Queens High School Student Wins Poetry Out Loud Regionals Held at FIT

The Katie Murphy Amphitheatre was alive with the sound of poetry being recited by high school students who gathered for the Poetry Out Loud 2016 New York City regional competition, hosted by FIT on Thursday, February 25.

The winner was Maggie Capozzoli-Cavota, a senior at St. Francis Preparatory School and Queens Teen Poet Laureate, who was one of fifteen students who recited three poems each. Capozzoli-Cavota recited “Personal” by Tony Hoagland, “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died” by Emily Dickinson. The runner up was Eseme Segbefia of The Brooklyn Latin School, who recited “Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun” by Emily Brontë, “For My Daughter” by Weldon Kees, and “Revenge” by Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

Poetry Out Loud is a national program that encourages the nation’s youth to experience great poetry through memorization and recitation. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. The New York State portion of the competition is being hosted by SUNY colleges and universities throughout the state.

Both Capozzoli-Cavota and Segbefia will advance to the New York State finals in Syracuse on March 14. The winner and runner up of that competition will compete in the national finals taking place May 2-4 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The students were judged not only on their ability to memorize and perform their interpretations of works they chose from a diverse list of over 2,000 poems, but also on their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, and evidence of understanding the poem. An “accuracy judge” followed the performances with a copy of each poem.

The judges for the regional competition at FIT were Alysia Harris, poet; Amy Lemmon, poet and FIT English and Speech professor; and Maeva Ordaz, Columbia University student and 2015 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. The accuracy judge was Amy Swauger, director, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, and the scorekeeper was Jade Triton, also of Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C. for the national championship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for his or her school library. A total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends is awarded annually at the national finals.

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