JAMESTOWN – Jamestown High School Junior Olivia Ruiz won first place in the Western New York Regional Poetry Out Loud competition, pointing her finger at the judges and asking “Which U.S. slang do you speak?”
The win in Brockport lands Ruiz a spot in the state finals in New York City against 23 other regional winners. Ruiz was one of 29 JHS students who recited poems before an independent panel of judges in the JHS auditorium. The students were evaluated on their physical presence, voice and
articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and accuracy during their poetry recitation.
The two JHS winners of that contest, Olivia Ruiz and sophomore Stephanie Beriso, traveled to SUNY Brockport to compete against other western New York high school winners. Olivia won the competition with her recitation of three poems: “To Have Without Holding” by Marge Piercy, “Spanglish” by Tato Laviera, and “Silence” by Thomas Hood.
“Reciting changed the way I feel about poetry,” Ruiz said. “Once I familiarized myself with the poems, I connected with them on an emotional level. Then I was able to give them to the audience as a gift in my own way.”
On March 7, Olivia will travel to New York City with JHS English/ Public Speaking teacher, Barbi Price, to compete for the New York State Poetry Out Loud title. The winner of the New York State contest will go on to the National Finals at George Washington University in Washington DC, where the winner receives $20,000.00.
“Olivia has a rich vocal quality and lovely pacing, and she chose poems that showcase the range of her abilities, ” said Price. “Her previous JHS recitation and A Cappella/ Madrigal choir singing experience helped her articulate beautifully and perform with maturity and confidence.”
“Poetry allows me to express myself through someone else’s experiences and expand my view of the world. It’s interesting for me to hear the way that other people recite their poems; they interpret to words so much differently than I would. I am excited to compete in NYC,” Ruiz said.
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation partner with state arts agencies to create Poetry Out Loud, a program that invites the dynamic aspects of poetry and the spoken word into JHS English classes. Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills, build self- confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.