This past Saturday Hub City hosted the Upstate Regional Competition for Poetry Out Loud. This is an amazing program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that made it’s way to South Carolina in 2005. This is a poetry recitation program for high school students that gets inserted into the curriculum in the fall. Each participating high school has a competition and chooses a finalist from each school. For the past five years Spartanburg has been hosting the competition for the Upstate region. This year, out of eleven contestants, three finalists go onto the state competition. There’s a final, national competition in late spring that garners all kinds of fancy accolades for the winner including a twenty grand scholarship prize.
I really wish I could have experienced this program while I was in high school. One of my favorite aspects of being involved in this program was getting to hear the individual poems come alive. When one student recited “We Wear the Mask!” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, I got chills. It was particularly beautiful to hear “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop and get to witness the masterful way the student really translated the emotional play happenning in the poem beginning light hearted, wavering, and then that beautiful fall. “Though it may look like (write it!) like disaster”
When I was in college I took a poetry class where every week we each had to go around and recite a different poem. It did some amazing things for my writing, in just having to really understand someone else’s diction and syntax, but also to sort of feel the initial stirring that the poem might have created in the poet.
Based on a number of the contestants’ bios, quite a few of them are avid poetry fans all thanks to this competition. Pretty cool.