In the morning, I had the privilege of being a judge for the semi-final round of Poetry Out Loud. For those who don't know, because I didn't know, Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation challenge where high school students memorize poems and reinterpret them, bringing their own style and emotions to the work. It's a bit of performance, but the students clearly understand the meaning behind the poem.
Fifteen students recited poems in two rounds and the top five students moved onto the finals, which are next week at the Old South Meeting House in Boston (where Phillis Wheatley worshiped).
It was thrilling to watch the students perform their poems flawlessly. The poems ranged from "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold to "Cartoon Physics, part 1" by Nick Flynn. You couldn't help but cheer for all of the participants, which made my job as a judge that much harder (and that's a good thing).
Bravo to the winners, and good luck at the finals!
After a Mass Poetry Festival meeting (10 weeks away--yikes!), I went to see the documentary film Louder Than a Bomb, about the largest high school poetry competition in the country. Couldn't help but cheer for everyone--lots of laughter and tears in the film. I always think it's weird when people clap in movies but there was certainly a lot of clapping after the competitors read their original poems.
The movie was shown as part of the Salem Film Fest, and will be shown again May 13 and 14 during the Mass Poetry Fest. After the film, some of the students (now all in college!) spoke about the documentary experience, and performed their poems for the audience.
One phrase heard over and over again in the movie was, "The point is not the points, the point is the poem," which I thought summed up my day pretty well.