Senior Aiden Cass is Longmeadow High School’s sixth annual 2022 Poetry Out Loud Champion. Cass recited “Where the Wild Things Go” by D. Gilson before a panel of five judges on January 13 in the LHS auditorium. Cass will compete in the regional semifinals, with a chance to advance to the state championship in Washington, D.C.
Cass was one of eight LHS students who participated in this national recitation contest, alongside four million other students across the country.
The panel of judges included English teachers Mr. John Williams and Ms. Elizabeth Heston,
librarian Ms. Kerry Kennedy, Mrs. Suzanne Baker from the math department as a tabulator, and student-teacher in English, Miah Karras.
The contestants are scored according to a five-category rubric: physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and their overall performance. They are also scored on the accuracy of their recitation to the original work.
After reciting the poem as a mandatory English assignment and receiving good feedback from his peers and teacher, Cass decided to enter the competition for the first time, saying, “Hey, why not?” By breaking up the poem into sections and learning each part over the course of multiple days, Cass says he was able to memorize the poem fairly quickly. After learning the poem by heart, Cass experimented with different voices and actions to enhance his performance.
Although the poem is 28 lines long, Cass says that preparing for the competition was easy. He explains that this specific poem made the process fun, saying, “It reads like a short, crazy story, all these crazy events after another really keep you hooked in and interested and I just had a fun time reciting it.”
He believes that participating in the competition has allowed him to become more comfortable with public speaking, and has helped him gain confidence when performing in front of other people. Cass adds, “It’s helped me learn how to be a better performer, and how to break down a certain piece of text and change it in a way that fits with who I am.”
Mr. Mark Cormier, head of the English department, also believes that by participating in the contest students like Cass will learn to master valuable skills. Mr. Cormier says, “It gives people that opportunity to present yourself publicly, which I think is a great skill to keep refining,” and “It gives them self confidence and … the opportunity to memorize something beautiful, which we don’t do a lot of anymore.”
Mr. Cormier likens memorizing poems to song lyrics, saying, “Like song lyrics, I think if you memorize poetry, they’ll come to you in kind of strange moments of your life. I think that’s a wonderful thing.”
Senior Monica DeSouza was the runner-up with her recitation of “Mi Casa” by Luis Daniel Salgado, and senior Celeste Connell was the second runner-up with her recitation of “Sonnet 55” by Shakespeare.
Other participants and the poems they recited include: Liliana Hogan (“War Widow” by Chris Abani), Edgar Gebhardt (“War Widow” by Chris Abani), Lily Henry (“The Art Room” by Shara McCallum), Maddie Bonavita (“After the Winter” by Claude McKay), and Emma Cervasio (“I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain” by Emily Dickinson).