Poetry Out Loud | VideoAlan Miller | 3/18/2013
There was another winner crowned today at the Belle Mehus, but it wasn`t in front of a big crowd. Yet the people who really mattered were there for her.
In this vaunted hall they sat, anticipating their moment on the stage, their opportunity to stand in the spotlight and recite another`s words out loud.
"The blue tick-coated filamel and freckled chloe, who would fetch a pretty price if you would sell."
"For the world, which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new."
Their hopes had been thwarted two weeks prior, when a snowstorm of North Dakota proportions postponed the competition. They convened on this day despite another brutal reminder of winter`s wrath. Of the final fourteen, half a dozen dared not venture beyond their homes, leaving the elite eight to vie for the coveted prize.
"It`s a Super Bowl of poetry," says Rebecca Engelman of the North Dakota Council on the Arts. "And I think what makes it really special is that the students memorize the poems by heart. And that those of us who are older remember in school, and we were asked to memorize things. And it is a little bit of an art form that is not used so often any more."
"Cover your ears, dear echo. Do not hear."
"Come then, pale mysterious love. Be thou my cure."
"And a sound like falling rain."
The oral gladiators set three presentations to memory, in hopes of advancing to the next round. So what strategy to use? Begin with a bang or save the best for last?
"I was kind of worried because I chose my worst poem as my last poem, so that my two best poems could get me in to finals," explained Janessa Hensrud of Northwood High School. "So then, I couldn`t believe that I won with my worst poem. It wasn`t a bad poem but I mean, just the shortest one."
The judges looked and listened, tabulated and totaled, and in the end, placed the precious piece of hardware in the hands of Janessa Hensrud, whose parents and grandmother were there to bask in her accomplishments.
And not only did she win a cash prize and money for her school library, she won an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Poetry Out Loud Championship.