MSHS students compete in Poetry Out Loud

MARQUETTE – Marquette Senior High School students shared their love of poetry this week, competing in the national poem recitation contest Poetry Out Loud.

“This is really a big deal to a lot of people who love poetry,” said MSHS English teacher Eric Hammerstrom to the crowd gathered inside the Shirley Smith Little Theatre for the competition. “Poetry is often forgotten, especially in the age of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s the art of language, is poetry. When we write notes to our mom, that’s language. We argue, that’s language. We write instructions to people, that’s language. But language in its highest form, where someone can, in 10 lines, give you goose bumps or bring you to tears or even make you fall in love, that’s powerful and it’s worthwhile.”

The poems recited by the 14 participating students were as varied as they were, with recitations of classic poets such as Shakespeare and Keats going hand-in-hand with those of more modern poets, such as Anne Sexton and Carl Dennis.

Each student recited two poems of their choosing from Poetry Out Loud’s approved list of poems.

MSHS junior Anthony Lackey said the poems he chose, one by Christina Rosetti and one by Robinson Jeffers, spoke to him.

“When I’m browsing through poems, I try and find the ones that their message shines right out to me in their words. And so, that’s the one that’s for you. You just know, you feel it,” he said.

This was Lackey’s first time participating in the contest and he said that’s exactly the reason he decided to.

“It’s something to expand my horizons,” Lackey said. “I believe greatly in just experiencing as much as I can before I can’t anymore, so this was a perfect opportunity to try something I’d never done before.”

Fellow MSHS junior David Bashaw competed in the 2011 contest, as well. He said he’s no stranger to the stage, often participating in plays, but finds that poetry recitation brings with it an added boost of stage fright he’s not used to.

“Before I get up there, I have a habit to shake, and I’m in plays, I’m on stage and I sing a lot, and that never happens to me,” Bashaw said. “But for poetry recitation it does. I just don’t know why.”

The contest, he added, offers a way for other students who may not experience poetry the way Bashaw does at least understand his love for it, provided the reciters give it their all.

“It’s great for people who enjoy poetry,” he said. “They get to share their love of poetry in the poems that they picked, and the kids that come to watch … they get to be enriched with some poems and feel the chills or the emotions of poems that people are portraying – if they do a good enough job.”

Chelsea Morin did the best job, according to the judges, who ranked her recital of Nick Flynn’s “Cartoon Physics Part I” and Linda Pastan’s “I am Learning to Abandon the World” as the best.

Maggie Guter placed second, reciting “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy and “Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson.

Martinns Gray placed third, reciting “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and William Shakespeare’s “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Winds.”

Morin will head downstate for the state championship Feb. 22-23, with the state winner going to Washington, D.C., to compete nationally for a $20,000 college scholarship.

The state championship is sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is