Posts Tagged ‘Poetry Out Loud’

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Memorizing Poetry: Tributes and Memories

May 6, 2018

Carl Little and Memorizing Poems

Carl Little

I have served as the accuracy judge for Maine’s Poetry Out Loud competition on several occasions (not this year—the snow derailed my plans). Each time I hear those brave high schoolers present the work of Tony Hoagland, Linda Pastan, Langston Hughes, Wallace Stevens, and other great poets past and present, I am reminded of my own experiences with memorizing poetry—memories that are a mix of pleasure and pure fear.

My first recollection of learning verse goes back to elementary school in New York City in the 1960s. Every summer each student in the three senior classes (sixth, seventh and eighth grades) at the Buckley School was required to learn by heart several poems to be recited in the classroom upon returning to school in the fall, an obligation that put a small but significant damper on end-of-summer fun.

Just like the Poetry Out Loud contestants, we were given a group of poems from which to choose. Among my selections were “The Congo” by Vachel Lindsay and “On His Blindness” by John Milton. The latter I can still recite by heart. I loved the music of his words—“When I consider how my light is spent,” is the opening line—but also finding out that Milton went blind later in his life, which deepened my appreciation of this poem, so abstract yet so personal.

Flash forward to 1976. I had graduated from Dartmouth, moved back to New York City, and, as an English major, was desperate for some kind of employment. I took a job as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was posted to the Lehman Wing, on the Central Park side of the museum, a somewhat remote section of the sprawling complex.

To pass the time guarding Rembrandt’s portrait of the syphilitic art theorist Gerard de Lairesse and other art works, I decided to memorize poems, among them, William Carlos Williams’ delightful “Danse Russe,” in which the speaker dances naked before a mirror, asking “Who shall say I am not/the happy genius of my household?” Years later, a Mount Desert Island acquaintance, photographer Linn Sage, recounted how one day she came into one of the Lehman galleries and caught me practicing that poem.

A few years later, enrolled in Columbia’s MFA writing program, I took Derek Walcott’s “The English Pentameter Tradition” class. The West Indies-born poet, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, had all of us memorize poems by Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.

Walcott loved both poets dearly and highlighted their connection: when Frost moved to England with his family in 1912, the 40-year-old poet was looking for a fresh literary start to a career that had stalled in America. He met and became close friends with Thomas, a critic and budding poet. Frost found a London publisher for his first book, North of Boston, now considered a masterpiece of American literature. Thomas’s favorable appraisal of the collection—he called it “one of the most revolutionary books of modern times”—helped launch his newfound friend’s career. Interesting to note that Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken” led Thomas to enlist in the British Army. He died in World War I.

Most of us in Walcott’s class were in our 20s and we were collectively petrified by his assignment, but after weak protestation, we gave in. I can’t recall what I memorized for Frost—maybe “Raking Leaves,” which my son James later learned by heart in elementary school—but for Thomas it was his poem “Rain.”Certain lines still ring in my head: “Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon.”

Martin Steingesser

The only Maine poet I know who presents his work from memory is the inimitable Martin Steingesser. At the second annual celebration of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s birthday at the Farnsworth Museum this past February 24th, he recited by heart one of her most famous poems, the sonnet “What lips my lips have kissed, and where and why.” It was, indeed, “by heart” that Steingesser gave us Millay’s bittersweet lines. “I cannot say what loves have come and gone”—nor could we.

I have given many readings of my own verse, but never presented it without the words in front of me. Inspired by those high school students and Steingesser, and wanting to be able to impress my grandchildren, who seem to be able to memorize a book after a single reading, I have decided to embark on memorization. I’m starting with “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats. Take a deep breath, Carl. Ready?  “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.”

Thank you to Carl Little, Communications Manager, Maine Community Foundation, for providing this blog post. Carl is also a poet.

 

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So Proud of Allan!

April 26, 2018

Poetry Out Loud

National POL, 2018

Today started early by boarding a plane in Washington, D.C. to return to Maine after attending the National Poetry Out Loud National Finals held at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. The Poetry Out Loud program is a partnership of the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. It is administered in each state by the state arts agencies. In our case, the Maine Arts Commission. Over 9,500 students participated this year from 39 high schools across the state.

 

Allan reciting at the state, March 20, Waterville Opera House

Representing Maine this year at the national event was Allan Monga from Deering High School. Students were divided by region during the semi-finals – 3 events – on Tuesday with the northeast region taking place in the morning. Allan did a fabulous job representing Maine – we can all be very proud! The student named national champ for 2018, Janae Claxton, attends the First Baptist Church High School in Charleston, South Carolina.

As I drove home thinking about the last three days, I kept wondering how satisfied each student must feel after several months of preparing for their recitations. Every young person there really leaned in, some surprising themselves, and achieving at a high level. They were an impressive group!

Maine POL coordinator Don Reutershan, Maine POL Champ Allan Monga, and MAC Arts Education Director Argy Nestor

Find Allan’s interview with All Things Considered from Tuesday, April 24 at https://www.npr.org/player/embed/605260963/605401512” 

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National Poetry Out Loud Event

April 23, 2018

Live Streaming event

For those of you interested and available to listen and watch the National Poetry Out Loud event being held this week in Washington, D.C. the information is below. Maine’s representative, Allan Monga, a junior at Deering High School in Portland will be performing on the morning of Tuesday, April 24. Allan is in the first semifinals of reciters from the northeast region which is scheduled for 9:00 a.m – 12:00 p.m. Allan is #18 out of 19. I have posted the order of reciters below by state in case you are able to tune in. At the end of the first semifinal round they will announce which students will go on to the final round which will take place on Wednesday, April 25, 7:00 – 9:15 p.m.

Live Webcast @ arts.gov
Poetry fans who can’t attend the live event can cheer on their state champions with a live, one-time only webcast of both the semifinals and the finals. To host a viewing party of the webcast, groups can register their viewing party at arts.gov, where we also have viewing party tips and the webcast schedule. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL18 and #iampoetryoutloud.
  • DC
  • CT
  • MA
  • NY
  • SC
  • OH
  • USVI
  • NJ
  • VA
  • DE
  • NH
  • VW
  • RI
  • NC
  • MD
  • VT
  • ME
  • PA
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In Today’s News

April 21, 2018

Allan Monga going to D.C. for POL

Allan Monga, a Deering High School student from Zambia, will be representing Maine next week at the National Poetry Out Loud competition. READ the entire article from the Portland Press Herald (April 20) written by Ray Routhier.

Bangor Daily News article (April 21) written by Judy Harrison. READ the article.

 

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Maine State POL Champ

March 21, 2018

Allan Monga, Deering High School Junior

They came, they recited, and they were AMAZING! Students from the following high schools were this year’s Poetry Out Loud finalists:

  • Abigail vanLuling, Grade 12, Gorham High School
  • Hanna Lavenson, Grade 10, Messalonskee High School
  • Lauren Farmer, Grade 10, Rangeley Lakes Regional School
  • Emma Lombardo, Grade 11, Westbrook High School
  • Nelson Peterson, Grade 12, Oak Hill High School
  • Lydia Caron, Grade 12, Bangor High School
  • Wyatt Bates, Grade 11, Yarmouth High School
  • Richard Hilscher, Grade 12, North Yarmouth Academy
  • Lauren Dodge, Grade 12, Lee Academy
  • Katharine Kemper, Grade 10, Camden Hills Regional High School
  • Allan Monga, Grade 11, Deering High School

You can listen to them recite from the regional finals held earlier this winter on the Maine Arts Commission site.

Allan Monga, Deering High School

Yahooooo for Allan Monga from Deering who is Maine’s 2018 State Champ.  The poems he recited at the Waterville Opera House on March 20th at the state finals included “The Song of the Smoke” by W.E.B. Du Bois, “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron (George Gordon) and “In the Desert” by Stephen Crane. You can hear him recite “In the Desert” on Maine Public Radio.

The Maine Arts Commission is proud of all of the recipients and wish Allan the best at the national finals which will be held in Washington, D.C., on April  23-25. They will be live streamed – look for the link in a later blog post.

CONGRATULATIONS to Allan and all of the 9,500 students in schools across the state who participated this year. See hundreds of photos from the state finals on the Maine Arts Commission Facebook page.

Waterville High School jazz band under the direction of music educator Sue Barre provided music at the state finals

Poetry Out Loud is organized nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and administered at the state level by the Maine Arts Commission. It begins in Maine’s schools where school champions are selected to compete in two regional finals at which ten students are ultimately selected to recite at the state finals. One student, the state champion, moves on from the state finals to represent Maine at the national finals in Washington D.C., where students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico will compete for a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books.

Lauren Dodge, Lee Academy

Charles Stanhope, Chair Maine Arts Commission, Allan Monga, Maine State Champion, Julie Richard, Executive Director, Maine Arts Commission

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POL State Finals Postponed

March 13, 2018

Tuesday, March 20

Time to read Snow Day by Billy Collins in anticipation of the State Poetry Out Loud finals postponed to Tuesday, March 20, 3:00 p.m., Waterville Opera House. Doors open to the public at 2:30, no charge to attend. Waterville Senior High School Jazz Band will perform under the direction of Sue Barre, music educator extraordinaire.

We are very proud that Maine consistently ranks high amongst the U.S. national participation. This year, 9,500 Maine students from 39 high schools participated across the state. And now, 11 students advance to the Poetry Out Loud State Finals, being broadcast live on March 14 from the Waterville Opera House.

The Arts Commission is collaborating with Boothbay Region Television to broadcast the state finals live throughout the state, as well as streaming the event via Facebook Live.
To see the students who will move onto the Maine Poetry Out Loud State Finals and hear their recitations from the state regional competition, click here. If you can’t make it to Waterville, remember to tune in live on the Maine Arts Commission Facebook page.

Snow Day

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Billy Collins, “Snow Day” from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (New York: Random House, 2001). Copyright © 2001 by Billy Collins. Reprinted with the permission of Sll/Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Source: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (Random House Inc., 2001)

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State Finals – Poetry Out Loud

March 12, 2018

Join us for an afternoon of poetry

No one is reciting the poem, Eating Poetry below but there are plenty of other poems that 11 Maine high school students will be reciting on Wednesday, March 14, 3:00 p.m., Waterville Opera House. The doors open at 2:30 to the public when you can enjoy a performance by Waterville High School students under the direction of Sue Barre, music educator extraordinaire! There is no cost to attend and I promise that the student reciters will be spectacular! The audiences were WOWED at the Southern and Northern Maine regional finals held during the last month.

We are very proud that Maine consistently ranks high amongst the U.S. national participation. This year, 9,500 Maine students from 39 high schools participated across the state. And now, 11 students advance to the Poetry Out Loud State Finals, being broadcast live on March 14 from the Waterville Opera House.

The Arts Commission is collaborating with Boothbay Region Television to broadcast the state finals live throughout the state, as well as streaming the event via Facebook Live.
To see the students who will move onto the Maine Poetry Out Loud State Finals and hear their recitations from the state regional competition, click here. If you can’t make it to Waterville, remember to tune in live on the Maine Arts Commission Facebook page.

In the meantime, check out Eating Poetry by Mark Strand. This is one of the hundreds of poems that students selected from for their three poems.

Eating Poetry

By Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

  • Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Poetry Out Loud is organized nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and administered at the state level by the Maine Arts Commission.

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