By Angelica Niedermeyer, News Editor
In the school-wide finals of the “Poetry Out Loud” competition held in early January during a community meeting, junior Maggie Crowe placed first with senior Madison Marques and sophomore Annaliese Heidelberger as runners-up. As the school winner, Crowe advanced to the regional competition at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank on Feb. 4.
The three finalists were chosen based on their performances in the preliminary round in which all participants recited one poem in front of a panel of English teachers. During the final round, the three finalists recited two poems in front of the entire community with other faculty judges determining the winner based on criteria established by the Poetry Out Loud program.
“Last year, I didn’t think I was going to participate,” Crowe said. “I had my mind made up and then one of the seniors talked me into it, and at the last second I sent in the form. This year, I wanted to try again because I was in the finals for the school. I also just enjoy performing; I’m not in it to win.”
“I just wanted to do it in front of Trinity Hall, so even to advance was a surprise,” Crowe added. “Once I was at Count Basie, I really did not care about winning, but I really wanted to be in the last five so I could recite my third poem because I loved it so much.” Crowe was one of the five students who advanced to the final round at the regional competition, but was not one of the two winners selected to attend the state competition.
English teacher Mariana Sierra organized the contest for the first time this year and helped judge the students. She is proud to share her love of poetry with her students and the community.
“I think it is one of those things that’s slowly becoming a tradition here, and this was my first year taking lead,” Sierra said.
In preparation, the girls practiced during winter break by reading their poems over and over again. “I would actually practice in the mirror and work on my emotion and presentation,” Heidelberger said.
“I was nervous to do it in front of the teachers in the little room because I hate little rooms and stuff like that, but doing it in front of the school and in front of the audience at Count Basie I wasn’t worried about because you can’t see the audience,” Crowe said. “It doesn’t faze me. I enjoy being in front of a crowd.”
Despite the nerves, Heidelberger learned from her experience. “I was definitely nervous. I am not a big performance person, but I definitely felt a bit more comfortable after going through my first audition. So, it felt better, but it was definitely scary,” said Heidelberger, who is also a member of the Queen’s Court Company. “I was comfortable with the results. I think everyone was really well-matched and it was great to compete against them, and I felt like we all had really strong performances.”
Taking theater in school was beneficial for these girls as they learned to perform their poems. Some even asked theater teacher Ellen Phillips for advice in their preparation.
“I was able to visit Mrs. Phillips, who helped me to understand where to input emotion and where I should draw it back,” Marques said. “Especially taking theater for four years, [I] really just brought everything that I had been trying to find through my voice together.”
Each of the school finalists chose poems that contrasted each other, which made the performances dramatic and interesting. The community showed its appreciation of their artistry and courage with much applause.
All of the students who participated in the contest were invited to see Crowe compete at the regional finals against dozens of students from other local schools.
“I thought that what they were doing took poetry to the next level,” Marques said. “Instead of having something that’s only on paper, they kind of brought it to life and were able to put emotion to it. Especially since they were able to add their own interpretations.”
“I loved going to see Maggie perform and getting to see the different performers. It was really interesting,” Heidelberger said, adding that she “really would like to do it again” next year.
“[Poetry is] more than a requirement of any literature course,” Sierra said. “I think poetry is necessary. It’s beautiful and it’s raw in a way that more traditional genres aren’t and the fact that it’s meant to be performed and not just experienced through a page is essential to enjoying it.”