Walk to State: Poetry Out Loud

Update: Congratulations to Thomas for winning the state Poetry Out Loud competition! He will now compete in the national competition in Washington, D.C. May 2-4.

Road to State: Surrounded by the clapping and cheering of the CJ community, Thomas Ellison '16 participated in a "Walk to State" on Friday, March 18. Ellison will be representing CJ as one of 12 students competing in the state Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition.

"It is humbling to be one of 12 selected in the whole state but at the same time I have to take it to them and be dominate," said Ellison. "I am capable of being the best, I just have to do it."

The way to this year's state competition, both at CJ and at the state-level, was different compared to years past.

"There are two significant changes to the POL system this year," explained English teacher Jim Brooks. "After the classroom competitions, we had a school-wide competition in which 40 classroom winners recited just one poem. From that group, the top 12 advanced to the school finals and Thomas was declared the winner.  Also, instead of the school-wide winner going straight to the state competition, Thomas had to compete in the southwest region to make it to state.  He and students from two other schools advanced.  I think this extended system has enabled Thomas to take more time to improve his recitations each step of the way.

"Thomas is the first male student to represent CJ, and he has a very nice feel for poetry," Brooks continued.  "He infuses the poems, all three of which are very challenging, with his own charm and personality, while finding the voice of the poets who wrote them."

Ellison has prepared three poems for the state competition. The Delta by Bruce Bond, Translations from the English by George Starbuck and The Affliction of Richard by Robert Bridges.

"Thomas has done a lot of practicing on his own and has viewed DVD recordings of past POL champions," Brooks noted. "Thomas has also worked with Dr. Herbert Woodward Martin three times a week to improve his recitation skills.  Dr. Martin is professor emeritus of the University of Dayton and one of the finest and best-known poets in Ohio."

"I pray every day for God to give me strength to remember every word and say it with power and energy," Ellison added about his preparations. "I have worked with Dr. Martin who is nationally known for his poetry. I listen to music right before my competition and sit alone somewhere and mentally rehearse me doing well and winning."

Brooks emphasized, "POL is a competition that brings students together in a unique way and exposes them to many great poems and poets throughout the ages.  It gives more than 3/4 of all our students every year a chance to be 'on stage' as well as going through the process of choosing, memorizing and interpreting the meaning of a work of literature.  It also brings our English department together in a special way to facilitate the whole process.  Thomas going to state is icing on the cake, and we wish him all the best to achieve a state title."

The state Poetry Out Loud competition will be held Saturday, March 19 at the WOSU station in COSI in downtown Columbus.