Recently, I had the opportunity to be a judge at the regional and state competitions of Poetry Out Loud. Poetry Out Loud is a national competition dedicated to get high school students into poetry and recitation, which does other cool stuff like teach people how to declaim and overcome fears of public speaking and understand poetry and so on.
So imagine: there I was, over winter break, re-watching Game of Thrones to prepare for season five’s return on April 12, when I got an email from the Poetry Out Loud coordinator asking if I would be interested in judging for them. It was a surprise: I had no connection with Poetry Out Loud (besides a brief recitation in high school that I do not speak of), or even the greater government organizer for the event, ArtsWA. But I did the sensible thing, and immediately agreed.
I would like to thank the professors here, who send on requests and opportunities like this to all their students. It’s amazing how much you can get if you just ask for it—or even, in this case, if you don’t.
It is even more important to jump onboard with whatever opportunity comes your way. I would have never considered volunteering with Poetry Out Loud of my own accord, but accepting their first offer, to be an Accuracy Judge and Prompter at one of the regional competitions, turned out to be a beautiful dandelion that bloomed and turned into a little cotton ball from which the seeds of numerous other engagements sprung.
Each time I went down to work with them, more opportunities came up. I started as a volunteer judge in the Tacoma Library, listening at the regional competition and ready to prompt anyone who forgot their place (this one kid was so close to bailing completely). At the end of the day, the people who ran the program asked me to come back for the state competition—which would, incidentally, be a paid position.
And so I ended up at the Theatre on the Square in downtown Tacoma, watching students much more talented than me recite poetry. At the state level, everyone has their poetry memorized to such an extent that they do not need a Prompter, so mostly I just watched the contest. And I took some pictures.
At the end of the day, they asked me if I wanted to return next year.