2021 El Dorado County Poetry Out Loud

El Dorado County’s county-wide Poetry Out Loud Final Competition was held Monday, February 1, 2021. Sponsored by the California Arts Council, Poetry Out Loud (or POL) is a nationwide poetry recitation competition, inviting High School Students throughout the nation to memorize, interpret, and recite acclaimed poems. Preparing a recitation allows students an intimate and thorough understanding of the literary artform, while connecting them with local poets, teachers, bibliophiles, and writers. Arts and Culture El Dorado facilitates this competition annually, and was determined to adapt this program to the unprecedented needs of a pandemic year.
With schools closed and courses taught online, it made sense to host Poetry Out Loud online, as well. In years past, Poetry Out Loud has begun locally first with classroom competitions, moving into school-wide competitions, and then finally to the county-wide final competition. To ease the burden on schools and simplify the program, this year students were invited to submit their pre-recorded recitations to Arts and Culture El Dorado directly, bypassing school competition so that all participants could immediately compete at the county-wide level. This broadened the pool to 20 county-wide competitors, where past competitions have maxed out at seven.
As in years past, coaching resources were made available to participants, albeit virtually or via telephone. Over forty video entries were received and judged by a panel of local experts: Dennis Johnson, Jody Franklin, Irene Lipshin, Taylor Graham, Tina Ferguson and Dr. Audrey Keebler. Student submissions were assessed based on the criteria set forth by the National Poetry Out Loud organization, emphasizing understanding and presentation of the chosen poems.
“Even with the limitations of video compared to live presence,” stated POL Judge Taylor Graham, El Dorado County Poet Laureate Emerita, “Poetry Out Loud is a wonderful way to experience poems chosen and presented by our students.” She admitted that many of the poems students had chosen to recite had been previously unfamiliar to her.
Alexandria Gardenhire performing "Father" by Edgar Albert Guest
The winners were chosen Friday, February 5: Emily Lieber took first place, Katherine Mansfield second, and Caleb Stocking making third. Emily moved on to compete at the California State Poetry Out Loud Finals, which was held virtually on March 11, 2021.
First Place, Emily Lieber - Oak Ridge High School
Second Place, Katherine Mansfield - Charter University Prep
Third Place, Caleb Stocking - Oak Ridge High School

California Poetry Ourselves Writing Competition

Poetry Ourselves is a competition for original work by Poetry Out Loud county champions. Students are invited to submit an original written poem of no more than 50 lines, to be judged anonymously by a guest poet.

Emily Lieber took first in this state-wide poetry writing competition component of Poetry Out Loud with her piece titled Mainstream Misery. You can read her poem, and listen to her recite it below.

"Mainstream Misery," by Emily Lieber

It isn’t hard to see
Our destiny, once bright and free,
now buried deep under the sea
Some laugh and some complain
Some post pictures to ease pain
brought by a virus that isn't
alive inside of us
No punches were pulled
The plug was pulled
on the life support of our society
Why are we surprised to see
rioting in the streets?
Every industry has stalled
Only protected by these four walls
At least that's the sole call
amid the crowd of noise
replacing the crowds of
girls and boys
No children in the parks
The only dark we have to fear
is the one between our ears
Billions screaming, tears gleaming
Yet somehow all I’m hearing is
They say It came out of thin air
Caught us unaware
wreaking havoc everywhere--No
That’s a delusion
An illusion, a facade
to cover the flaws
of this dystopian world
Society now a free-for-all
Who will stop our downfall?
Answer the call to ensure our survival
Lead a revival of the human spirit
We need cohesion
Adhesion to the beliefs
our country was built upon
We sing of unity, community
But who will be the one to
seize this opportunity
to bring real change?
All it takes is one word
One person overheard
Spread the message
Be the change
Let the world be your stage
This misery we live and breath
Will not be our legacy

Hear Emily recite her winning poem.