Have you ever tried to remember the contents of a grocery list you scribbled minutes ago but neglected to bring to the store? The details of a document you just put down? The Christmas wish-list your spouse/child/favorite other rattled off? Your best friend’s address?
Consider, then, what it takes to memorize a lengthy, complicated work of poetry, then to stand in front of an audience and flawlessly recite it with the appropriate body language, inflection, passion and sense of understanding. Consider also that you’re a teenager who may be working to overcome the kind of stage fright that paralyzes competent adults. Surveys consistently reveal that speaking in public is the scariest thing many people can imagine, next to buying a car (which you can painlessly do online these days).
Contemplate all that, and you may understand what a challenge the annual Poetry Out Loud competition poses for local high school students. After all, it’s not athletics or academics or any of those measurable, high-profile endeavors — it’s poetry, which you may consider a non-contact sport only if you’ve never been to a slam. Or have never watched dozens of students stride to the center of The Merc Playhouse stage, squint into the bright lights and confidently set off on a poetic journey which we are invited to join.
Every year, students from Liberty Bell High School and the Independent Learning Center (ILC) not only willingly take on the Poetry Out Loud challenge, they also enthusiastically compete for the opportunity to stand on that stage and risk so much. No matter your age, there’s nothing so painful as the embarrassment of failure. For more than a decade, they’ve been vying for that tightwire moment. And each year, they seem to get better — more poised, polished and accomplished, more appreciative of what they are doing.
I know that because I’ve been watching them all that time as one of the original Poetry Out Loud judges, intently listening to the recitations — certainly with empathy, but also with a critical ear and eye. The competition is usually close and somebody has to win, so we judges owe every student our full, fair attention.
Speaking of getting things right, I need to correct the record: Although I have been judging the contest since the beginning, I did miss last year’s version of the local contest because I was just a couple of days out of a month-long hospital stay. Poetry Out Loud coordinator Kelly Grayum, generously giving me a break, said I was just on the “injured reserve” list last year or my streak would be intact.
Anyway, I was happy to be back in the front row seat last week with my scoring sheets and copies of the poems that would be performed, which represented an incredible variety of styles from living poets and those long passed. I say performed because “recited” doesn’t really do justice to how the students lift those two-dimensional words off the page and give them life.
The Liberty Bell/ILC Poetry Out Loud program has an excellent track record of advancing students past the Eastern Regional round and on to the state championships. This year, junior Leki Albright (a two-time Poetry Out Loud winner for Liberty Bell) and senior Glacier Gilbert, representing the ILC, have the opportunity to prove themselves again in the Spokane contest. Wish them luck, and offer congratulations. And read some poetry — you might be surprised how much you like it.
The community is still abuzz over the Liberty Bell Mountain Lions’ stirring state championship win in 1B football. As you may recall, their victory was the lead story in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago.
After the paper came out, designer Joe Novotny had an idea. He took the story and photos from our coverage and combined them all in a mockup of our usual Page A1, complete with a new “banner” photo across the top of the page. We liked the result so much that we decided to turn it into a full-size poster, much like the Seattle Times does for some special events, and include it in the newspaper as a keepsake for team members and fans. You will find it on page A7 in this week’s paper. It was a fun project, and we hope you will enjoy it.
If you were looking from any of those football players (some who have moved on to basketball) this past weekend, you would have found them at The Cove on Saturday morning, volunteering to help with distribution of the Neighbors Helping Neighbors holiday food baskets.
If you ever want reassurance of The Who’s affirmation that “the kids are alright,” just look around this place. You’ll see evidence everywhere.