The purpose behind the poems

Talking to two Poetry Out Loud presenters about what poetry means to them


Aleks Brooks

For his performance of Kevin Young’s “Negative,” Andre Best earned second place in last year’s Poetry Out Loud competition.

Every winter, sophomores at West Linn partake in Poetry Out Loud, the nationwide competition focused on bringing poetry into high schools. For some sophomores, like Brigitte Chenevert and Ty Park, the competition is a unique opportunity to show off their skills to the school, rather than a nerve-wracking dreaded experience.

“I think it’s cool to be able to share with the school,” Chenevert, sophomore, said. “And to show that you’re not afraid to get up in front of everyone and speak.”

Chenevert and Park are two of the students selected by their peers to present their poem at the school-wide competition on Friday. For these two, speaking in front of people is nothing new, but they do admit that they still felt nervous when performing their poems.

“I mean, I have done some performance stuff, but I still felt nervous,” Park, sophomore, said. “I’m also used to feeling that though.”

When it came to choosing which poems they were going to recite, Chenevert and Park were generally thoughtful in the selection process. For Park, he was drawn to his poem not so much due to the writing, but rather the performance aspect of the poem.

“I chose my poem mostly because I could map the emotion really easily, since it was just kind of sad the whole time,” Park said.

On the other hand, Chenevert, whose poem is about carving a new path, said she chose her poem because she felt deeper connections between what the author was saying and her current environment at WLHS.

“I feel like in high school, there’s a lot of pressure to take a certain path, whether or not it’s already carved out for you,” Chenevert said. “But the poem talks about how taking your own path could lead to better things.”

During the process of memorizing their poems, Chenevert and Park said they both had help from outside sources. For Chenevert, what started as a game turned into a helpful exercise that helped her master the mood of her poem.

“Gigi Galla was the person I was working with in class,” Chenevert said. “She would yell out a random tone, and I would have to read it in that tone, even if it didn’t match the poem.”

As these two performers prepare for the competition, neither one is feeling the intensity. Park takes a relaxed approach to memorizing his poem, which he describes as the easier way to do things.

“So I’ve only read through my poem twice now,” Park said. “I don’t care. I’m just excited.”

At the end of the day for Chenevert and Park, presenting at the schoolwide competition isn’t just about saying the poem and getting it over with; it’s about sharing the feeling that they feel when they share their poem with others.

“When I’m presenting my poem, I feel like I always start nervous,” Chenevert said. “But then I get into it, and I’m not just reciting it anymore; I feel motivated to share the rest of the poem with the people around me.”


Students can see Chenevert, Park, and more presenters at the schoolwide Poetry Out Loud competition Friday, Feb. 22.