The "Poetry Out Loud" competition is back — louder and even more competitive.
Students from participated in the national poetry recitation contest Wednesday night created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The program starts with a local competition at a school and then advances to regional, states and then the national finals.
Senior Clarissa Lotson took home the in a row and will advance to the regional competition.
"It's surreal because I felt the same way I did last year, I thought one of my classmates would win," Lotson said following the recital. Lotson last year but was eliminated in the national finals.
Roughly 65 students entered the competition in late November, of which 15 finalists were selected for the night's public performance. Students had to memorize and perform a contemporary poem and a pre-20th-century poem.
Tynia Thomassie, one of the organizers of the event and a teacher at the high school said the quality of the performances was better this year,"The students understand the competition a bit better." She said many knew to pick more difficult poems this year, to gain an edge in the scoring.
Lotson said she was eager to return to the competition this year and poured through the entire anthology of permitted poems over the summer to prepare for this year's recital, "I knew I had to step up my game."
Lotson read "The Chimney Sweeper: When My Mother Died" by William Blake and "For Love" by Robert Creeley. She said she picked the poems because they challenged her in different ways.
Others also returned for a second shot like senior Kierra McCall. "The first year I picked the poems I could easily memorize, this year, the whole point is to challenge yourself and pick a poem that's hard to do."
Each participant was judged based on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, difficulty factor, evidence of understanding and overall performance. They were also judged on accuracy and any omitted or misplaced word would mean a point deduction.
The regional competition will take place on Feb. 22.