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    Local writers tapped to be judges for ‘Poetry Out Loud’ in New Hope-Solebury

    New Hope-Solebury High School recently participated in Poetry Out Loud, a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by facilitating a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. Hosted by the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership, the competition helps students build self-confidence and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

    Twenty-one New Hope-Solebury students in grades 9-12 participated in the School’s first-ever contest, hoping to secure a spot in the regional competition.

    New Hope-Solebury English teacher Ms. Sanders shared, “Our department of English teachers continues to look for opportunities that engage students in meaningful reading, writing, and speaking experiences. To that end, we were thrilled to discover Poetry Out Loud and jumped at the chance to invite our students to compete.”

    Mary Jo LoBello Jerome, a poet laureate of Bucks County and a Poetry Editor at the Schuylkill Valley Journal, served as one of the judges and emphasized how this opportunity will serve the students, no matter what career pursuits they choose to follow.

    She commented, “Even if a student is not so into literature, the experience of reciting a poem out loud and being engaged in a literary competition gives them good experience in public speaking, a skill that they can take with them wherever they go. And in the future, I hope students will keep poetry as a part of their lives and look to poetry as an art form to help them grow as humans on this planet.” 

    Students competed in two rounds, reciting one poem each round. They were scored on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and accuracy.

    Another accomplished local author, Judith Lagana, also served as a judge and reflected on the depth of the learning experience, “When you compete in such a competition you have no choice but to critically read and re-read your selected poems. You are reading first for meaning, and then, maybe without realizing it, you are reading for craft. These close reads are teaching you about the cadences of language, how certain words create impact, and how elements of the poem – its title, theme, imagery, use of space – all work in unity to support the overall piece. Memorizing and especially reciting the poem compounds these lessons, making the overall experience creatively nurturing.”

    The judges selected six finalists: senior Charlotte Scarlata (winner), junior Sol Sahner (runner-up), freshman Maria Kesisoglou (third place), junior Chris O’Brien and sophomore Emma Williams (fourth place), and junior Rina Notani (fifth place).

    To continue in the competition, Charlotte Scarlata memorized and recited three poems for video submission.

    While she was not selected to move forward to regionals, this project was about providing a unique experience for the students and launching an exciting new partnership for New Hope-Solebury.

    Ms. Sanders shared, “Regardless of the outcome, encouraging students to deeply study a self-selected poem for recitation honors a love for the spoken word, while simultaneously helping students improve their public speaking skills. We look forward to continuing this tradition.”

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