Students honor art of reading poetry out loud

Kayla Renie/The Herald
Forest Park High School freshman Haley Lorey recites poetry during the Poetry Out Loud competition at the school on Friday. Out of 17 contestants, Haley received second place.


FERDINAND — The class of 2023 at Forest Park High School can get quite competitive, especially when it comes to the arts.

That’s according to Mya Englert, a member of the class and the winner of the school’s Poetry Out Loud competition this year. Mya competed with her classmates Friday afternoon for the opportunity to represent her school at the state Poetry Out Loud competition in February.

Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide arts education program that teaches students the importance of great poetry through recitation contests. To participate, students memorize poems by well-known poets — Robert Frost, Joy Harjo and Linda Pastan wrote a few of the poems students recited Friday — and recite them in a series of competitions that begins in the classroom and culminates at a statewide competition at the Indiana State Library.

Forest Park High School freshman Mya Englert recites poetry during the Poetry Out Loud competition at the school on Friday. Mya placed first in the contest.

Although Mya never expected to win Forest Park’s school competition, she figured she’d do well and was excited to participate.

“I love performing and putting myself in other stories and sharing them with people,” she said.

On Friday, she opened her performance with “The Obligation to Be Happy” by Linda Pastan and closed with “Since There Is No Escape” by Sara Teasdale in the second round.

The competition pitted Mya against 16 other students, 13 of which were fellow freshman. A group of five community volunteers, several of whom are former English teachers, judged the competition, evaluating the students on their physical presence on stage, their voice and articulation of the poems, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding their poems and the overall performance. Accuracy was also a factor.

Another freshman, Haley Lorey, came in second for her rendition of the poems “Piano” by D.H. Lawrence and “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Forest Park’s Poetry Out Loud competition is often popular among the school’s freshman since the classroom competitions are part of how the English teachers present the unit on poetry that is part of Indiana’s freshman year academic standards. Upperclassmen are encouraged to compete as well, but they often don’t have preliminary rounds in their classrooms. This year, one sophomore, one junior and one senior participated. For Haley, the competition was an opportunity to be around like-minded people.

“It’s so cool to be in a room full of other people who get and enjoy poetry,” she said.

Although the competition won’t be part of their coursework next year, both Mya and Haley said they plan to participate again, and they figured many of their classmates would, too.

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