Remember me writing about Poetry Out Loud? A National Poetry Recitation Contest? High school students across the country have been memorizing and performing poems this winter in front of judges, all hoping to make it to Nationals in Washington D.C. in April. My student Will was our school winner, and he went on to the Regional Competition and made it to the state finals. Last night I, and some of my students, went to Camden for the state finals, and after some very stiff competition, Will won the whole thing. He now goes to Washington D.C. as the representative of the state of Maine.
And I'm a little misty-eyed about it.
The following information is for my fellow poetry lovers, teachers, and/or anyone who cares to read on:
Will has a natural stage presence and a very sophisticated reading voice. In fact, the first week of school I told him he had a future in radio. Great voice. But he also worked very hard and took the contest very seriously. He recited these poems over and over and he perfected his delivery of them.
He performed three poems:
"The Secret of the Machines" by Rudyard Kipling
"Mingus at the Showplace" by William Matthews (incidentally, the father of our dear friend Sebastian Matthews)
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth.
It was a night to remember, a true celebration. After all three rounds of poetry and the judges' deliberation, they called up the 10 performers one at a time to issue awards, saving the runner up and the winner for last. So as the other students were called up, and Will was clearly having more and more of a chance, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest.
When they called the runner up's name, and Will was the only one left, in a true moment of grace and poise, I grabbed him by the shoulders and said: "SHUT UP!"
And then I found his mommy in the audience and we cried and cried. Our Bangor boy, off to Nationals. He wins a nice cash prize, plus $500 for our school to buy poetry books (yes!) and an all-expenses-paid trip to D.C with his folks.
Here he is getting his award from all sorts of important people in the arts:
With his adorable parents
Will would like you to think his look is very casual, but the hair and that purple sweatshirt are very deliberate decisions, and he'd kill me for saying that.
A celebratory dinner in Camden. Cheers to Will!