Elizabeth Turnbull Turns to Poetry Out Loud Regionals

Maura Fennelly, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Madison High School senior Elizabeth Turnbull will be competing in the Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition on February 12th. Thousands of students compete each year from across the country, with one students from each school advancing to the Regional Competition. Turnbull was chosen from more than a dozen students from MHS for the second year in a row. Although she did not advance past Regionals in 2013, she has learned a lot from the experience and hopes to be even more successful this year.  Although many students may find poetry mundane and useless, it’s hard to still say so after witnessing Elizabeth’s talent. I (MDO) decided to talk to Elizabeth (ET) to see how she became interested in performing poems and how she figures out how to properly read a poem out loud.

(MDO): What made you try out for Poetry Out Loud initially?

(ET): Well, I tried out last year for the competition for the first time because I really like performing and acting and I thought it would be a fun experience. I did not expect to win whatsoever, but when I did, making it to Regionals and performing there was so fun so I wanted to make it again this year and hopefully make it further than last year.

(MDO): What did you learn at last year’s competition that you hope will aid you this year?

(ET): I think I learned a couple helpful things last year. The first is that performing is not as scary as I made it out to be and now I feel like I can be a lot less nervous than I was last year. I also learned that you really have to know your poems completely and treat it like a story or conversation. It makes the performance seem a lot more natural and relatable for the audience.

(MDO): Since many students are generally not enthralled by poetry, would you say Poetry Out Loud helps make poetry seem more interesting to teens?

(ET): I think that is definitely true. I was not the biggest fan of poetry to be honest before I started doing this competition. But, after being part of this program I have grown to love it and I realize that there is so much more to poems than just the words printed which I feel is very interesting. So, I think learning more about poems and being able to read ones you enjoy and could possibly relate to could help teens enjoy poetry even more.

(MDO): How are you graded by the judges?

(ET): The judges score the performer based off of these different categories: physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy.

(MDO): How different are the presenter’s styles at the competition?

(ET): Each performer is different. I feel like it definitely depends on the poem, your personality, and the message you are trying to relay through your performance. I know last year I watched a lot of different performers when I went to Regionals and they were all good, but just so different in their tone or their accents or the way they emphasized certain words. It’s super interesting to see different performers’ styles because you might have never thought of that specific style or that way to perform different poems.

(MDO): What are your hopes for this year’s competition?

(ET): I really hope to win Regionals this year. It is definitely a difficult competition, but I think it would be amazing if I were able to win it for myself and for the school.

(MDO): What poems do you plan to read? And why did you choose them?

(ET): I plan on reading three different poems. For this competition I will be reciting “Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser, “Song of Myself: 35” by Walt Whitman, and “The Way It Sometimes Is” by Henry Taylor. I did “Abandoned Farmhouse” last year and really liked it so I decided to do it again. I picked the second one because it was something very outside my comfort zone so I really wanted to try it because it was different from the other two. I picked the last one because I really liked the structure and almost mysterious and relatable aspect of the poem itself.

(MDO): Who is your favorite poet?

(ET): I am not sure I have a favorite poet, but I do like Robert Frost a lot. His poems are very interesting and really well written so they are very enjoyable to read.

Elizabeth will be competing at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown this Wednesday, February 12th.