The infinite possibilities of poetry

6th Annual Poetry Out Loud performed to a packed hall


Walter Bowne

Ava Hancock talks to Kaylee Braidwood after Poetry Out Loud.


Poetry lovers gathered in the Recital Hall after school on January 9th to watch the 6th annual Poetry Out Loud competition.

In front of a packed audience of students, teachers, and parents, senior Kaylee Braidwood, junior Bryce Dershem, and junior Ariana Reischer recited two poems each. The winner of the competition, Reischer, will continue on to compete at the Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition among around 20 other students from the Burlington/Camden County area on February 6.

During the school wide competition, Braidwood recited “The Coming Woman” by Mary Weston Fordham and “Little Father” by Li-Young Lee, Dershem recited “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII” by Pablo Neruda and “Break of Day” by John Donne, and Reischer recited “The Tables Turn” by William Wordsworth and “Limitations” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray.

“I picked ‘The Coming Woman’ because it had more of a prose-style that I really enjoyed and I thought the ending packed a punch that I really wanted to deliver,” said Braidwood, referencing the lines, “O! how could a civilized woman/Exist, without a man cook.”

This is Braidwood’s second year competing in Poetry Out Loud, but she still gets nervous before her performance. “You black out. You just kind of focus on the wall and just go for it,” she said.

Reischer offered a similar sentiment. “I was nervous I was going to forget stuff,” she said, “but once I got on[stage] it was just an elevated normal performance.”

Braidwood, Dershem, and Reischer spent the last few weeks rehearsing their poems after school, seeking out the advice of their co-facilitators, Ms. Steller and Mrs. Pomerantz. Competitors are advised to make the tone and pace of their performance match the meaning of the poem, as well as to emote as much as possible without straying too far from their comfort zone.

Mrs. Pomerantz signed on as facilitator for the national recitation contest six years ago.

“The first year we started we had 14 or 16 people come out and then it dwindled down to 8 who actually competed. Every year the numbers have gone down, so we’ve had a few faithfuls who didn’t do it this year because they had other conflicts,” said Mrs. Pomerantz. She said the small program didn’t bother her; she only feels bad for the students who are missing out.

“My take is that poetry connects people at a basic level and it removes divisions between them. In essence, I see all my students as people first, but with Poetry Out Loud, I get to see them in moments where they’re attaching themselves to poetry.”

Ever since freshman year, Dershem has been attached to poetry. “The vast emotion that poetry can express; it’s literally infinite, and it’s just so touching,” he said.

Reischer remembers a poetry book she had as a child that her mom would read to her. She even writes her own poetry now, but none that she would share.

Though it’s only her first year, Reischer was picked as the winner of the competition, and she’s excited to continue competing.

“I’m really surprised because these guys are amazing,” she said, “but I’m really excited to keep doing this through Rutgers and wherever else it takes me!”