All schools are their own little galaxies — with their own sets of stressors and opportunities, triumphs and challenges, values and traditions — and, as such, they can sometimes feel like self-contained centers of the universe. Within each school community, the poets tend to find their niche on the fringes; their orbits tend to be elliptical to their school-galaxy’s epicenter.
That’s why programs like Poetry Out Loud are so great: they’re intergalactic. All those elliptical young poets come together from far and wide to compete — but, more important, to meet — with each other. In the process, they get to form their own epicenter for a little while, smack-dab in the middle of the parallel universe of poetry.
One such epicenter formed yesterday at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery, where the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education partnered to present this year’s state finals of the Poetry Out Loud competition. In the morning round, ASFA-CW’s Ashley Tate joined fourteen other talented poets in the Alabama Original Poetry Recitation category, then later in the afternoon, eleven other equally talented students competed in the main event — the National Poetry Out Loud category, in which students recite poems by poets as diverse as Philip Larkin, Nick Flynn, Kazim Ali, and Margaret Walker. The parallel universe of poetry was well-served, and we were glad to be a small part of it. Thanks to all the sponsors, teachers, and most of all the young poets who made it happen.