Poetry Out Loud is a bop


Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

Gage Gramlick, Editor-in-chief

At the heart of my Poetry Out Loud experience is connection. Connection with the words. With the poets. With the students. Poetry Out Loud facilitates unity through education in the most miraculous way: compassion.

My junior year, I decided to partake. I thought it would be similar to oral interp: competitive, strategic, an excuse to get up and disseminate my thoughts. Upon my deep dive into poetry, however, I discovered a program that doesn’t merely prop students up, but also cultivates them, forces them to confront ideas they’ve always assumed true. I read “The Mortician in San Francisco” by Randall Mann and was consequently emerged in a history I never even knew existed. Furthermore, I connected to that history; I felt pain and pride through poetry. This tether to the abstract and the real, what we feel and what we know, is unique to poetry. The words and how they’re arranged allow us to enter into the mental landscape of the poet, to be unwittingly empathetic. Apply this to history, social justice, politics, etc., and the product is compassion and unity.

The proof that POL is incubator for boundless kindness is in the pudding, the students. I had the incredible opportunity to attend Nationals my junior and senior years; there, I met some of the most amazingly impassioned and patient kids I’ve ever met. It’s important to note that the awards for POL champs are generous, to say the least. With a grand prize of $20,000, one might expect a hyper-competitive environment. Much to my surprise, however, my fellow competitors were not only supportive, they genuinely sought to learn from one another – from a technical standpoint, sure, but also in philosophy and experience. They wanted to grow as people, with poetry as the starting point.

At the end of the day, I will always contend that POL is the best program in the U.S. Fundamentally, it changed me. Before POL, I thought I was going to be a doctor. A doctor! That would have been bad for me and my patients. It opened my eyes to who I am and to the many different ways we can all coexist. POL introduced me to the power of language as a catalyst for empathy-induced change. If we want to see a world connected instead of divided, open instead of closed, we need to encourage more kids to read poetry. POL is the perfect way to do just that.