All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
… an invitation to Poetry Out Loud on March 11
By Andrea W. Doray
Not surprisingly, I am in love with the written word. I love the power of our pens on the page to move, amuse, anger, or delight. The power to take us places we’ve never been before. The power to take us back to times and places we’ve come from.
Lately, though, I’ve also become enamored of the spoken word. And it appears that a lot more of us are enjoying literature out loud. Look at the popularity of slam poetry (which I have yet to try myself) and the unending supply of stunning performances on YouTube.
Poetry has found its way further into the mainstream, and now into the commercial realm as well. In an ad for the iPad Air, we hear Robin William’s voice in his portrayal of John Keating, the beloved English teacher in the film Dead Poets Society.
In the soundtrack, replicated in the ad, Williams/Keating quotes the poet Walt Whitman—but it’s far more than a quote, more than just a reading of words on the page. When Williams recites from “O, Me! O, Life!” it is a performance that is as much a celebration of Whitman’s poetry as of the life about which Whitman writes. And as a reminder of the power and beauty of Walt Whitman’s words, Williams gives it to us with this tantalizing invitation: “…the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
It’s the way Robin Williams’ delivers these lines that makes the poetry of Walt Whitman so accessible to us, that makes us part of the celebration, part of the powerful play.
I’m fortunate to be part of another celebration of the spoken word as Colorado’s coordinator of Poetry Out Loud, a nationwide contest for high school students that helps young people master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about our literary heritage. Students memorize and recite great poetry in school-wide competitions, and school winners advance to the State Finals—being held this year on March 11 at the Lakewood Cultural Center
The Poetry Out State Finals event is free and open to the public on Tuesday, March 11, at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 Allison Parkway — Allison and Alameda, near Belmar. The first round is at 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., and the next rounds begin at 6:00 p.m. Our Colorado state winner will then represent us at the National Finals in Washington, D.C., in April.
Several Lighthouse members are participating as judges and volunteers, including Mike Henry, J Diego Frey, Joy Sawyer, Dale Schellenger, Susan Spear, Laurie Duncan, Stephanie Spriggs, Julie Ripley, Harriet Stratton, Kathryn Winograd, Lynn Hall, Ginny Hoyle, and Joslyn Green.
As I’ve visited high schools around the state, I’ve heard students recite, interpret, and perform great poetry; you’ll be inspired, delighted, and awed by these students as they bring the power of words on the page to life with their performances.
To quote John Keating from Dead Poets Society:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”
And that is indeed something to celebrate.
P.S. Lighthouse Writers Workshop is a generous sponsor of Poetry Out Loud, a program of National Endowment for the Arts, The Poetry Foundation, and supported by Colorado Creative Industries.