‘Poetry Out Loud’ gives students the opportunity to master public speaking

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High school students and teachers have the opportunity to deliver poems in unique and expressive ways before a panel of judges as part of a national competition started by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tomas Stanton, the host of Poetry Out Loud, says that while there is an anthology of poetry for students to pick from, there are also a few rules about what poems they are allowed to select. For example, Stanton says they have to recite one poem that’s 20 lines or less and one has to be a pre-20th-century poem.

There is a diverse group of judges who rate the students. Stanton says this is important to provide a fair competition because every judge will be paying attention to something else. It provides different perspectives on what the student did right and where they can improve.

“One of the criteria for students that they’re judged on is evidence of understanding,” Stanton says. “It’s a very challenging thing, and it takes a lot of time. It teaches students to go beneath the surface and deconstruct.”

The host says authentic emotions are key to a successful performance, which can be accomplished by learning how to honor the language and essence of the poem and discovering personal meaning in every poem.

Stanton says the competition is “bigger than poetry.” It’s an opportunity for the contestants to crush the number one fear of public speaking.

“There’s definitely one thing you’re going to have to do in your life and that’s to be able to speak in public and articulate your thoughts, opinions and emotions,” Stanton says. “They’ll have that poem for the rest of their life. Once you commit it to memory, it sticks with you for life.”

Tomas Stanton: Host, Poetry Out Loud

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