BY KRISTIN SCHULTZ
NISKAYUNA — Poetry and performance came together for Niskayuna High School junior Suzie Davis and sophomore Lara Nakisli, both of whom advanced to the final round of the regional Poetry Out Loud competition held Jan. 31 at Hudson Valley Community College.
The girls competed at the regional level after placing first and second at the schoolwide competition.
Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition. Participants choose three poems from a predetermined selection, then memorize and recite the poems for a group of judges. Scoring is based on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding and overall performance.
For her first poem, Davis chose “What You Have to Get Over” by Dick Allen, a poem about encountering and overcoming life’s obstacles.
“I liked the message. I have a heavy course load and do a lot of after-school activities,” said Davis. “I related to this poem because it talked about these things using humor and also being serious.”
Nakisli chose “Lazy” by David Yezzi, a poem about interacting with people around you.
“I liked it because it was more modern and sassy,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is me.’”
Davis and Nakisli memorized their poems and practiced reciting them wherever and whenever they could.
“We practiced in class,” said Davis. “I focused on my tone. I’d say my poem every night when I was at home and before bed.”
“I would be saying my poem while walking around the school and sometimes lose track of where I was or where I was going,” said Nakisli.
The practice paid off, as they beat 34 of their fellow students and advanced to the regional round.
When the competition came around, they were nervous but found camaraderie with their fellow competitors.
“While we were waiting, I was sitting between two boys,” said Nakisli. “One had been [to the regional competition] before but he was still nervous. We were all in the same boat.”
Although neither Davis nor Nakisli advanced past the regional competition, they both learned something about poetry and about themselves.
“The poems are so powerful,” said Nakisli. “I loved seeing my friends’ reaction to hearing them performed, like acting.”
“Poetry is more than rhyming words and flowery language,” said Davis, who is also co-president of the school’s Model UN. “The regional competition was out of my comfort zone, but it definitely made me more confident.”
Davis swims for a local swim club and plans to attend a four-year college.
Nakisli plans to continue her band and choir pursuits in college where she intends to do a double major in forensic science and filmmaking.