Poetry Out Loud Returns to New Paltz!

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By: Georgia Schultz, Staff Writer

For the first time in five years, New Paltz High School students have the opportunity to participate in the return of Poetry Out Loud. The recitation program is a national arts organization with over 4.1 million participants from over 17,000 schools across the country, and now New Paltz High School can proudly add themselves to the list. 

Participants of Poetry Out Loud gather to practice recitation at New Paltz High School

Led by Mrs. McKenna, a teacher at New Paltz High School, the program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Not only that, but it inspires passion within a wholesome community. 

“To me, poetry means self-expression.” Said Anna Goodman, a junior at New Paltz High School and program participant . “It’s a way of exploring language through a form of writing and creating: it lets me work through things.”

Students have the ability to look through a diverse selection of carefully chosen poems and then commit their favorites to memory. Later on, through levels of judging provided by teachers at the high school, two participants will go on to the regional semi-finals. They are judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, and overall performance.  

Josie Quinn (left), Mrs. McKenna (center), and Henry Millman (right) before the regional finals

“I really love poetry. For me and all my siblings, it is just kind of a thing we do to express ourselves.” commented Josie Quinn, a senior and finalist at New Paltz High School. Smiling, she recounts the hours she spent practicing reciting her poems. “It just looks like me standing in front of my mirror, saying my lines over and over.”

This year, the two finalists for New Paltz High School were the aforementioned Josie Quinn and senior Henry Millman. The two traveled to The Terrace at SUNY New Paltz on February 1, competing with many other students for the opportunity to go to New York City. While neither of the New Paltz participants went on to win, both Quinn and Millman put on an excellent show, with recitations full of voice, and passion. 

“It’s good for your brain, and it’s really fun,” said Millman. “Sometimes I get nervous, but the scale is small enough that it isn’t stressful.” 

“I personally am a very nervous person,” Quinn added. “But I have a lot of fun with it. It’s a little bit of performing and a little bit of literature and understanding.”

As students participate in Poetry Out Loud, they develop self-confidence, an improvement in their public speaking skills, and a deeper appreciation of poetry. 

Students of New Paltz come together to support Quinn and Millman at the regional finals

“I would say do it,” commented Goodman when asked if she would recommend the program for others in the future. “It looks good on college transcripts, but besides that, it’s really fun.”

Students who have a love for literature and poetry can finally join together to foster a sense of community within New Paltz High School. It is a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested, and the program will offer benefits throughout the rest of a student’s life. 

“What I have come to appreciate about poetry is that  it’s not just about writing,” said the dean of SUNY New Paltz in a speech before the regional semi-finals. “It’s about using the techniques of the genre to be able to evoke emotion, and passion and using that skill to express joy, pain, confusion, and  a whole host of other things that cut through and touch people in ways that have significant meaning.”

Listen to live audio recordings of our two regional finals participants below!

Josie Quinn’s reading of “The Tyger” by William Blake
Henry Millman’s reading of “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar