Young voices give poetry new strength

Staff WriterMarch 7, 2010 

  • First place: Zamyia Felton of West Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte

    Second place: Maggie Jordan of the N.C. School of Science and Math in Durham

— Hayden Lindquist, a senior at Swain County High School, hopes to attend the U.S. Naval Academy as a prelude to becoming an officer in the Marines.

But on Saturday, Lindquist articulated Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" with an elegance, timing, pathos and sense of drama befitting a seasoned actor or a jazz icon.

The poem, about the irony and horror of war, was one of three that Lindquist recited in the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. He also recited "At The Vietnam Memorial" by George Bilgere and "Concord Hymn" by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"It's what I want to do," Lindquist said about his dual loves: the military and poetry. "I can convey the meaning of the poem. I can put myself there."

Lindquist was among more than 25 high school students from across the state who competed Saturday on the state Museum of History stage in downtown Raleigh.

One of Poetry Out Loud's goals is to encourage the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. Saturday's event more than realized that with near-flawless takes on the works of Lewis Carroll, William Shakespeare, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Nikki Giovanni, e.e. cummings, Rudyard Kipling and Langston Hughes.

The winner from the daylong event, selected by a panel of judges, will receive a $200 cash award and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington to compete next month in the national competition for more than $50,000 in scholarship prizes.

Saturday's event was the culmination of local competitions across the state with thousands of students hoping to advance to state competition. The event was sponsored by the N.C. Arts Council in tandem with the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation.

Lakita Edwards, an arts education specialist with the NEA, was in Raleigh for the competition. She was particularly impressed with Enka High School student Nancy Smith's recital of "Phenomenal Woman," by Maya Angelou.

"[Reciting] poetry," Edwards said, "allows young people to find their voice within that poem and make it their own."

thomasi.mcdonald@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4533

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