Brighton Central School District

BHS senior advances to Poetry Out Loud nationals

In Nikki Metzger’s first year of competing in Poetry Out Loud, the Brighton High School senior is heading to the national competition in Washington, D.C. Metzger advanced through the school, regional, and state competitions and is the sole representative from New York State.

                  She’s just one of 53 students who will compete in the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest on April 28 and 29 at George Washington University. The competition started with 365,000 students nationwide.

                  “It’s not an acting competition; it’s about bringing forth the subtlety of the words,” BHS English teacher Karen Flynn said. “In poetry that’s so important. Since there aren’t a lot of words to tell a story, each word has to be honored. I think Nikki finds that balance so well between being a presence that you want to look at and listen to while still being mindful of the poet. She’s a channel for the poet’s words and that’s an art.”

                  Poetry Out Loud is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The program gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

                  This is Metzger’s first year taking part in Poetry Out Loud. She selected “The Pulley” by George Herbert, “In Memorium: Martin Luther King, Jr.” by June Jordan, and “a song in the front yard” by Gwendolyn Brooks” as the poems she memorized and recited for the competition.

                  “Around the time Ms. Flynn asked me to choose a poem was when the situation in Ferguson, Missouri was blowing up and on the news every night,” Metzger said. “I was really affected by that, so I went on Poetry Out Loud’s website and looked for African-American authors and found June Jordan, who is famous for her activist writings, and I really fell in love with that poem.”

                  The fourth annual Brighton High School competition took place on Jan. 6. Metzger and Aidan Calvelli won the competition and advanced to regionals at the College at Brockport on March 2. Out of a field of 10 Finger Lakes area high schools at regionals, she was one of two to move on to the state competition.

                  “When I was sitting there listening to the other people, I felt, ‘I wish this could not be a competition and we could just be reciting together,’” Metzger said. “I felt really happy and I enjoyed listening to everyone else.”

                  The state competition featured the top 24 students in Syracuse on March 9. The senior made it to the final eight, allowing her the opportunity to recite her third poem. She ended up winning, earning a $200 prize for herself and a $500 prize for BHS to purchase poetry materials like books and movies. Metzger is the first Brighton student to reach the national level.

                  Nationals has two days of competition, which will be judged by well-known poets and writers. There will also be two days of meet and greets, book signings and possibly a chance to meet Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Sen. Charles Schumer or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

                  “It’s funny because it was in November that I heard that Ms. Flynn was having an afterschool meeting for Poetry Out Loud,” Metzger said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll go.’ It would’ve been so easy for me to say, ‘I’m tired never mind.’ It’s crazy to me, I would’ve never expected this to happen. It’s really cool.”

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