California Arts Council

State of California

2007 Poetry Out Loud State Champion's Advice for Participants

Published: 02-19-2008

The Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud competition took place on February 22 at Chops Teen Center in Santa Rosa. Karen Hong, the 2007 California state champion, wrote the following remarks to kick off the 7:00 pm event. Read below to see what advice she gives to students competing this year in her home county. State finals are March 14 in Sacramento.

To the 2008 Poetry Out Loud local contestants:

Congratulations on making it this far. Getting to this point is already a great accomplishment, and I truly mean this because it says something about you as a person. It says that you are aware of the power of poetry, of the importance in sharing the meaning behind the words of Plath, Dickinson, Collins, Frost, and many other great poets. All these poems have no meaning without you. They need interpretation, thought, and contemplation--something you have already started doing. Thus, I applaud your efforts. You have already gone beyond what most students would do, and I promise you that this experience can only be rewarding.

Poetry Out Loud has opened so many doors for me. Even though I am a science major in college now, I still read poetry on a daily basis (really, I do), and I believe it has enriched my outlook on life. I also continue to work with the people at the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C. who were nice enough to invite me back during Laura Bush's National Reading Festival. Hopefully Poetry Out Loud will show you the joys of poetry and enrich your life like it has done for me.

I remember sitting in your position last year being incredibly nervous because I did not know what the judges were looking for. I was also nervous and incredibly intimidated by the two talented Santa Rosa High School drama students right in front of me. "How can I compare to Artquest students?" I thought. That is the beauty of Poetry Out Loud: it is not about how much performing experience you have (although I see how that can definitely help), it is about normal people being affected by art. It is about normal people discovering the beauty of words and the wisdom that comes with it. 

The best advice I can give you tonight is be yourself. Have fun. This is not just about you sharing someone else's ideas, it is about incorporating your own feelings, your own experiences. Let the poem speak through your emotions. You do not need to over-dramatize your recitation, but merely true and honest to what your poems mean to you. As you speak, let the experience of the poem take you and your audience away.

Tonight, I wish you the best of luck on reciting your poems. You will do wonderfully.

Peace and love,

Karen Hong
2007 Poetry Out Loud
California State Champion

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