Poetry Out Loud Competition 2019

credits to Delbarton School.

credits to Delbarton School.

Derek Lattmann, Campus Ministry Editor

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Hands constantly fidgeting with the curve of my collar, I looked around, hoping no one would notice the small drop of sweat glistening on my brow. Above me, the small, mounted TV flickered as the audio crackled the words of the haunting lament. Faces in the room around me also watched the screen, waiting for any sign of an unorthodox pause in the cadence of the poetry’s rhythm. The contestant stood center stage, her eyes staring fearfully out to an unseen audience. Behind me, I heard steps and a hand touched me on the shoulder. “Your turn,” the stage manager whispered. Following her down the hall, she led me out of the room through a black door which was inscribed, “Stage Entrance Only”. As I stepped from the compressed hallway and entered behind the backstage curtains, I only heard the rhythmic beat of the poet’s words on stage. Her voice ebbed and flowed like the sea; a ship bobbing up and down on the waves. As she finished, her final cacophonous “t” resounded throughout the theatre via the microphone which stood before her, reaching for every sound, even whisper, from her mouth.

As she left the stage, the blackened pit upon which she had looked shook with applause. The only indication, if any, that someone besides you heard your words. Before I could remember to even smile, I was gently, yet firmly, guided onto the stage and up to the microphone where I adjusted the height for myself. I looked up, kept my gaze even with the darkness’ glare, and began to speak.
Name first, then title. Author. Pause… Begin.

I never realized that I might like poetry. In second grade, I was enthralled by the cadence of the rhyme scheme as my teacher would read a short poem to us each day before we went home. I would write my own short poems, trying to echo the authors that I had heard. It wasn’t until I was performing poetry, however, that it became so much more real to me.

The Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition took place at the Morristown Performing Arts Center on a beautiful Wednesday morning. Having narrowly won the school competition at Delbarton, I was nervous to move from the familiar FAC to a real, professional theatre – I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I know who I was going to compete against. After walking in the front doors, I was greeted and asked my name and school. Once I confirmed who I was, a young woman walked me back to the “Hall of Champions” where I met the other competitors. There were eleven of us in total. Each competitor was his or her school’s champion, and had come from Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, or Warren Counties. We had each prepared three poems and seemed anxious to participate. Running through the microphone check was a blur, and I finally found myself sitting backstage as the roar of a hidden audience echoed around the small room. There were three rounds in total, and everyone was to perform one poem per round. When waiting for our turn, we would all eagerly watch the TV hanging in the backstage area. One by one, we would be called to enter the stage to perform.

The competition was intense – everyone was well-practiced and prepared with their poems. Although there were a few minor mistakes and corrections in terms of accuracy, the poems were all well-stated, fluid, and powerfully recited.

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