Yosemite High School junior Jocelyn Boe is very familiar with the Oliver Wendell Homes poem "Old Ironsides," one of two pieces she performed in winning the Ninth Annual Madera County Poetry Out Loud competition Feb. 8. She recited the 143-word poem two years ago as a freshman, placing second in the contest.
Boe, who admits to a 'pretty good memory,' exhibited a controlled confidence when she hit the YHS theater stage last Saturday.
"I brought back "Old Ironsides" because I like it, and I did well with it as a freshman," Boe said. "I was happy with my performance."
Boe said she does not enter the contest for the competition against other students.
"I do it for my own merit more to prove to myself I can to it and tell myself I did well I'm more competitive with myself than with others."
Boe recited "The Mower" by Philip Larkin in round two.
"I like poems like that because it takes an occurrence and puts it in a different perspective," Boe said. "The Mower, and poems like it, make you look at things in a new way."
Boe was awarded $300 for her efforts and the opportunity to represent the county at the state finals in Sacramento, March 23 and 24. The winner of that competition advances to the national contest in May in Washington D.C., with the winner receiving a $20,000 scholarship.
To celebrate the win, Boe was treated to dinner at Pizza Factory by her parents, Bruce and Lisa Boe, with a "big, meaty, calzone."
Second place went to Minarets Charter School senior Jesse Parr, with Jaquie McCourt, a junior at Glacier High School, placing third.
Parr recited William Shakespeare's "Shall I compare Thee to a summer's Day," and "Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe.
McCourt choose "Israfel" by Poe and Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Time Does Not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied."
For their efforts, Parr and McCourt were awarded $200, and $100, respectively.
Eleven students from six county high schools participated in the event that was started by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in 2006.
McCourt's father, Dennis McCourt, said Poetry Out Loud is different than poetry on paper.
"Poetry Out Loud is more dynamic," McCourt said. "The personalities of the students is amazing, inspiring, and very entertaining. I will view poetry differently after today."
"This event gives students more depth to their education," said Ann Molin, Madera County coordinator for California Poets in the Schools. "Education is more than dissecting a frog, and literature is more than learning to read and look things up in a dictionary ... (participants in Poetry Out Loud) are not just memorizing the words, but also the meaning."
"This is a great opportunity for student performance," said Julie O'Kane of the Madera County Arts Council and member of Poets West.
"I think in this day and age, students need to feel comfortable in public speaking, and Poetry Out Loud is a great way to practice that skill. And from a literary point of view, it's almost a lost art. So it's refreshing to see this medium stay alive with young people."
Other students in the contest were Paizley Jackson (Yosemite), Carlie Dickens and Daniel Palamino (Liberty), Megann Hilliard and Dominique Pearce (Minarets), Savanna Luce (Minarets Charter), and Sergei Diaz and Jacob Garcia (Chowchilla).
School coaches were Amy Weigel (Yosemite), Joshua Koop (Liberty-Madera Ranchos), Jamie Smith (Minarets), and Shannon Brewington (Chowchilla).
Molin applauded all the teachers who helped coach students in preparation for Poetry Out Loud.
"If you want to see a real hero, don't look at an action movie or a history book, walk into any classroom, any day to see our teachers they are the real heros," Molin said. "they bring our students the best they have day after day."
Liberty's Koop quoted poet John Keating when asked to explain why poetry is important.
"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 the human race is filled with passion," said Koop. "And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life but poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."
The students' presentations were judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, and evidence of understanding.
Judges for the event were Yosemite poet Dan Williams, Kellie Flanagan, and Patti Cline.
Yosemite High English teacher Kellie Solomon represented the school as hostess of the event.
Sponsors for the event were the California Arts Council, California Poets in the Schools, Madera County Arts Council, Cedar Creek Senior Living, Oakhurst Sierra Rotary Club, Sierra Tel, and Yosemite Bank.
"This year's event was better than ever," said Sherril Royse, arts education program manager for the Madera County Arts Council.
The Mower - By Phlip Larkin
The mower stalled twice; kneeling, I found A hedgehog jammed up against the blades, killed.
It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence is always the same; we should be careful of each other, we should be kind while there is still time.
Philip Larkin, "The Mower" from Collected Poems. Used by permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.
Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)
Old Ironsides - By Oliver Wendell Holmes
Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar;
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor's tread,
Or know the conquered knee;
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!
Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale.