2022 El Dorado County Poetry Out Loud
Union Mine High School
Oak Ridge High School
Charter University Prep
Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students. In El Dorado County, the competition is administered by Arts and Culture El Dorado in partnership with the California Arts Council. A vehicle for inspiration and instruction, Poetry Out Loud provides students with a variety of resources to help them memorize, interpret, and recite poetry, instilling in students not just an appreciation of poetry, but also a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their public speaking abilities.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Poetry Out Loud has been virtual at every level of competition for the past two years. In El Dorado County, the competition has also been streamlined rather than beginning at the classroom level before advancing to the school level and eventually the county level, the competition now begins at the county level, providing every high school student in El Dorado County an opportunity to compete for cash prizes and a chance to represent our county at the statewide California Poetry Out Loud competition. The virtual format means that students submit pre-recorded recitations of their poems, a development that some students have found beneficial, as it allows them to submit the best version of their recitation.
The videos are judged by a panel of local poetry aficionados: Dennis Johnson, a long-time English teacher; Audrey Keebler, a perennial supporter of Poetry Out Loud and several quilt guilds, genealogical, and historical societies; Taylor Graham, a prolific poet and former Poet Laureate of El Dorado County; Tina Ferguson, the owner of Face in a Book bookstore; and Lara Gularte, the County’s current Poet Laureate. The panel of judges considers multiple criteria as they evaluate the video submissions, from the accuracy of the recitation to the evidence of the student’s understanding of the material.
Poetry Out Loud has a profound impact on the students who choose to participate. Beyond their exposure to a rich literary heritage, collected in the Poetry Out Loud anthology from which they select their poems, the students also get the opportunity to engage with poetry outside of the classroom, which situates the poems in a fresh, vibrant context. The act of recitation recasts poetry as an embodied art form rather than an abstract work of contemplation, igniting a lifelong passion for poetry in some students. As Lara Gularte says, “Poetry Out Loud encourages finding the voice of the poem, the meaning, sound, and the rhythm.”
In the 2022 competition, Union Mine High School senior Kelsi Havercroft took first place and will represent El Dorado County at the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition. The runner-up was Emily Lieber, a senior at Oak Ridge High School. Coming in third was Molly Grant, a sophomore at Charter University Prep. Their powerful recitations were a testament to the immense talent, passion, and potential of El Dorado County’s young poetry lovers.