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Poetry Out Loud Contest '17= CHAWsomeness!

May 2, 2017

On Wednesday evening, CHAW staffer, Liz Rubando, found her way to the Lisner Auditorium, and sat down to enjoy her first ever Poetry Out Loud (POL) Contest.  Here’s her experience, straight from the source:

That event, let me tell you, is SO CHAWsome!

The Poetry Out Loud contest has been gracing the nation for 12 years, and brings together a group of educators, students, state agencies, committee, and community members to share in the joy and intimacy of Poetry. In the words of Jane Chu, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman, Poetry Out Loud is about “experiencing poetry in a powerful way. It is about spreading the power of poetry throughout the nation.” What better way to do this than through the youth of America? With 310,000 students who participated in this year’s competition, POL sets a platform for youth to implant the art of poetry into their lives; to teach and share it to the public.

At CHAW, we start every semester with the Young Artists Pledge, during which students recite together the ways they want to honor and respect their artwork.  We firmly believe in arts as a way of life across an entire lifetime, so this event clearly is right up our alley!

One student is chosen from each state to recite two of his or her favorite poems and the option to participate in the Poetry Ourselves portion by submitting an original work of poetry in one of two categories-written or spoken. “It’s exciting when a high school student finds a personal connection with a poem committed to memory- the dramatization and recitation of classic and contemporary poems can strike a deep chord,” said Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation. Choosing a poem, meeting it, and then expressing the meaning of the poem through diction, rhythm, pitch, and phrasing is a skill that takes mastering. It is not just recreating a master’s work, it is embodying it--representing it as the poet/artists themselves. Jane Chu said, “This competition is about the ways in which poetry can touch and transform [these students]. We hope that they will find a connection, endure it, and that feeling will sustain and stay with them throughout their lives.” If I have learned anything from Poetry Out Loud it is that poetry, like all good art, stays with you. It sticks to your bones; it can transport you to a different world; it can make you aware of experience. In the words of this year’s Poetry Out Loud winner, Samara Elan Huggins, “Poetry has taught me to express emotions through language.”

Samara and the rest of the state finalists learn to become their chosen poems. They learn to speak through the writer and they learn to become the force that gives the poetry its power. Host of POL and master poet, Elizabeth Acevedo, says, “We want them to carry the writers with them.” Not only do you leave carrying the writers and the poems with you, but you leave carrying a genuine admiration for the participants of POL. They are the true art of Poetry Out Loud.

The NEA and Poetry Foundation have created a program that creates a challenge, a common ground, and accessibility to poetry for everyone; exposing what Poetry Out Loud, we here at CHAW, and the arts as a whole stand for: Confidence, Creativity, and Community! Thank you for 12 years of such a mesmerizing program! We can’t wait for #POL18!

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