by Meredith Callis, Arts Education Special Projects Coordinator
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of poetry through a dynamic recitation competition in high schools across the country. POL has grown to reach more than three million students and 50,000 teachers from 10,000 schools in every state across the country. This year, Tennessee had nearly 3,000 students participate.
On March 10, eighteen of these high school students traveled to Nashville, bringing three memorized pieces to recite in front of a live audience at the Poetry Out Loud State Finals. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum gave these talented finalists access to the beautiful Ford Theater to present their unique recitations of some of the greatest poems of all time. Poem selections ranged from classical prose written as early as the 1550s to contemporary pieces written by America’s current Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith. Alyvia Crawley from Clarksville High School took the title of State Champion with her recitation of Emily Bronte’s “No Coward Soul Is Mine,” earning her a $1,000 prize and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington to represent Tennessee at the national level.
“One of the biggest skills learned was my ability to comprehend what someone else is saying and then communicate it, which I think is important,” said Alyvia after her big win. “I really understood each of my poems, and I wanted to portray what the authors were saying.”
Communication and comprehension are key skills that the Poetry Out Loud program seeks to teach high school students. Alyvia’s English teacher, Roy Buchanan, was at the competition, and he has implemented POL for almost as long as it has been offered. While reflecting on his student’s win, Mr. Buchanan stated that the program has helped his students gain crucial 21st-century skills. “Part of it is gaining confidence to work in a world that is very competitive. Secondly, Poetry Out Loud teaches students to look deeper into what is written, understand the interpretation, and then verbalize it so others can understand it.”
The first runner-up in this year’s POL competition was Kiya Brown from the Hutchison School, and the second runner-up was Grayson Brawner from Cumberland County High School. We are proud of each participating school and the wonderful renditions students prepared. We were fortunate to have incredible local talent joining us for the day, including Mickey Guyton as our emcee and sibling folk duo Giri and Uma as our musicians. We are also thankful to our host, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, for their dedication to providing engaging educational experiences for Tennessee students and teachers.
Congratulations, teachers and students, for your hard work! We are already looking forward to next year’s competition.