Poetry holds a lot of meaning to some hearts; it conveys heartfelt emotions that touches readers. Each one teaches a different lesson and can be interpreted in different ways that are unique to each person. This is the idea behind Poetry Out Loud, an annual competition at George Mason. Eight students took the stage on Wednesday, November 29 for this year’s competition.

The recitations left an awed hush over the crowd as the contestants read touching poems with heart, passion, and understanding. Their performances, along with the musical numbers by the GMHS Jazz Band made George Mason’s 10th annual Poetry Out Loud Recitation a “roaring success,” as freshman Gillian Murphy, an audience member said.

Poetry Out Loud is a nationally recognized competition which encourages high school students to connect with a poem from the Poetry Out Loud website and display their understanding and skill by reciting it aloud. Each year, the competition begins at the class level, as most students chose one poem to recite to their English classes. The best reciter from each class is chosen to move onto the next stage, a competition against the other finalists in their grade. Finally, English teachers select the top two reciters from each grade to compete against finalists from other grades on stage.

The program began at about 10:00 a.m. after the judges, students, and other attendees had taken their seats. The jazz band opened the assembly and was followed with a welcoming speech by English teacher Ms. Bridgette Dean-Pratt. The two freshman finalists, Sneha Parthasarathy and Elisabeth Snyder, began the competition by reading their first poems. They were followed by sophomores Rebecca Horovitz and AnaKarin Iturralde, juniors Miles Jackson and Grace Keenan, and seniors Megan Hayes and Meghan Murphy.

Each student had chosen a poem from a different time period, and each brought new understanding to the text. “I found it cool how everyone brought their unique styles to their poems,” freshman Ellen Chadwick said, a member of the audience.

There was a short interlude between the first and second rounds of the Poetry Out Loud competition in which the audience was treated to a rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” sung by juniors Miles Jackson and Meg Ferguson accompanied by the GMHS Jazz Band. The audience hooted and clapped along to the winter classic.

“I loved the musical intermission, it was great and seasonal,” freshman Jack Lindly said. “I was shocked by everyone’s skills.”

Following the intermission, the reciters read their second poems. As the seniors wrapped the recitations up, the judges took a short break to determine the winner and runner-up of the competition while the jazz band played “Birdland.”

Suspense filled the air as Ms. Dean-Pratt stood up to announce this year’s winner and runner-up. After carefully reviewing all the performances, the judges declared junior Miles Jackson as the winner, with junior Grace Keenan as the runner-up to take Jackson’s place if he is unable to move on to later events.

Junior Miles Jackson, winner of Mason’s 10th annual Poetry Out Loud competition, talks to Grace Keenan, this year’s runner-up. Both are holding gifts from businesses around the community as prizes. Miles Jackson will go on to represent Mason at the Regional, State, and hopefully National levels, and Grace Keenan will take his place if he is unable to participate. Photo Courtesy of FCCPS Morning Announcements.

“I’m very honored,” Miles Jackson said, “I’ve never really done a competition like this before, but I hope to improve my performance at Regionals and to see many talented performers as well!”

Jackson will compete at the Regional Poetry Out Loud Competition on Friday, January 26 at at the Signature Theatre in Arlington. Friends and classmates are welcome to attend and watch him perform.

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