A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of judging the Arizona state finals for the Poetry Out Loud competition. About fifteen students competed from all over the state, reciting everything from Lewis Carrol to Maya Angelou.
The poem choices selected for the competition are interesting to say the least. There are some very archaic pieces (“The Flaxman”) and some more contemporary choices (“Learning to Love America”), which gave the competition a wide range. The poems are pre-selected by the Poetry Foundation, who runs the competition, and students are given an anthology from which to choose their pieces for performance.
For the state competition, students had to recite/perform two poems. I got to hear some of my favorite poems (“Fire and Ice” and “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why”) and encountered some new pieces I hadn’t heard before. The judging was tough–there were a lot of talented readers there, but in the end I think the best student went on to the national competition in DC.