Valley Stream South High School held its first virtual Poetry Out Loud workshop earlier this year. Poetry Out Loud is a National Endowment for the Arts education program that encourages students to study great poetry by offering free educational poetry materials and recitation competitions to high schools across the country. This year’s online poetry experience was led by Poetry Out Loud art instructor, Susan Willerman, and South High creative writing teacher, Alison Rudin.
Willerman kicked off the workshop by reading aloud before dozens of students her handpicked poem by Emily Dickinson and then explained how said poem personally inspired her. Students were then called to follow suit, reading their poems out loud to their classmates and discussing the poems’ meaning and personal impact. “Hearing a poem in response to a poem was a very cool concept to me. It’s very interesting to see how Susan Willerman personally saw Emily Dickinson’s poem and how she felt connected to it,” said student Arwa Moid.
“The experience was exhilarating and eye-opening…I was able to gain [the understanding] that poetry can live through you. Many of the everyday things we all experience can be crafted into bright poetic language,” said student Natalia Da Costa. “One of my other favorite parts was having the opportunity to share my response to Maya Angelou’s ‘Caged Bird’ with everyone.”
In discussing the history of the program at South High, English Department Chairperson Vanessa Barbone noted: “This is our second year with the program, and the response from our students has been extremely positive. We were offered the opportunity to have three virtual workshops this year, which will allow more of our students to benefit from this outstanding program.”
“The Poetry Out Loud program is a wonderful way to get students excited about expressing their feelings, emotions, and perspectives through creative writing,” said Maureen Henry, Principal of South High. “The program helps our students build confidence, practice, and become more comfortable with public speaking.”
At the end of the workshop, students were encouraged to enter Poetry Out Loud’s nationwide recitation competition for high school students. This year, there are two winning students at the high school level from South High that will move on to the regional competition in January 2022. Winners at the regional level move on to state competitions and ultimately to the national finals. Awards and placements are determined by the judges’ scores based on the Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria. For more information, please visit https://www.arts.gov/initiatives/poetry-out-loud.