Storytime: A Poetry Out Loud Tale

Barbara Gonzalez, Staff Writer

Poetry Out Loud winners (L-R): Julie Rossi (4th), Angelic Cox (3rd), Darlene Alas (2nd), and Lily Johnstone (1st!). Photo by Spartan Ink staff.

Pinole Valley High School held its annual Poetry Out Loud competition in the gold room on Tuesday of this week. The students who attended in order to see their friends compete will say that the competition was a fun watch and experience.

For the folks asking, “What is Poetry Out Loud,”  it is a nationwide poetry recitation competition. The schools participating in it select their candidates, who then move on to the county competition. The winners of the county competition then move on the California State finals competition. And those winners move on the national competition. So, our school’s finalist gets the chance to move on to the county competition, and the opportunity to earn over $600 in prizes if they win California’s state competition. The scores had been really close this year, so close in fact, that there were four winners chosen, instead of the usual three. 

Before it started there were a bunch of students in the rows of foldable chairs that lined the inside of the gold room, as they usually do. Everyone was excitable considering that lunch had just ended, and everyone probably got their fill of food, either from the lunch lines, or home-packed lunches that were in their bags. Everyone was in their little friend groups with warm chuckles and laughs. Conversations filled the room, as everyone focused on their own friends. The competitors seemed a bit nervous to perform their poems, but the presence of everyone’s supporting friends seemed to ease them a bit.

Then the bell rang and people started to sit down, preparing themselves for the competition. Mr. Bedwell stood up in front of the room and asked for the participants in the room to sit down on the chairs they had prepared for them on the left side of the room. They all headed towards their seats, and Bedwell got them all into their designated order.

Like most official Pinole Valley events, principal Kibby Kleiman introduced the competition. He welcomed everyone who decided to join, including the students who were supporting, the participants in the competition, and the official Poetry Out Loud judges. “There’s really something different about hearing a poem, then just simply reading one,” Kibby said, adding on to how Pinole Valley’s participation in the Poetry Out Loud competition is one of those events that in his words “really sets our school apart from others,” and continued in wishing that we would all enjoy the event.

Mr. Bedwell then did a quick microphone check, welcomed everyone to the competition, and introduced the first participant, Asia Gant, who recited “I Too,” by Langston Hughes. She was followed by Tatiana Perez, reciting “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Reservation,” by Natalie Diaz, which earned her considerable applause. Next was the performance of Angelic Cox, with “The Day Lady Died,” by Frank O’Hara.

Next, went students Zakiah Hollman, Suzeth Sosa Acevedo, Anthony Aguilar, Deavin Tendean, Tejwinder Uppal, Lily Johnstone with “The End of the World” by Dana Gioia, Darlene Alas with Self Help by Michael Ryan, Joi Gonzalez, Anita Chinwuba, Angel Valencia, Dulce Torres, Joshua Tibay, Phoebe Hosley’s interpretation of Self Help by Michael Ryan, Esmeralda Ramos, Alyssa Ramos, Emily Gonzales, Khamani Samuels, Blessing Mahati, Julie Rossy’s “The Affliction of Richard” by Robert Bridges, Alan Aguilar, and finally Skylie Savage with “The Song of Powers” by David Mason.

They all finished performing their poems one by one and returned to their seats as the judges scored their recitation. All of them were valid and courageous performers of literature.

The audience was told to wait three minutes for the announcement of final placers of the school competition. I contemplated leaving the room for a quick errand but worried I would miss the results had I left. So, I continued talking to the person next to me about the great poems and performances we saw. Behold! Mr. Bedwell went back to the front to announce the winners, guess 3 minutes had passed, although it sure didn’t feel like it.

Taking 4th place was Julie Rossi, representing the class of 2022.

In 3rd was Angelic Cox, representing the class of 2021.

Placing in 2nd, Darlene Alas, graduating class of 2020.

Finally, in 1st…let’s get a drum roll please…

Lily Johnstone, also a part of the graduating class of 2020!

This year’s county competition will be held on Saturday, February 9, 2019, starting at 11am, at the Campbell Theater, 636 Ward Street in Martinez, CA. California’s state competition will be held on March 10th-11th in Sacramento. So, if any of you want to witness Poetry Out Loud and root our own Lily Johnstone on to further victory, check it out.

Our school’s Poetry Out Loud competition was fascinating to watch. It was interesting to see students immersed in the words they were saying, and to really feel the poems themselves. To Lily Johnstone, Darlene Alas, Angelic Cox, and Julie Rossi, congratulations, and we wish you guys the best of luck. To the Spartans of Pinole Valley High School, you should check it out, either at the county competition or next school year. And to the other readers, you should check it out as well.