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Two Washington County students advance to state level of Poetry Out Loud contest

February 11, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Heritage Academy's Bryce Boyd recites a poem during the Regional competition of Poetry Out Loud held on Saturday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Two students from Washington County advanced to the state level of the Poetry Out Loud national recitation contest after securing the second- and third-place spots at a regional competition in Hagerstown Saturday.

Bryce Boyd, 17, a senior at Heritage Academy, took second place, and Brianne Wade, 16, a junior at Boonsboro High School, took third place in the four-county regional competition at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

First place went to Kimberly Lane of New Town High School in Baltimore County.

Saturday’s competition brought together the top three competitors from Allegany, Baltimore, Frederick and Washington counties to recite poems from memory before a panel of judges.

Washington County’s third participant in the regional competition was Kaleb Singleton, 17, a senior at Washington County Technical High School. Boyd, Wade and Singleton were the winners of a Jan. 18 county competition.

Boyd’s recitation selections included “Echo” by Christina Rossetti and “What Work Is” by Philip Levine.

Since advancing from the county level, he said he had practiced reciting the poems for his classmates, his parents, and to himself in the shower. He said he enjoys performing, but has not had a lot of experience.

“So I do get nervous,” he said.

Wade said she has experience singing before crowds of up to 1,000 people, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get butterflies before competing.

“I probably shouldn’t be nervous, but I always get really shaky,” she said. “I’m surprised when people don’t notice me trembling on stage.”

Her poems included “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe and “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy.

Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud is administered in Maryland in partnership with the Maryland State Arts Council.

Chris Stewart, the state director for the Poetry Out Loud competition, said participating in Poetry Out Loud helps students build confidence and speaking skills while learning about their literary heritage.

“Most schools already have poetry in their curriculum, but this is a way for students to engage with it in a more intimate way,” she said. “They learn how to unpack a poem — you know, analyze it, get inside the poet’s head, inhabit the poem — and recite it, which is really a lost art.”

Students’ success in the competition often depends on choosing poems that speak to them, preparing thoroughly, and walking the fine line between recitation and theatrical performance, Stewart said.

“You’re literally supposed to be channeling the poem, so it’s important to be still and look confident, and if you’re doing a lot of gestures, it becomes too theatrical and makes you appear nervous,” she said. “But when you get up there in the moment, anything can happen.”

The state competition will be March 3 at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The national competition is May 13 to 15 at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington D.C.

The state winner receives $200 and a $500 stipend for his or her school to purchase poetry books, and the runner-up receives $100 and a $200 school stipend.

At the national finals, Poetry Out Loud will award $50,000 in awards and school stipends, along with $20,000 for the national champion.

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