By Aryanna Zavala and Katie Albert, Clarion Staff
Every year, John F. Kennedy High School holds a Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition with students from all grades participating. The 2015-2016 contest was held on December 17 in the JFK auditorium with students chosen by their English teacher after in-class competition. The top finisher in the competition was Kaitlyn Kui, a sophomore who delivered the poem “Blackberrying” by Sylvia Plath. The second place winner Haley Adel, a senior performed “The Tables Turned” by William Wordsworth.
There were many talented performers, which made it difficult for the audience and especially the judges to choose a competitor who would represent JF Kennedy and move to the next level at the Sacramento County competition. To make the next contest more interesting, the first and second place winners must choose a second poem to recite for the County competition. The winner from the California State competition will go to the national competition in Washington D.C. to compete for a chance at a thousand dollar scholarship.
There were 43 students participating in this school year’s competition. They were all amazing performers. Judges also picked a third place finisher, Aliyah Penn, a junior who recited “Novel” by Arthur Rimbaud.
Entertainment and intermittent announcements were provided by student MC’s Hjordis Grogan and Tristan Fong as judges (Michael Fry, Mark Hanzlik and Chandler Cooper) recorded their marks for each performer. Dalino Campos served as the prompter and accuracy scorer and David Phanthai organized the event as he has done for many years.
Click on the titles of any of the poems above to read them.
We spoke with the top two finishers, Kaitlyn and Haley.
Transcripts of those interviews follow.
Poem selection: Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath
Clarion: Why did you choose the poem you did?
Kaitlyn: I chose it because it was interesting the first time I read it.
Clarion: What does your poem mean to you?
Kaitlyn: I feel like it could be a topic I could be passionate about.
Clarion: What does it represent?
Kaitlyn: The topic is very sensitive because it shows that the girl felt she lost her meaning in life and I felt I needed to talk about that because it was inspiring to me.
Clarion: Is there anything you wanted to change when reciting your poem?
Kaitlyn: When reciting my poem, nothing in particular. When you perform you get nervous, I felt that should not been as nervous and that I should have gone a little slower and it would have been better.
Clarion: What method did you use in order to memorize you poem?
Kaitlyn: I just looked at the poem and memorized every other line and practiced it continuously and try to practice earlier and start earlier and it helps.
Poem selection: The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth
Clarion: Why did you choose your poem?
Haley: When I was looking on PoetryOutLoud.org, I looked for poems alphabetically by titles. I skipped around and went to T and saw The Tables Turned. The opening line “Up, up my friend and quit your books” really caught my attention, and as I continued reading, I really enjoyed it, so I chose it.
Clarion: What does it mean to you? What does it represent?
Haley: For Literature, we had to do a close analysis of our poem, and thanks to the help of my teacher Ms. Reynaga, I was able to understand what Williams Wordsworth was trying to portray through his poem. He was attempting to share with the audience the importance of learning from nature, not just books. Studying inside can help to a certain extent, but more knowledge can be learned outside in the elements.
Clarion: Anything you wish you could have changed when reciting your poem?
Haley: Going slower would have probably been better, but I was nervous so that was a typical reaction. I could have stressed some words more, but overall I was proud of my performance, and grateful to have the opportunity to share it.
Clarion: What method did you use in order to memorize your poem?
Haley: I take it one stanza at a time. I just read it aloud about three times then I try to say it from memory. Then I go to the next stanza, repeat what I did for the first stanza, and then practice once saying the first two stanzas. I keep doing this until I have it memorized.