Poetry Out Loud gives students a voice

February 03, 2011

"Cold for so long, unable to speak,

yet your mouth seems framed

on a cry, or a stifled question."

The opening stanza of John Haines' "Ice Child" seems a fitting poem for this time of year, so I wasn't surprised to see it as part of the "Today's Featured Poet" section on the Poetry Out Loud website earlier this week.

After the ice storm we had Monday night, many area schools were canceled Tuesday. A day off provided extra opportunities for our children to play outside and become so cold that they were unable to speak.

Hopefully, some of them will be warm enough to speak by Saturday, Feb. 19, when they will recite poetry in a National Endowment for the Arts competition.

The Poetry Out Loud regional competition for Allegany, Baltimore, Frederick and Washington counties will take place at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown. High school students who placed first, second or third in the county contests will present their recitations. The competition begins at 12:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

When I was contacted last fall by the Maryland State Arts Council about the Poetry Out Loud competition, I thought this would be a great way for students to grow in their knowledge of poets and to gain confidence while making presentations.

I have enjoyed the journey immensely as we have learned together about various poets and their works. The presentation of poetry has much to do with the understanding of the author's intent. In preparing for the recitations, students have implemented what they've learned in drama, English and history classes.

While we were making presentations in class, students encouraged each other to be bold and confident. That was inspiring to me.

I also was surprised that 26 students participated in the competition at Heritage Academy, where I teach. It seems that a love for poetry is not extinct in the 21st century. If given the opportunity, students will excel in the arts.

They may even learn about poets such as Haines and why he wrote poems such as "Ice Child."

Born in Norfolk, Va., Haines lived and worked for many years in Alaska. His poems about nature have been described as having a "vastness coupled with a removal of all but the necessary details."

I suppose that makes him a fine companion for those with journalistic tendencies.

Or for those of us who have been too cold to speak among a sea of white this winter.

Looking for a way to warm up and get inspired? Come out to Saturday, Feb. 19 competition and support our local contestants.


For more information about the Poetry Out Loud competition, go to on the web.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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