The art of poetry and oratory: Poetry Out Loud 2018


Andrea Sword

All ten of the 2018 Poetry Out Loud competitors gather for a group photo. The annual competition is about more that winning- it is a celebration of poetry as an art and a performance. “Let yourself fall in love with the poem each time you speak it,” said Lin Illingworth, English teacher and Poetry Out Loud supervisor.

Hannah Riseman, Features Editor

On Dec. 18, Hollis Brookline High School held its annual Poetry Out Loud competition, a national poetry recitation contest, complete with ten contestants from across all four grades. The well attended event filled the auditorium with a sea of applause for the entirety of fifth period, celebrating the beauty and tact of poetry.

The competition officially began at noon with the calibration poem, “The Obligation to be Happy” by Linda Pastan, preformed by Katie Hersey ‘21. The calibration poem is used to ensure the consistency amongst judges’ scoring. After her recitation, the contestants each performed their two selected poems back-to-back, presenting an added challenge. In past years, contestants recited one poem at a time, giving them a chance to review their next poem before the second recitation. Regardless of that slight alteration, every single competitor wowed the audience with their oratory skills.

Rin Bateman ‘22 was the first contestant up on stage reciting her two poems: “Carnival” by Rebecca Lindenberg and “Candles” by Carl Dennis. “It was really fun; it was also nerve wracking,” said Bateman, but she “definitely” plans on participating next year.

The third contestant, and later Hollis Brookline High School champion,  was Cameron Hallett ‘20 who recited the poems: “The Ocean” By Nathaniel Hawthorne and “I Have a Time Machine” by Brenda Shaughnessy. He impressed both the audience and judges alike through his careful use of inflection and clear connection with the poems, earning himself a spot at the Regionals Competition. “Just have fun with it, that’s what I was doing; I just had fun with the words that someone else wrote,” said Hallett.

Nicole Plummer ‘19 came in a close second with her poems: “A History Without Suffering” by E.A. Markham and “Early Affection” by George Moses Horton. A veteran Poetry Out Loud contestant, Plummer rocked the stage with her spot-on gestures and tone. In third place, Samantha Randlett ‘19 wowed the audience with her great use of pauses and rhythmic voice in her poems “Serenade” by Mary Weston Fordham and “Question” by Mary Swenson.  

This year there was a change of leadership, with English teachers Lin Illingworth and Heidi Foster hosting the event. Illingworth ran the very first few Poetry Out Loud events here at HB and was excited to return to the program. “I love how [POL] gets people looking at poems, reading poems, and sharing poems. I happen to love poetry and when I’m not a teacher, one of the titles I happen to claim is poet,” said Illingworth.

Just as Illingworth predicted, each performance was unique and awe-worthy in its own way, leading to an overall enthralling competition this year. “Like writing, everyone’s performance style is unique as a thumbprint. I do know what the judges look for; they look for the feeling that the poem is newly arrived to the speaker, … poise, preparation, in the event of a tie accuracy is the decider, articulation. I think the most important thing is evidence of understanding- owning the poem, having a relationship with the poem,” said Illingworth.

Congratulations to all of the contestants and a big thank you to all the judges for making the Poetry Out Loud competition happen. Good luck to Cameron Hallett as he moves on to the regional competition on Mar. 4, at Southern New Hampshire University!