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Poetry Out Loud: Voices of passion

By: Michael Kirby
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Placer Arts presented the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest Sunday afternoon at the General Gomez Arts and Event Center in Auburn. Approximately 50 family members, friends and poetry enthusiasts gathered to hear seven high school finalists recite poems in the hope of representing Placer County at the California State finals on Feb. 28 and 29 at the capitol in Sacramento.

The Poetry Out Loud contest encourages the study of poetry on a high school level. Students choose, memorize and recite two poems and then are judged on their presentation. Some of the points the judges are looking for are physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, evidence of understanding and the students overall performance. 

“Poetry Out Loud season is my favorite time of the year, because it inspires me as a poet, a mom and a human being to see what students can do with presenting a poem to an audience,” said PlacerArts Poetry Out Loud Coordinator Julie Valin. “I always tell students that they have the power to take a poem that is stagnant on a page, and bring it to life in a way that is always surprising, moving and life-affirming.”

Students Brenn Haydon, Anna Clayton and Kaitlyn Ziarkowski represented Placer High School; Kahlen Conn, Kristin Pischel and Nick Brown represented Colfax High School; and Haylie Ferreira represented Del Oro High School.  The event was sponsored by Placer Arts 360.

The winner of the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals in Sacramento will then represent California in the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington D.C. May 2-4.

Judging the event Sunday were Tricia Caspers-Ross, published poet and Auburn Journal reporter; Elizabeth Johnson, writer, poet, educator; Angela Schroeder, district librarian, Golden Sierra; Valerie Bowman, poet, editor; John Bowman, poet and editor; and D. Pierre Butler, artist, poet, activist.

After two rounds, the winners were announced after the judges’ tabulations were considered. Anna Clayton, a Placer High freshman, came away the winner. Brenn Haydon, also of Placer High, was the runner up. The runner- up must be prepared to step in should the finalist not be able to make the competition in Sacramento.

During the judging period, after each student recited their poems, local singer songwriter Jasmine Bailey performed original music. The event was free and open to the public.