Do today’s high school students take any interest in the works of past poets? Most adults would believe that they have other interests based on the technology of the future. Yet more than 60 students crowded into the library of Elphinstone Secondary School Dec. 17 to hear seven fellow students recite well known poems for the Poetry in Voice competition, a national contest in which students memorize and recite verses in front of an audience.
“This is like a birthday party for me,” said teacher Susan Telfer, also a published poet. “I’ll hear some of my favourite poetry.”
The seven Grade 9 students braved some whistles and hoots from the rambunctious audience to deliver their choice of poems in a performance that was filmed by the school’s TV program.
Miro Hawkes was up first with a whimsical poem by Billy Collins, Introduction to Poetry. He was later judged an honourable mention.
Ian Marcelo recited the popular Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken.
Kai Moore tackled Williams Blake’s Tyger Tyger.
Quinton Ruth invoked Edgar Allan Poe with his A Dream Within a Dream, to be awarded third prize.
Germain Santos got the biggest crowd applause with his O Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman. He changed his vocals from soft to loud giving the poem more presence, and he took first prize.
Scout Stipec also recited Poe, and on her second round she gave a good rendition of Carl Sandburg’s Chicago, a complex poem that earned her second place.
Devon Wilson recited The Owl and the Pussycat then followed up with Emily Dickinson’s I Felt a Funeral in My Brain.
They were graded by a panel of local judges according to voice, posture, accuracy and understanding of the poem, among other qualifiers. The judges included Telfer, teacher Emily Sheridan, School District No. 46 board chair Betty Baxter and accuracy judge Oliver Telfer, an Elphi alumnus.
The second round of poems put the pressure on the kids; there were a few flubs, but overall, they came through.
“They deserve credit for coming up in front of the microphone,” Telfer said later.
The winner, Germain Santos, will be recording three poems on video to send to the national semi finals. A few good prizes were awarded to the Elphinstone winners and the national competition will offer really big money prizes.
More about the national competition can be found at www.poetryinvoice.com.