NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — More than 400 students competed in the annual "Poetry Out Loud" competition at Algonquin Regional High School this year. But only one will represent the school in the state competition this spring.
That student was senior Ben Rutan, whose delivery of "The Death of Allegory" by Billy Collins and "Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview" by Gary Soto earned him first place in Tuesday's final round.
"Poetry Out Loud" is an annual, nationwide poetry reading contest supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and state arts agencies. This program "helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage," according to their website.
"This is not only a competition," Algonquin English teacher Seth Czarnecki said, "but truly a celebration of the power of language."
Rutan and seven other finalists—Evan Ribaudo, Stephanie Wu, Nargiz Rajai, Brendan Forde, Anushka Dasgupta, Maya Polackal and Danielle Robbins—recited two memorized poems in front of a student audience and a panel of judges consisting of six staff members. The finalists were judged on clarity of speaking, accuracy of memorization, dramatization and poem difficulty.
Polackal, a junior, came in second place after reciting "Portrait d'une Femme" by Ezra Pound and "Calling Him Back from Layoff" by Bob Hicok. Last year's winner Danielle Robbins finished third. She recited "The Enigma" by Anne Stevenson and "The Obligation to Be Happy" by Linda Pastan.
Be sure to check back later this week for links to more videos of the competition. To see which poems the other students chose to recite, visit our photo gallery.