Poetry Out Loud: Kari Barclay

Each year over 365,000 high school students compete in Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest. Hear from Kari Barclay, a second-year Poetry Out Loud contestant, about his experience participating in Poetry Out Loud.

This is my second year reciting in Poetry Out Loud after last year coming in first at the state level and advancing to national finals, where I made it to the top 9 (out of 365,000). My experience with PoL has been phenomenal. Poetry Out Loud surrounds teens with students who, like them, are obsessed with poetry, and each teen has a passion for the poems he or she recites. Through Poetry Out Loud, I’ve met actors and slam poets and songwriters who all have a love for the spoken word. Each person has a message they want to get across to their audience.
Last year, I recited “Dog” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Death be not proud” by John Donne, and “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings. Speaking the poems aloud brings many of them alive. And for many students confronted with written works in a classroom setting, what would be intimidating on the page is electrifying spoken aloud. This year, I’ve come back for Poetry Out Loud to hear great reciters like the ones I encountered last year and to experiment with some new poems, “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and “Under the Vulture-Tree” by David Bottoms. For me, it’s rewarding to take the words on the page and give them to the audience, in a form that does not spoon-feed meaning but rather gives the audience room to interpret. I’ve loved discovering hidden layers to the poems I’m reading and joining others for their discoveries as they recite.

— Kari Barclay
Kari will compete in the Maryland state competition this Saturday, March 3 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He is also featured as a Top Teen in Bethesda Magazine’s March/April 2012 issue.