Hockaday Poets’ Society

PUTTING THE POE IN POET Eliza passionately recites her poem to her junior English class as Callie and Charlotte listen and laugh. Photo by Hailey

Honors English students get deep for national poetry competition

From the Poetry Out Loud competition that Hockaday is competing in for the first time this year to the recent Allman fellow assembly poetry is a hot topic in the Hockaday community.

“It sounds corny, but [poetry] feeds the soul,” Upper School English teacher Janet Bilhartz said. “It makes you more human; it makes you think about what it means to be human.”

Hoping to encourage participation in the Poetry Out Loud competition, a national recitation contest funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Bilhartz asked her junior honors class to pick a poem off the website and recite it to the class. The poem had to be by an American poet because junior year is dedicated to the study of American literature, but besides that, the sky was the limit.

“I actually had picked a poem called Golden Retrievals, but then I changed to an Emily Dickinson poem which I realized isn’t on the website,” said the temporarily poem-less junior, Grace.

But thanks to the wide selection of poems on the website, Grace is sure to find a replacement. Poetry Out Loud awards a total of $50, 000 at the national finals held in Washington D.C. in May, incentive to explore the wonders of poetry recitation. The student chosen by judges within the Hockaday community will then go on to participate at state, and while only a few people have signed up to recite their poems for the competition at Hockaday, the benefits of recitation are resounding loud and clear.

“It takes courage to recite a poem and not only give the poet’s emotions and thoughts through your voice but also show how you feel and your understanding,” Grace said.

The emotional and sometimes vulnerable aspects of reciting poetry seem to leave indelible marks on the brains of Hockadaisies.

“Who would be afraid to give a speech in front of board members when they have previously bared all for other people while reciting their poem?” junior Laura Brynn said.

The competition is just another step that Hockaday is taking to display the creative and innovative aspects of writing and literature. According to Bilhartz, the Upper School English department has been making a marked effort in recent years to promote creative writing throughout the Upper School.

Freshman year offers the tumultuous reenactments of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” while sophomore year focuses on the wonders of narrative writing.

But as junior year marks the beginning of a new reign, it also represents the golden age of analytical writing. With the Junior Research Paper, nightly seminar essays and endless literature to explore, the creative aspects of freshman and sophomore year seemingly come to a close.

“In my past two years of English, I have really enjoyed the creative writing aspect of my English classes, and trust me, there was no dearth of assigned papers during the year,” said Laura Brynn.

The power of creative writing radiates throughout the Upper School, and as seniors write their personal, college essays, knowledge on narrative writing comes in handy.

Classes like Kyle Vaughn’s creative writing course stretch the brains of senior Hockadaisies and bring back distant memories clouded by the junior days spent on analytical writing. Many juniors appreciate the prospect of poetry recitation and desire even more creative outlets in English class.

“I would love a chance to express my feelings in a paper or poem,” Grace noted.

– Allie