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Joyce Endee

Second Poetry Out Loud! competitors gave strong performances

THE WINNER! Ceci Mancuso performed "Scary Movies," by Kim Addonizio, in the second round of the Kingswood Regional High School’s Poetry Out Loud! contest on Feb. 10. Her first place finish qualifies her to compete in the Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals on March 7 at Southern New Hampshire University’s Walker Auditorium in Robert Frost Hall. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
February 17, 2011
WOLFEBORO — The recitation of poetry is not a lost art, at least not as long as the Kingswood Regional High School English Department has anything to say about it.

Last Thursday, Feb. 10, a total of 17 students, winners of their classroom poetry recitations, stepped up onto a stage at the Kingswood Arts Center in front of a line of judges, one at a time, to vie for the chance to compete in the Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals on March 7 at Southern New Hampshire University's Walker Auditorium in Robert Frost Hall.

Teacher Gordon Lang, a poet in his own right, shared that when he and teacher Stefanie King had to memorize a poem in half an hour and perform before other English teachers learning how to organize Poetry Out Loud contests that he bombed. "It's one thing to memorize a poem, but stepping in front of a line of people who are scoring your performance is another," said Lang. All the lines went out of his head.

He said King did fine. When asked, she said she had lots of poems memorized already, so it was easier for her. Their objective as teachers is to give students an additional incentive to find a poem, make it their own, and communicate its rhythm and intent to others.

The performers are judged on the difficulty of their chosen poems and the quality of their delivery. Length is a factor in the scoring, as is accuracy and evidence of understanding of the subject matter.

Rev. Randy Dales, of All Saints Episcopal Church, one of the five judges, commented at the conclusion of the evening, "Last year was great, but the overall caliber of the performance this year was much higher. As judges, we really had to work this year!"

Meagan Meserve and last year's winner, Hanna Zdrnja, warmed up the judges with performances of "The More Loving One," by W.H. Auden and "Sonnet XVIII: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" by William Shakespeare.

They were followed by contestants Kristen Phillips, David Keyes, Nichole Ingle, Tori Dansereau, Cathy Donovan, Nichole Hanna, Mercedes Perkins, Brittney Newlin, Emori Petrash, Sara Taschereau, Gage Lirette, Ryan Barrett, Meagan Ellis, Diana Aponte, Ceci Mancuso, Tiffany West and Jerrod Petersen.

Emcees Grace Mitchum and Andrew Martino provided introductions, assisted in between, while the judges were busy scoring, with performances of original guitar music by Johnny Remmetter and Chris Schulte.

Teacher Aaron Gauthier stood by to offer prompts when needed (not too often) and teacher Jean Kimball Brewitt joined the judging panel, scoring their points for accuracy.

The panel of judges – Karen Baker from The Country Bookseller, Librarian Max Crowe from New Durham Public Library, Rev. Dales, Jane Milligan (Wolfeboro's Citizen of the Year), and Jeanne Tempest, former editor of the Granite State News – listened and made their notations on sheets of paper picked up after each round by Francis Marchand's Advanced Placement Statistics students Melynda Hirtle, Alexander Lapar and Matthew Lounsbury for scoring.

Lirette, Ellis, Aponte, Mancuso, West and Petersen emerged as the six winners to advance to the second round and perform a second poem that they had practiced in the event of that opportunity.

Following a round of dramatic performances that kept the audience spellbound, Ceci Mancuso won first prize, a $1,000 scholarship from the Rotary Club of Wolfeboro and an offer of renewable scholarships to New England College (up to $15,000 per year) and Southern New Hampshire University (up to $11,000 per year) for her rendition of the 11 stanza poem, "Scary Movies" by Kim Addonizio.

Runner-up Gage Lirette – who said that he came to appreciate poetry just in the last month – clutched his same scholarship offerings to his chest, saying, "This is just what I need. This will come in handy." He scored high with the romantic Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem, ""Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

The audience enjoyed hearing Meegan Ellis perform "Broken Promises" by David Kirby; Diana Aponte perform "Golden Retrievals" by Mark Doty; Jerrod Petersen perform "La Figlia Che Piange" by T. S. Eliot; and Tiffany West perform "A Song for Soweto" by June Jordan.

Tyler Evans, Emily Martin, Trevor Murray and Jess Snowdon, all members of the National Honor Society, were ushers for the event. Culinary students and staff of the Vocational Center assisted with refreshments along with the high school food service. Scott Geisler and his Multimedia class took care of sound and lighting. Guidance counselor Sheila Foley was credited for lining up awards and prizes.

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