Friday, January 28, 2011

Poetry Friday: Poetry Out Loud

This week I served as one of the judges for the Poetry Out Loud competition at Hardaway High School. The students did a great job, and the winners were wonderful.

Jeremiah won first place with Who Understands Me but Me by Jimmy Santiago Baca. He has a chance to go much farther in the competition with his moving interpretation.

Alexandria won second place with Invictus by William Ernest Henley.

Amanda won third place with What Work Is by Philip Levine.

It was a treat to be part of the evening and to see the love of poetry in these students, the excitement from the large audience of their peers, and the commitment from their creative writing teacher, Mrs. Kathy Honea.

Here is an excerpt from the winning recitation:

Who Understands Me but Me

By Jimmy Santiago Baca

They turn the water off, so I live without water,
they build walls higher, so I live without treetops,
they paint the windows black, so I live without sunshine,
they lock my cage, so I live without going anywhere,
they take each last tear I have, I live without tears,
they take my heart and rip it open, I live without heart,
they take my life and crush it, so I live without a future,
they say I am beastly and fiendish, so I have no friends,
they stop up each hope, so I have no passage out of hell,
they give me pain, so I live with pain,
they give me hate, so I live with my hate,
they have changed me, and I am not the same man,
they give me no shower, so I live with my smell,
they separate me from my brothers, so I live without brothers,
who understands me when I say this is beautiful?
who understands me when I say I have found other freedoms?

Read the rest here. Read more Poetry Friday at Wild Rose Reader.


  1. I love Poetry Out Loud! How awesome that you were a judge!

  2. Wow, what a powerful poem. Of course the others aren't too shabby either -- I would love to hear "Invictus" in a kid's voice. How wonderful for you to get to participate... don't envy the "judging" part. Tough!

  3. Poetry Out Loud is an amazing event. Did you know that the national winner receives a $20,000 college scholarship? That's not too shabby either.

  4. Fabulous poem. How interesting and exciting for you to be a judge! Congrats to Jeremiah, Alexandria and Amanada!

  5. Wow - I would have loved to have heard that poem spoken!

  6. That poem is especially moving after reading about the author's life.

    The repetition in the poem would make it a challenge to recite, but obviously Jeremiah did a great job. I, too, would love to have heard it!

  7. It is a wonderful poem, isn't it, Jama? It was fun judging. I don't know how I would feel about judging on a larger level. That would be pressure-filled, I'm sure.

    One of the judging criteria is difficulty of the poem. This includes language, structure, and meaning. I think all three winning poems had solid levels of difficulty in interpretation. The repetition in Baca's poem certainly makes this one a bit higher on the difficulty level. Jeremiah actually used it to his advantage.

    You would have enjoyed it, Sheri.

    Alexandria's recitation of "Invictus" was quite convincing coming from the mouth of a teen, Irene.

    Levine's poem was perhaps the most difficult, as far as language and metaphor, but Amanda did a solid job with it.

    Thanks, all for stopping by.