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Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

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Contestants recite for Poetry Out Loud

Dhanya+Ramanan+%289%29+recites+Love+Song+of+the+Bat+with+Vertigo+by+Mart%C3%ADn+Espada+for+Harkers+Poetry+Out+Loud+competition+on+Jan.+31.+Of+the+eleven+contestants%2C+Eric+Zhang+%2811%29+and+Iris+Fu+%2812%29+advanced+to+the+Santa+Clara+County+regional+round.
Jeremy Peng
Dhanya Ramanan (9) recites “Love Song of the Bat with Vertigo” by Martín Espada for Harker’s Poetry Out Loud competition on Jan. 31. Of the eleven contestants, Eric Zhang (11) and Iris Fu (12) advanced to the Santa Clara County regional round.

Eleven students competed in Harker’s annual Poetry Out Loud contest in Nichols Auditorium on Jan. 31 during long lunch. 

Each contestant recited a poem of their choice to three judges, English teachers Nicholas Manjoine, Susanne Salhab and Beth Wahl, and an audience of students and faculty. The judges selected Eric Zhang (11) and Iris Fu (12) to advance to the Santa Clara County regional competition on Wednesday.

Poetry Out Loud, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, offers high school students an entrance into poetry and public speaking on a national scale. English teacher Jennifer Siraganian, who organized the schoolwide round at Harker, explained the benefits of reciting poems.

“I think it’s a really fun way to dive into a poem without the pressure of having to create one yourself,” Siraganian said. “You can almost try on a poem like you’re trying on clothes.”

Reciters chose from the program’s online anthology of over 1,200 poems, from Margaret Atwood’s mythologically inspired “Siren Song” to the more contemporary “Portrait of My Gender as [Inaudible]” by Meg Day. Eric, who took first place with Ross Gay’s “Wedding Poem,” described his experience with the recitation.

“Poetry Out Loud is a great opportunity to express yourself and explore a meaningful text,” Eric said. “Sometimes you just read a poem and it resonates with you, like my poem about the beauty of nature.”

Beyond the literature, Poetry Out Loud encourages public speaking in youth. Four-time participant Tanisha Singh (12) reflected on the valuable speaking experience she gained from the contest.

“I’ve noticed there aren’t many real opportunities for high schoolers to speak to an audience on a stage,” Tanisha said. “This is the only public speaking I get, and I really cherish it.”

About 4.2 million students have competed in Poetry Out Loud since its inception in 2005. Due to its growing popularity, Harker can only nominate two contestants to the county competition this year, down from three in previous years. Nevertheless, Siraganian encouraged students to discover poetry for themselves.

“A lot of times people close the door on poetry because they think they can’t understand it, or it’s just not relevant to them,” Siraganian said. “I would say, keep looking, because maybe you just haven’t found the right poem yet, and those poems are out there.”

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Jeremy Peng, Reporter
Jeremy Peng (11) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is his second year on staff. This year, Jeremy wants to refine his understanding of journalistic writing and explore elements of journalism beyond the written word. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to music and reading 19th and 20th-century novels.

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