Congratulations! Elizabeth Landon, Idalis Stamas, D’Ajah Grimes–and the semi-finalists in Delaware’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Elizabeth Landon took first place Tuesday night March 13 at the beautiful Smyrna Opera House.
She will head to Washington DC in May for the Poetry Out Loud national finals. The competition, presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The Delaware contest gets more competitive every year, and I am always amazed by the beauty and depth of the performances. I have to say, however, that last Tuesday’s show was the best I have ever seen. Stunning and moving.
The twelve semi-finalists recited poems in two rounds. Then six finalists performed their third poem. My favorite individual performances were in this third round: D’Ajah Grimes of Concord High School doing Gwendolyn Brooks’ exuberant “a song in the front yard“; and Pratigya Paudel of Dover High School performing the gorgeous and cagey “Lovers’ Infiniteness” by John Donne. I have heard “Golden Retrievals” by Mark Doty performed many times in this contest, but winner Elizabeth Landon really nailed that pup. And oh my, first runner-up Idalis Stamas was brave to choose “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe. Idalis found an oration style to modernize Howe’s words and made me forget the heavy schmaltz I associate with the tune and its parodies. Edgar Allen Poe wins the popularity contest for his creepy poem “Alone,” recited thrice in the Delaware finals. When D’Ajah Grimes did “Alone,” she conveyed the speaker’s isolation, wonder and furious confusion so quietly–the room shuddered. There’s no better way to enjoy poetry than Out Loud. I am looking forward to the national finals in May!