Juniors Stephanie Peng and Michael Shapiro Move to Next Round of Poetry Out Loud


Emma Malabanan, Managing Editor

Following its sixth annual Poetry Out Loud contest, two students were selected to represent Monroe-Woodbury High School at the regional level.

Poetry Out Loud is a national competition for reciting poetry for high school students.

“I thought it was a really positive experience with lots of amazing people who are incredibly talented and I never really thought to do something like this, but it turned out to be something that I kind of enjoy and who knew,” said junior Vivian Lown, who made it into the school-wide competition.

Students are able to compete by picking a poem from the Poetry Out Loud website and then will be evaluated by judges to see if they are able to move up or not. The first level is the classroom level, then followed by school-wide, regional, New York competition, and then the national level.

While the students in the classroom level competitions have to memorize and recite only one poem, the higher the level, the more poems they have to memorize. For example, for the school competition, the student has to have two poems and for the regional competition, students have to have three.

“I did Death of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë and then I recited I am Offering this Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca. I picked both of them because I wanted to emote as much as possible in each poem and both are quite powerful pieces,” said Lown.

According to Ms. Blumberg, who is the Poetry Out Loud coordinator for Monroe-Woodbury, the scoring is based on how they present themselves, voice and articulation, what emotions you are displaying and how, does it fit the tone and diction of the poem, the understanding the meaning of the poem, and the performance as a whole.

Judges score based on criteria from the 2020-2021 Teacher’s guide, according to the Poetry Out Loud website.

“It allows students the chance to discover the meaning of poems of their choice and express those meanings through performance,” said Ms. Blumberg.

Prizes for the state level competitions are that each state winner wins $200, as well as their school, or organization, will receive $500 for poetry materials. The runner-up wins $100 and $200 goes to their school. The national competition has a total of $50,000  in awards and school stipends that is planned to be distributed during the Poetry Out Loud National Finals. The National Champion receives $12,000, the second place winner will get $10,000, $5,000 for third place, and $1,000 for each of the winners in fourth through twelfth place.

Classroom level competitions took place before winter break and the school level competition took place on January 5, 2021. The winners from Monroe-Woodbury will move up to a regional competition that is planned to take place in February, which usually takes place at SUNY New Paltz, but is being held virtually this year.

The classroom level competitions were performed over Google Meets. However, all of the levels above classroom level (school wide, regional, New York, and national) are planned to be recorded over video and sent in for judges to score.

“Specific participation in the event gives students an opportunity to challenge their thinking, their memory, their speaking ability, their ability to convince an audience they understand and believe in what they are presenting,” said Ms. Bulla, head of the English department.

Students Stephanie Peng and Michael Shapiro, both juniors, have been picked to perform in the regional contest with sophomore Audrey Whitfield as a backup.

“POL seemed like a fun sort of challenge for me. It’s not a commonly chosen art, like theater performance or painting, so it was definitely uncharted territory for me. No regrets in being curious trying though. Now I’m heading off to regionals, and I didn’t see that coming at all,” said Peng.