Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Poetry Out Loud on the Navajo Nation

Students from St. Michael Indian School in St. Michaels, Arizona vied for the chance to represent their school and advance to the Northern Arizona regional competition of Poetry Out Loud (POL).

The students worked under the leadership of Reader to Reader's Navajo Outreach  Coordinator, Ophelia Hu.

POL is a national poetry recitation contest that aims to keep this age-old art form alive. Students performed poetry from a pre-selected anthology of the best works of all time, but their performances were only the tip of the iceberg.

"For months, I've had the honor of working with students during Writers' Workshops and in one-on-one tutelage to understand and love poetry," Ophelia Hu said. "Students have intensely researched their poems, know the definition of every word, and can now tell you how their poet used language to convey a message. They prepared a range of nuanced messages from Emily Dickinson's darker works to the stark brilliance of Karin Gottshall and the grotesque, kaleidoscopic verses of Mina Loy.

I'm especially proud that the students have increased their ability to both give and receive constructive critiques. Even our shyest participants have grown, learned to project their voices, and taken on challenging pieces. Except for one student who received his poem the day before the competition, all competitors had their poems memorized by the night of the contest."

Last night's school contest was truly a celebration of the students' hard work. About forty people were in attendance, and two English teachers also shared prepared poetry.

"The students dazzled us with their impeccable performances and a deep understanding of poetry beyond their years."

Judging was painfully difficult. Each judge was moved by the students' sincerity of delivery and impressed by their abilities. In the end, the judges selected Meucci '17 and Janae '16 to advance to regionals, which will be held in Flagstaff, Arizona on February 8th.

"I'm so incredibly proud of these students," Ophelia Hu said. "It was nearly impossible to choose winners because I was so wowed by all the performances!"

(Reader to Reader’s Navajo Outreach Coordinator is funded through the generous support of the Fordham Street Foundation, the Hiatt Family Foundation, and Jean and Lynn Miller.)

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