The rhyming verse was helpful in remembering each line, and most students who even tried were able to recite it with proficiency. The room sizzled with suppressed snickers every time one of us said “against the earth’s sweet flowing breast” and “upon whose bosom snow has lain.” The mood was much more somber when we learned about the deaths of Joyce Kilmer and fellow World War I poet Wilfred Owen. “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” which we thankfully did not have to recite, may have traumatized a few of us.

Through the school year we spent Friday afternoons listening to each other soar or struggle with poems. Some were funny; we each recited Shel Silverstein’s “Sick,” which spoke directly to us as kids with perpetual spring fever. Some were exciting; we especially got into the galloping action of “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Others were boring; hearing Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowing Evening” 30 times consecutively should be prohibited by the Geneva Convention.

This was not mere memorization and regurgitation. I know these poems, and I can recite significant portions of them to this day. I appreciate them for different reasons. I even have educated opinions about them, and I can tell you about their authors. Mrs. Flannery gave me more than A’s and B pluses. She made me well-rounded and reflective. She also gave me pride and helped me overcome nagging fears.

When I think of nine-year-old-me, I imagine the self-conscious fat kid with a gap in her front teeth, standing to recite a century-old poem (usually fairly well) and sitting down with a red face flushed with embarrassment. This kid is the same 17-year-old who effortlessly stood in front of a room of peers and superiors at the Governor’s School for the Arts commencement and eloquently read her own poetry.

If you’re not impressed with the intangible benefits of poetry recitation, I can certainly understand. It’s true that these same ends can be achieved through music, sports, debate and other worthy pursuits. But before you pass final judgment, I encourage you to cheer for Kentucky’s Poetry Out Loud state champion, Curtlyn Kramer, as she participates in the national championship, May 13 – 15, in Washington, D.C. This competition comes with scholarships, prestige for her community and monetary awards for her school. This “kid reciting poetry” will be vying for glory and reward equal to athletes, academic teams and young musicians. Those types of benefits are irrefutable.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

Categories: Arts Education, Literary Arts | Tags: , , ,

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