Senior wins inaugural poetry competition

Senior Jacob Tennant wins poetry competition, advances to county level


Competitors take picture with poet and coach Fernando Albert Salinas after the competition was complete. Senior Jacob Tennent was announced as winner and Senior Camille Polk as runner-up in the competition (Meghana Mudunuri/Talon).

Oak Park held its first Poetry Out Loud competition, hosted by science teacher Ken Jones and English teacher Leslie Miller in the Pavilion Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Five students competed in the competition for which they were required to recite a memorized poem, one selected from a bank of published poems on Poetry Out Loud’s website, in front of a panel of judges.

Senior Jacob Tennant won the event by reciting the sonnet “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Tennant now has the opportunity to compete at the county, state and national levels.

“Performing poetry is more difficult than I imagined, because it’s not just memorizing a poem, you have to inflect your tone at certain points and emphasize shifts, then also be able to be emotional,” Tennant said.

I really think [poetry recitation] teaches people the value of some of the greatest poetry ever written,

— Jacob Tennant

Miller said she co-hosted the event to encourage students to perform meaningful poetry pieces.

“Poetry and poems are meant to be spoken out loud, they are meant to be performed, enjoyed and listened to,” Miller said. “An event like this gives teachers the chance to showcase this genre in its original intent.

Competitors had the opportunity to work with poet Fernando Albert Salinas to help prepare them for the competition.

“I like poetry, and getting to speak it and work with a great coach to improve my speaking and presentation of poetry helps me express myself and understand the art form even more,” senior and competitor Robert Zeigler said.

Jones said the event would also promote and better students’ public speaking skills.

“It gives people confidence in public speaking and it gets students to speak authoritatively about their understanding of poetry, and also promotes poets and poetry,” Jones said.

After all competitors recited a poem, senior Jacob Tennant was announced the winner and senior Camille Polk as runner-up to represent Oak Park High School at the county level.

Tennant said he felt that exposure to the world of poetry is important for everyone to experience.

“I really think [poetry recitation] teaches people the value of some of the greatest poetry ever written, showing its significance emotionally or culturally, and that’s why it’s so powerful. Being exposed to that is important,” Tennant said.

Tennant encourages others to delve into poetry.

“For this competition, you are reciting some really great poetry, and for everyone, poetry is a powerful thing whether you are writing it, reading it or listening to it,” Tennant said, “I encourage people to take part because it is enjoyable and valuable.”