Students compete in virtual Poetry Out Loud finals

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Claire Bai

First place winner Wraven Watanabe performs the poem “Spanglish” by Tato Laviera in Algonquin’s Poetry Out Loud competition held over Zoom on February 1.

Claire Bai, Assistant News Editor

Eight students competed in the Poetry Out Loud finals held over Zoom on Monday, February 1. 

Due to COVID-19, the Poetry Out Loud competition had to be held virtually. Competitors pre-recorded their poem recitations and submitted them to Flipgrid to be judged instead of performing them live in front of classmates. A Zoom webinar was held where students watched the competitors’ recordings. 

“Poetry Out Loud is meant to be an event; it’s supposed to be a performance,” Poetry Out Loud organizer and English teacher Lauren Frantz said. “I wanted to do something that would feel at least similar to a live performance, even if we couldn’t, which is why I ended up doing a webinar.”

The contestants were evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatization, evidence of understanding, overall performance and accuracy. For the first time, there was a tie both for first and second place. Specific tie breaking criteria was used to determine the first place winner. By an extremely narrow margin, senior Wraven Watanabe came in first place, reciting the poems “Spanglish” by Tato Laviera and “Cathedral of Salt” by Nick Flynn. The second place winner was senior Sarah Saeed. Junior Cynthia Rajeshkanna and sophomore Gracie Sheng tied for third place. 

Watanabe said she liked recording the recitations, since she was able to take several videos to get a recording she was satisfied with. 

“I’d think I had it memorized, then have one word wrong, but it was okay because I could redo it,” Watanabe said. 

However, she also sees the benefits of performing it live. 

“I don’t really have stage fright, so I think it might have been easier to perform it on stage, rather than have to watch myself on Zoom,” Watanabe said. “When you perform, it’s just a one-and-done thing.”

Sheng also preferred this new format over doing a live performance.

“I’ve never done Poetry Out Loud before, but I imagine doing it live would be much harder than recording the videos,” Sheng said. 

Watanabe will move on to the state semifinals, which will also be held virtually this year with contestants submitting recordings of their performances.

“I really like poetry, so I’m glad I was able to win, especially since I’m a senior, and it is my last year,” Watanabe said.