Competition and Camaraderie: A Morning of Poetry Out Loud

By Tempest, a Division 4 student

Each year, every Meridian student meticulously memorizes a unique poem and recites it in front of the whole school at Poetry Out Loud. January 23rd, 2019 was no different. The school gathered in the Parish Hall, each student anxiously – or excitedly – awaiting their turn. For some students, it’s a magical (and nerve-wracking!) first-time experience. For others, it’s their seventh and final recitation.

When Poetry Out Loud comes around every year, it’s astounding to sit down for the morning and hear every single distinctive voice at Meridian. Even though some poems were recited by more than one student, each presenter had their own approach to the poem, which was distinctly communicated with their recitation. The poems also represented a range of emotions – some were funny, some were happy, some were sad, and some were reflective – and the audience could experience each of these feelings thanks to the the devoted performances they got from the students.

It might be hard to believe that so many middle school and high school students would actually be committed to reciting a well-memorized, beautifully articulated poem, but there are three reasons why Meridian challenges that idea.

First, Poetry Out Loud is one of the few competitions Meridian hosts. We don’t have traditional sports teams, spelling bees, or debate clubs, and the school’s atmosphere is one that privileges community over contests. This means that when we’ve got the chance to compete, we take it. Each student competes for the best recitation, and those who win first, second, or runner-up each get a prize. The high schooler who places first goes on to a regional competition, then possibly to states or even nationals.

The second reason is that the recitations are assessed by our teachers. We don’t have traditional grades are Meridian, but our teachers evaluate our performances based on areas including articulation, volume, physical presence, and dramatic choices. The day isn’t just a celebration of poetry, but the culmination of many weeks’ preparation.

Lastly, and on a related note, many Humanities teachers incorporate the memorization and development aspect into class time. In Division 4 Humanities, the students got the chance to recite their poems in front of Nathan, who then gave thoughtful and useful feedback for us to think about and incorporate back into our poems.

Poetry Out Loud is an evocative and unique experience. Not only is it fun – despite the nerves and pressure – but it allows the students to strengthen our memorization and public speaking skills. We relish the competition of Poetry Out Loud. But since every one of us does it, we also know we’re in it together.

Check out the winners here!