Two students qualify for county regional Poetry Out Loud competition

January 28, 2020 — by Brandon Wang and Oliver Ye

A room of students and teachers erupted into applause, stunned by the emotional and powerful performance of Mirza Abdullah Khan Ghalib’s poem “No, I wasn’t meant to love and be loved,” performed by junior Eva Ji, who participated in the annual Poetry Out Loud competition, hosted in English teacher Amy Keys’ room last Friday. 

To compete in Poetry Out Loud, students had to select two out of thousands of potential poems and recite them in front of a panel of judges. Eight participants performed.

Each high school is allowed to send two competitors to the county regional, as well as one alternate — Saratoga will send Ji and sophomore Anouk Yeh as competitors, with junior Isaiah Chung as an alternate. 

Since each participant was allowed to freely choose their poems, there were a diverse range of pieces, ranging from humorous to emotional.

Yeh said said that she chose spoken-word poems rather than written poems because they were “more alive and more expressive.”

The competition proceeded in rounds, with each student performing their favorite poem first, followed by their second choice poem. The judges, teachers Natasha Ritchie, Joel Tarbox, Suzanne Herzman and Keys, deliberated and delivered scores mainly based on expressiveness and emotion, rather than accuracy. At the county level, accuracy and memorization will also be a key factor in scoring and decisions.

“We talked about which participants had the most potential to deliver the most inspiring version of their poem,” Ritchie said. “So it was more about emotion and gesturing and bringing it alive, not necessarily how much they memorized.”

Keys said that the deliberation was made especially difficult because of the various strengths and weaknesses of the contestants.

The event also had spectators, among them Poetry Club co-president Michael Tang. Tang said that he was impressed by the participants’ enthusiasm.

“A lot of them had a good understanding of what they’re reciting,” Tang said. “You could hear it through their intonation, a good number of them have an appreciation of what they’re saying.”

Keys said she was pleased with the turnout, especially among students she did not realize were interested in poetry.

“Last year I had pretty much seen all the people ahead of time in Poetry Club,” Keys said. “I’m excited to think that the appeal of poetry and poetry performance is expanding.”

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