The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 21, 2014

VIDEO: Sophomore wins first JHS Poetry Out Loud contest

With all the confidence of someone who knows her material, Joplin High School sophomore Katherine Wartnaby approached the microphone and recited the opening line of her first poem: “There’s been a death, in the opposite house.”

The poem of the same title, by Emily Dickinson, helped Wartnaby earn first place Tuesday in Joplin High School’s first Poetry Out Loud recitation contest, the first level of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance and competition.

“It means the world to me that I won,” she said afterward. “I’m in show choir and I’ve been in plays, but this is on me, and this is my passion.”

Sophomore Melinche Roy was named the runner-up after reciting poems by Christina Rossetti and Robert Wrigley. Sophomore Elaina Kitch placed third with poems by Claude McKay and Robert Bridges.

The three students were selected for the contest based on recommendations from their teachers. They chose and recited two poems — one of 25 lines or fewer and one that was written before the 20th century — and had been practicing for about a month, according to Whitney Warren, arts and communications coordinator with Joplin schools.

Wartnaby said she frequently stayed after school to prepare her poems, memorizing them line by line and often rehearsing in front of a mirror. She said she chose the Dickinson poem and a second poem by Linda Pastan, “I Am Learning to Abandon the World,” because she could connect to them.

“Once I read through, I got to feel like I was the poet, and I was giving the audience a story,” she said.

Cleo Copeland, a community arts supporter who served as one of the contest judges, said she was impressed by the willingness of the students to recite poetry on stage in front of an audience.

“For (them) being young people, I was very happy that they wanted to participate, and that they’d been encouraged to do so,” she said.

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