Poetry has been around long before it was reduced to words on a printed page. And the national Poetry Out Loud competition aims to return poetry to its spoken word origins.
On Saturday afternoon at The Linda in Albany, a capacity crowd watched, listened and cheered as 14 high school students from all around the state participated in the final rounds of the New York State recitation contest, emceed by WAMC-FM’s Joe Donahue.
Among the finalists were several Capital Region students – Shenendehowa High School sophomore Maria Albrecht, Niskayuna High School sophomore Jason Kasman, Shaker High School junior Shauna Stack and sophomore Breanna Medina of the John Sayles School of Fine Arts at Schenectady High School.
From memory, the students recited poems by such diverse poets as William Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll, Walt Whitman and Rudyard Kipling, Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson.
There were poems of inspiration and alienation, love and despair, beauty, determination and humor.
Each of the 14 competitors read in two preliminary rounds before the contestants were whittled down to five finalists. Eventually Taylour Dickerson, a sophomore from the Knox School in St. James, was named the winner. She will represent New York State in the nationals, slated to take place next month in Washington, DC.
Dickerson read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life.”
The recitations were judged by a six-person panel that included poet and WAMC-FM commentator Paul Elisha, singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant, deputy commissioner for Cultural Education in the New York State Education Department Jeff Cannell, stage director and voice teacher Susan Guthrie, poet and program director for the New York State Literary website Bertha Rogers and 2009’s New York State Poetry Out Loud winner Catherine Woodard.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk. You can see more of Andrzej’s photos from this event at the Nippertown Photo Archive.