WHS students share passion for poetry (W/VIDEO)Two Woodbury High School students have proven their poetry prowess.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Two Woodbury High School students have proven their poetry prowess.
WHS juniors Yemi Ajagbe and Angela Yang will face off again 16 other contestants in the state Poetry Out Loud Competition on March 19 at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul after moving on from the regional competition.
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.
Ajagbe and Yang qualified for the state completion after winning the regional competition earlier this month.
Ajagbe placed first and Yang placed second.
“I’m of course very proud – the girls are very talented,” said WHS English teacher and Poetry Out Loud adviser Phil Bratnober. “It was a wonderful surprise.”
Bratnober said this year marks the first time WHS will send two students to the state competition.
Facing off at state
For the Poetry Out Loud state competition, both Yang and Ajagbe must memorize three poems, compared to the two poems they performed at the regional competition.
Yang said she has selected “No Coward Soul is Mine” by Emily Jane Bronte; “Ode to Solitude” By Alexander Pope; and “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop.
Ajagbe said she hasn’t decided on her poems yet.
“I’m still looking for poems that fit me and that I connect with,” she said.
Yang said she is going to prepare for the competition by studying the stanzas of the poems very carefully.
“I’m going to really look at the structure of the poem and how it all fits together,” she said. “I don’t think the memorization is going to be the hard part, it’s going to be the interpretation and presentation.”
Ajagbe said her preparation will consist of practice, practice and practice.
“I think I can always do better,” she said. “The state is the best of the best in Minnesota, so there’s going to be a lot of talent and a lot of different styles.”
Both Yang and Ajagbe said they are excited about being able to share their passion for poetry to everyone at the state competition.
“I’m just excited to show them how poetry has changed me,” Yang said.
“I’m excited to have people see how passionate I am about it,” Ajagbe said.
Through their experiences with Poetry Out Loud, Yang and Ajagbe both said they have developed a much deeper appreciation for poetry.
“Poetry Out Loud has showed me how poetry is an emotional experience and how poetry is another outlet for expression,” Yang said.
“I used to think of poetry as a way to tell a story, but through this I’ve learned poetry to be a way to change the world,” Ajagbe said. “Poetry is universal and connects with other people.”
Bratnober said he has enjoyed seeing Yang and Ajagbe delve into the world of poetry.
“Yemi and Angela are embracing poetry through this process,” Bratnober said. “It’s gratifying to me as a teacher.
“The ultimate winners in all this are the poets – they get such a wonderful day in the sun.”
One student from the state competition is chosen to represent Minnesota at the national finals May 13-15 in Washington, D.C. Ian Wesley Taylor Jr., a 2011 WHS graduate, won last year’s state competition.
A total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends is awarded annually at the national completion.
“Let the games begin,” Ajagbe said.