Now in its sixth year at Norfolk Collegiate, Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry memorization and recitation competition in which contestants memorize and recite two poems in front of a live audience. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, the competition went virtual this year.
Natalia ’24 selected “The Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad” by John Keats for her first recitation. Natalia was already familiar with and enjoyed the pieces she selected; however, she had to commit them to memory for the competition.
“I kind of just go stanza by stanza,” she said of her process. “I’ll read it and then I’ll read it away from that and do it a few times until I feel confident that I know that section. And then I do that for the next stanza or section until I know it. I also randomly practice it while doing other things.”
Aria ’22 performed “The Contract Says: We’d Like the Conversation to be Bilingual” by Ada Limon. This was the third year in which Aria was competing.
“I love finding different poems to memorize every year,” Aria said of the competition. “I enjoy reciting them and getting into character.”
After their first reading, each student then performed a second recitation. Natalia chose “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson.
“I really like the meaning behind it,” she said of the poem. “This clinging on to hope and it’s staying with you even when nobody acknowledges it or when nobody really cares about it but still is going to be there. It’s really short and sweet and the amount of meaning that’s able to be in such a short, little poem is really nice.”
Aria selected “All Hallows Eve” by Dorothea Tanning as her final recitation.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday and when I was looking on the Poetry Out Loud website for a creepy poem, I chose this one. At first, I thought it was just about a scary night, probably like a horror movie, but as you’re reading it and you look at the meaning, you find it’s actually talking about a very important issue in our world which is domestic abuse. So, this lady is trying to be perfect, otherwise, this man might come home and he’s turning into a werewolf and he might hurt her. I just really wanted to shed some light on that issue.”
Both Natalia and Aria will move on to the regional virtual competition on Feb. 20 as champion and runner-up, respectively. If they win regionals, they will advance to the state competition on March 12 in Richmond.
Good luck, Oaks!