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Twice The Intensity at Poetry Out Loud

By Alli Lipsit, Staff Writer

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Niles West’s annual Poetry Out Loud competition took place on Tues., Feb. 5. Sixteen students ranging from freshmen to seniors came together during Tuesday’s late start to read aloud two memorized poems of their choice in front of each other and several English teachers judging the competition. 

The Poetry Out Loud competition has been a Niles West tradition for over 15 years, typically being separated into two different elimination rounds. After the second round, students who are chosen to advance are brought to the state finals, and if chosen, the national finals which will be hosted in Washington D.C. this year.

The students don’t come into the competition with low expectations.

“The judges look for accuracy and that the performer understands the poem and what it’s about. It’s not just getting up there and memorizing words, it’s delivering the poem in such a way that it’s clear that they know what it’s about,” Sharon Swanson, an English teacher and one of the primary organizers of the event, said.

Many of the contestants were picked based upon poems required to be given during English classes. Though not everyone who read a poem was able to advance to the actual competition, they still gained valuable life skills.

“I think you gain experience talking in front of people, memorization skills too which are wonderful, and a little bit of competition and taking responsibility there too,” Swanson said.

Not only do the students gain these excellent skills, but they genuinely enjoy the poetry and have a good time as well.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to express my emotions and feelings, and it’s really fun, plus you meet a lot of new people, which I think is very cool and just overall fun,” sophomore Alma Osmankic, said.

Usually the contestants are required to memorize one poem first to perform it in front of their fellow peers and judges. However, this year was a bit different due to some changes in the school schedule.

The original preliminary round was set to be held Wed. Jan. 30, but, Niles West was given a day off due to severe weather. Because of this, the contestants were not only required to memorize one poem, but two in place of the one they missed because of the snow day.

Fortunately, this year’s contestants are a strong bunch, and this setback couldn’t stop them.

“It definitely made me a little more nervous just because  I know I wasn’t able to spend as much time on the second poem as the first, but overall it kind of made it seem more like a competition and more fun in a sense,” sophomore Naomi Greene said.

The contestants were given a small break in between their two poems to munch on some cookies and hot chocolate, but after that, it was back to work for their second poem.

“I had to work a lot harder for the second because I had less time to prepare. It was a little bit easier to memorize though because I had learned how to efficiently memorize the poems from my first one,” Greene said.

Greene’s work paid off, as she is one of the poets that will continue on to the state competition, along with first place winner Priyanka Patel, and runner-ups Jackie Wang, Alvin Gutierrez, and Divya Patel. 

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