Poetry Out Loud: Making Poetry Come Alive

by Norah Hutchison

Photo Caption: Epic’s Emalyn Terry after winning the state Poetry Out Loud competition in 2023 (Photo Provided).

Poetry often feels like a hidden treasure, overlooked in our fast-paced world, forgotten by the current generation. Yet, thanks to Poetry Out Loud, students at Epic and across the nation are rediscovering the joy of verse and poetry. 

For students taking their first steps into this program, it’s about understanding the poems, feeling what the poets felt and telling their stories as they recite them. Poetry Out Loud isn’t just about memorizing poems; it’s about diving into a world of feelings and history of all kinds – isn’t that what poetry is all about?

Destiny Turner,   Oklahoma’s Poetry Out Loud coordinator,  believes the program opens a door to something lovely. “I think that it is a beautiful art form that many young generations aren’t exposed to on an intellectual level. POL helps students truly dive into the poem and feel and empathize with the artist,” she said.

Turner highlighted how the state competition works, noting that students gain public-speaking skills as they memorize and recite two to three poems. Judges evaluate students’ speaking skills and professionalism, as well as their dramatic interpretation of their poems. 

“The way a student presents their poems should represent the artist and themselves. This gives the poem a healthy balance of literary history with an understanding that it pertains to contemporary life,” she said, adding that her favorite part of the competition is watching students share a love of poetry. 

“There is so much joy, happiness and support from all of them.     It is really a beautiful experience to witness,” she said. 

Her advice to potential participants is simple: Try it. You might discover a new passion.

Jennifer Robinson, Epic’s Poetry Out Loud coordinator, is passionate about the program as well, now in its third year at the district. “It’s a national arts education program that encourages the study of poetry, and they give us free educational materials that we use, and students will learn how to recite poetry in a competitive space,” she said.

Robinson explained how the program transforms students through teaching them public speaking and building their self-confidence. 

“And they get to, while they’re doing that, learn a lot about literary history and contemporary life,” she said. 

The process is simple. Students meet on Zoom and discuss poetry. Some go further. 

“A lot of students who are in this program often write their own poetry. Studying literary works and poetry, it kind of helps them with their own creativity,” Robinson said. 

Poetry Out Loud isn’t just about poetry; it’s about encouraging a passion for words and empowering students with lifelong skills. 

The art of poetry is not overlooked; it’s active and blossoming. To learn about Poetry Out Loud,   reach out to jennifer.robinson@epiccharterschools.org.

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