Poetry Over Zoom

Seniors Madison Ganzak and Caleb Ave-Lallemant pose for a picture after last years Poetry Out Loud performance.

Courtesy of Madison Ganzak

Seniors Madison Ganzak and Caleb Ave-Lallemant pose for a picture after last years Poetry Out Loud performance.

This year, the annual Poetry Out Loud competition was held on January 27th, and senior Madison Ganzak was chosen as this year’s winner, and will now go on to compete in the state competition.
Poetry Out Loud is a national competition, similar to a national spelling bee, where students compete against one another by performing poetry.
“The students involved are required to memorize, recite, and perform different poems, while conveying as much of the original meaning that the author intended as possible,” four-time competitor Caleb Ave-Lallemant said.
After such a hectic beginning to the school year, POL was not able to get as much advertisement through to the students, but even so, three students participated this year.
“The competitors were sophomore Eliana Pettigrew, and seniors Caleb Ave-Lallemant, who has competed for four years now, and Madison Ganzak who participated last year,” Keast said.
Typically these students would perform these poems in-person in the auditorium for all of their friends and family, but due to COVID-19, the actual performance looked a little different.
“We met over Zoom for all of our meetings,” Pettigrew said. “We had the finals in-person, but those were recorded on a Zoom call so the third judge could watch the performances. There wasn’t an audience for the performances, and we performed in front of a computer while the other people watched from another classroom.”
Each student was asked to recite two poems, and they were judged based on their presence while performing, their understanding of the poem, and many other factors.
“We get one thousand poems that we can choose from,” Ganzak said. “I chose to read the poems ‘Violin’ by Rowan Ricardo Philips, and ‘Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy’ by Thomas Lux.”
When choosing a poem, the students must be able to connect with their chosen poem and be able to display the emotion and meaning of the poem in their performance.
“Finding all of the hidden meanings and subtle undertones of the poems is my favorite part of the competition,” Pettigrew said. “I enjoy studying poetry, and this competition allows me to do that a lot more than usual.”
Ganzak was announced as the winner of the competition and will now move on to the state competition, which will be held virtually, rather than in-person.
“Under normal stances, Madison would be getting ready to present at the state finals in mid-March which is normally an overnight event with banquets and student workshops, and her family all stays in a hotel completely free,” Keast said. “This year, however, the competition will be virtual, so Mr. Baker and I will prepare Madison to do a virtual performance of three poems instead of two.”
Ganzak will attend a Zoom with one of the state competition organizers around late February or early March and perform her poems.
“It will be kind of like a live performance in that she gets one chance to do it,” Keast said. “So, there is still some of the pressure that comes with the normal state performance.”
After that performance, the judges will be sent a recording of her performance, and the virtual award ceremony will be held on March 11.
“We will all join the awards via Zoom, and watch certain video performances of other students in the competition and then they will name the winner live,” Keast said.
No matter the outcome, the students who participate in this competition all have a shared love for performing these poems and being able to express themselves in their own way, through someone else’s words.
“I love being able to share my expressions and emotions through the poems,” Ganzak said. “I compete to show what I love doing on stage, which is performing with lots of other talented people, and making new friends while doing so.”