Junior Laila Ruffin won Concord High’s school-wide Poetry Out Loud competition Monday, Dec. 19, with her recitation of “The Song of the Feet” by Nikki Giovanni.
Runner-up was freshman Casey Ingraham (shown below), who recited “Cartoon Physics, Part 1” by Nick Flynn.
Ten students in all took part in the annual event, the first step in a national competition that will culminate in a final round in Washington, D.C., April 25-26, 2017.
In order to make it that far, Ruffin will need to win a regional competition at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester Feb. 13 and then the New Hampshire state competition March 10.
“It feels surreal,” said Ruffin, who prepared for about seven weeks to recite “The Song of the Feet” and, if necessary, a second poem, “Broken Promise” by David Kirby, by watching Poetry Out Loud videos, making flashcards and writing down verses over and over again.
Performing in the auditorium in front of several hundred students plus a panel of judges was nerve-wracking, she said: “I was like, gonna totally vomit.”
Freshmen Charleigh Arrigo and Elannah Langlois, who also performed, said they felt jittery too.
“When I’m nervous my hands get cold and clammy,” said Arrigo, who recited “a song in the front yard” by Gwendolyn Brooks.
“I was more nervous after than I was before,” said Langlois, who recited “Sadie and Maud,” also by Brooks. “And when I was on stage I was just trying to remember the words.”
“If I could redo mine I would,” she added.
Senior Sean Cook agreed. “If I was offered, I would do it again,” he said. Cook went first in Monday’s competition, reciting “Snake Oil, Snake Bite” by Dilruba Ahmed.
Singer/songwriter Maddy Simpson, a senior, not only delivered a poem herself, reciting “Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nye, but also performed between poems, giving judges time to score performances.
CHS English teachers Kaileen Chilauskas and Meredith Vickery served as accuracy judge and prompter. Librarian Helen Dugan tallied scores. Local singer/songwriter and CHS parent Jim Tyrell served as emcee.
Monday’s performances–postponed from last week due to a Friday’s weather-related delayed opening–had audience members clapping and cheering spontaneously.
“I like coming to the competition because I admire the talents of those performing,” said junior Alyssa Ferrarone. “It is a special ability to be able to recite a poem and add emotion like they all did.”
“They put a lot of effort into it,” said Ballard, who described herself as “extremely impressed.”
“I admire the courage of the students,” she said. “They all exhibited a different approach.”
Masewic, judging for the first time, said it was “exciting to see all the kids.”
“I think it’s a great contest. Poetry is beautiful read out loud,” said Chilauskas.
“I love this event,” said Principal Tom Sica. “It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the gift of poetry aloud with the whole school.”
Other students who recited poems were Julia Lajoie, who recited “The Obligation to Be Happy” by Linda Pastan, James Livernois, who recited “A Very Large Moth” by Craig Arnold, Srilehka Nuli, who recited “Aria” by David Barber, and Alex Poulin, who recited “The Arrow and the Song” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.