Darrington students put oratory skills to test in Poetry Out Loud competition

DARRINGTON — Reciting poetry is a good way to practice talking to a crowd, and public speaking is a tool that can be used throughout life.

That’s what students at Darrington High School learned in January as they prepared to participate in Poetry Out Loud. The nationwide contest encourages young people to learn about poetry through study, memorization and performance.

More than 20 students at Darrington High squared off Jan. 19 to see who would represent the school at the regional competition, set for 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Burlington Public Library, 820 E. Washington Ave. The evening is free and everyone is encouraged to attend.

Judges evaluated student performances on articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty and accuracy. In the end, Caroline Haywood won first place with her recitation of the poem “Cartoon Physics.” Tayler Hoftell, who came in second place with the poem “Let it be Forgotten” is Darrington’s alternate to the regional competition. Tayler and Caroline are students in Joe Eckerson’s ninth-grade English class.

“Many students initially feel very nervous about reciting poetry in front of an audience, but the experience proves valuable,” Eckerson said. “Public speaking is a skill people use every day in both the workplace and the community. Better still, this competition will spark a lifelong love of poetry in some of the students.”

Caroline said learned she had to understand the emotion in the poem in order to connect with it.

Tayler agreed.

“What I took away from this experience is that it’s OK to go out of your comfort zone in order to really express yourself through poetry,” Tayler said.

Last year, Stanwood was the only school in Snohomish County to participate in the regional Poetry Out Loud contest. This year, along with Darrington and Stanwood, other area high schools that plan to send a speaker to regionals include Highland Christian in Arlington and South Whidbey in Langley, as well as six other schools from Skagit and Whatcom counties.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation created Poetry Out Loud in 2005. Students select poems to recite from the Poetry Out Loud anthology of more than 650 classic and contemporary poems. The winner of the regional contest, hosted by the Northwest Educational Service District and the state Arts Commission, moves on to the state competition. State winners receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C. More information is at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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