Vanessa Gomez takes first at Poetry Out Loud

New venue and new talent grants best year yet for Poetry Out Loud


Abigail Vondy, Managing Editor

Eaton has had a Poetry Out Loud event every year for the past decade, but none of them can compare to this year’s competition. Poetry Out Loud was held on February 19 at a brand new venue. In the previous years, the poetry reciting was held at the Eaton Library, but with the recent opening of CoffeeHouse Ten24, a brand new opportunity arose that teachers couldn’t resist. With the smell of coffee and sweets, the new venue brought a more poetic and soothing environment for the students to express themselves. 


The night was based on two different types of poem reciting. The students not competing picked a poem that had deep meaning to them and read it aloud off a sheet of paper. Granting them an opportunity to present others a piece of art that they loved. The students who did compete had their poems memorized and were judged on their presentation skills. At the end of the night, the top three winners were announced. 


Judging was based on how well the students presented their poems and how much emotion was expressed through the reading. Alicia Wolfe (20) placed third with the reciting of Dead Butterfly by Ellen Bass. Alexyz Hernandez (23) placed second with the reciting of Advice from La Llorana by Deborah A. Miranda. And Vanessa Gomez (20) placed first with One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII by Pablo Neruda. Gomez will be heading to the state competition on March 3 where she will recite two poems with the chance of heading to nationals. 


Gomez’s picked a poem that had a deep meaning to her. She was able to connect with the poem on a personal level and this granted her the ability to recite it with passion and emotion. “I felt like my poem was really connected with my relationship with my boyfriend. When I was up there reciting it I just thought of him,” Gomez said. 


The coach for this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition was UNC English Professor Lisa Zimmerman. Zimmerman fell in love with poetry at a young age when her father would recite old poems such as Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Tennyson and The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes by memory. Following her father’s footsteps, Zimmerman also has many poems memorized and at the ready to be recited at any moment. Poetry Out Loud audience and participants got a taste of this first hand between readings. 


Zimmerman had been coaching the students for a few weeks during enrichment and she was extremely proud of the outcome Wednesday night. “I love watching students find a poem that speaks to them and see them memorizing it and bringing it inside of their heart. It’s fascinating to see them over the passage of a couple of weeks bring the poem closer and closer and learn ways to offer it out loud to an audience. It’s really exciting and thrilling,” Zimmerman said. 


The students who participated in the competing aspect of Poetry Out Loud spent many hours with Zimmerman memorizing and discovering the best way for their poems to be portrayed. Alejandra Naranjo (22) recited Discrimination by Kenneth Rexroth. Naranjo was taught a lot during the enrichment hours and applied everything to the reading of her poem. “There is no moment where you aren’t practicing. Even if you aren’t doing your poem, you’re still practicing because you’re looking at what everyone else is doing. You can then apply what Lisa said to others, to your own poem. Like if she tells someone to be angry and add more emotion, then you can look at your poem and think ‘where can I put emotion?’” 


Poetry Out Loud teaches students the artform of poem reciting and how to use passion while reading something aloud to an audience. English teacher Jaryn Guerra helped the students during practice and was a big contributor to the planning of the night. Guerra said, “In order to succeed at Poetry Out Loud you have to be a good public speaker. It can be really nerve-racking to get up in front of everybody and say something. I think it teaches them confidence and how to put emotion behind the words you are saying and being able to transfer that emotion to your audience.”


The amount of talent and dedication that the students presented made this Poetry Out Loud event one of the best yet. Great coaches and determined students granted emotion and passion to overflow in the coffeehouse.