Morris prepares for Poetry Out Loud state contest
By MICHELLE ADAMS/Community columnist
Be confident. Project your voice. Exhibit understanding.
These are just a few of the criteria used to judge competitors in Poetry Out Loud, and on Feb. 17, Montevallo High senior Christina Morris will be judged at the state competition.
Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation contest nationally sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts and Poetry Foundation. The national winner receives $20,000 and the winner’s school receives a $500 stipend to buy poetry books. After winning the school wide contest, Morris and junior Frances Pope competed at the regional competition in Tuscaloosa, where Morris achieved first place. The top five finalists move on to the state competition.
“Frances should have placed in the top five, but a new rule this year prevents more than one student from the same school attending the state competition,” Poetry Out Loud mentor Erma Hinton said.
Both students attend intensive training workshops in preparation for competitions. University of Alabama Theatre Arts and Rhetoric Professor Andy Johnson facilitates these workshops in which students practice poise, projection, vocal dramatization and enunciation.
Students prepare three poems from the approved list on the Poetry Out Loud website: one must be 25 lines or less, one written prior to the 20th century and the third is the student’s choice. Students are judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity and evidence of understanding.
“Thanks to Poetry Out Loud, poetry has become a part of me in ways I didn’t expect,” Morris said. “Since I started competing in Poetry Out Loud as a freshman, this competition has had a tremendous impact on my life, from meeting new friends at competitions to exploring new poets and learning how to better understand complex poetry. The competition can be tough and stressful, but it is rewarding because I get a chance to convey the meaning of a poem to an audience.”
Working with her mentor at school, attending workshops and practicing on her own, Morris has dedicated much time to preparing for the state competition.
“Each time Christina has competed in Poetry Out Loud, she has achieved state competition—a stage usually reserved for seniors,” Hinton said. “It is a tough competition, and this year I hope to see her win state, so she can compete nationally. Christina and Frances are both gifted and talented students, and I have enjoyed helping prepare them for competition.”