Poetry Out Loud Contestants Advance

Freshman Emily Copeland performs at Poetry Out Loud.

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) held a Poetry Out Loud contest on December 17, 2019. Dmitri Derodel, a senior in FSSA’s Fine Arts program and Emily Copeland, a freshman Drama major advanced to the Poetry Out Loud regionals and will be competing at the state level at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) on March 7, 2020 in NYC.

If the students advance past the regional level they will have an opportunity to go to the National finals where the National Champion will win $20,000.

Dmitri explained that he has always enjoyed writing and reading poetry. From open mics to slam poetry readings, Dmitri feels that poetry is personal and a form of self expression.

“I kind of fluctuate between having a laid back view of poetry and a deeper one because I do feel like this is an emotional outlet that more people should be exposed to,” he said.

Dmitri spoke about the two poems he would be performing: “Black Boys Play the Classics,” by Toi Derricotte and “How I Discovered Poetry,” by Marilyn Nelson, two poems that deal mainly with race and artwork which Dmitri expressed had been very important topics to him specifically.

Senior Dmitri Derodel said one can get recognition from reciting poetry.

“I do plan on doing slam poetry and you can get recognition if you win those competitions so I guess it could be a part of my career,” Dmitri said.

As for Emily, she said poetry has always been an important outlet for her as well.

“I’ve always had a love for poetry. It helped me through a lot, just writing out my feelings.” Emily’s reason for involving herself in the competition was to be able to expose others’ interpretation of poems and to understand the differences in people’s ways of presenting the poems. 

The poems she performed included “We Wear the Mask” and “Black Boys Play the Classics,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

The competition required a lot from both the staff in charge of it and the students participating. The “judges” are given a contest evaluation sheet that grades students’ physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and overall performance among other things. Judges are also given an accuracy score sheet which includes a list of “major” and “minor” inaccuracies that a student can be graded on. The loss of points can range anywhere between -1 and -6 points depending on the mistake the student made. 

At the schoolwide level, Ms. JB and Ms. Apostolidis from the FSSA English departments, as well as Ms. Brady from the drama department and Ms. Pridgen, assistant principal of guidance, judged the competition which involved each student reciting a poem from the list of notable poems provided by the Poetry Out Loud Foundation.

Ms. Apostolidis, the assistant principal of humanities at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, said that she’s wanted to host an event like this for years at the school.

“Poetry is very intimate and expressive, it is a visual art form, an emotional art form, and it encompasses all your senses,” Ms. Apostolidis said. “Although some argue that prose can do the same thing, in poetry its very different because there are no rules.

Being that FSSA is a performing arts school, the students’ art studios have already given them an advantage in the competition.

“If you’re a musician who writes music or you write lyrics, it’s a very similar process. It’s selecting pieces and then performing them to an audience to incite emotion and thought,” Ms. Apostolidis said.

Ms. JB, discussed the importance of poetry to students and why she thinks they should participate in the competition.

“It gives them an opportunity, no matter what their major is, to show what they’re interested in. They get to perform, they get to memorize, they get to work on public speaking. I think those are really crucial things no matter what your major is, no matter where you go in any career,” she said.

Ms. JB said she focused on voice and articulation and dramatic appropriateness during the competition.

“Poetry is very subjective. It depends on how you feel, what the author is trying to say. What I think we’re looking for and understanding really is the tone and inflection they use and the changes and mannerisms to show how that meaning embodies through them,” she said

– by Maria Skevas ’20 and Sophia Tolli ’20