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WHS student heading to state poetry recitation competition

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We wear the mask that grins and lies. It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes -- this debt we pay to human guile. With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, and mouth with myriad subtleties."

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Those are just a few of the words Woodbury High School senior Ian Wesley Taylor will be reciting when he recites "We Wear the Mask," by Paul Lawrence Dunbar at the state Poetry Out Loud competition on March 7 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.

"The thing that I love about poetry," Taylor said, "is that you always get lost in the words."

Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation competition where students perform poems aloud and are judged on a variety of criteria -- including dramatization, understanding of the poem, physical presence, voice and articulation, level of difficulty, accuracy and overall performance.

Taylor got his ticket to state after placing second at the regional competition.

"I like poetry because you are able to try and bring out the emotion and expression of what the poet was trying to express," he said.

Taylor said he decided to enter Poetry Out Loud because he enjoys reciting poetry and winning scholarship money would be very helpful to the senior.

"This is a scholarship competition, and I'm senior, so I'm looking to get some scholarships," he said.

If Taylor wins at state, he would then go to the national competition for a chance to win a $20,000 scholarship.

"I think I have a pretty good shot at going to nationals," he said.

Picking a poem

For the regional competition, which took place earlier this month, Taylor had to recite two poems.

"It was a long process to choose the poems," he said. "I wanted to choose poems that made sense to me."

Taylor's first poem was "A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Taylor said he chose that poem because it really spoke to the fascination with dreams of the moment.

"'Inception' just came out, so the topic of dreams is really on everyone's mind," he said, referring to the Oscar-nominated film. "It's really interesting to talk about dreams and what they can mean."

Taylor said he chose his second poem, "We Wear the Mask," because he really connected to the words and the message of identity.

One more poem has been added to the mix now though, since Taylor has to have three poems ready in case there should be a tiebreaker round at the state competition.

Taylor chose "Carmel Point" by Robinson Jeffers as his third poem.

"It's a really interesting poem about environment and political impact," he said.

Getting prepped

Since Taylor has to not only memorize three poems - he also has to perform them - he said he typically recites all three poems every night before bed.

When it comes to actually reciting the poems at the Poetry Out Loud competition, Taylor said he does something a bit unique in that he always wears all black.

"I wear all black so that people can just focus on the words," he said. "I want to make the words be seen."

Even though Taylor dabbles in his own poetry writing, he said poetry is simply a hobby for him. He said he would like to go onto political science, social studies or journalism in college.

"Poetry will always be an interest though," he said. "I love how poetry is always up for interpretation."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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