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The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School

Expressions

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Penny DellaPelle Wins Runner Up At State Poetry Out Loud

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   San Luis Obispo High School has a competitive pool of students participating in the national Poetry Out Loud contest each year. This year SLOHS sophomore Penny Dellapelle made it all the way to win runner up in the state level Poetry Out Loud contest in Sacramento, which went from Sunday, March 10 to Monday, March 11. Expressions had the opportunity to talk with her about that experience.

Expressions: How does it feel to be the runner up Poetry Out Loud winner in the state?

Sophomore Penny DellaPelle: It feels great, especially because the California Poetry Out Loud is the biggest state competition in the country, with 52 counties competing!

Expressions: How did you prepare yourself before each contest?

DellaPelle: I mean, I’d memorized all the poems beforehand, so I mainly focused on staying calm and kind of just repeating them over and over again to reassure myself. Plus, I wanted to be able to just enjoy the experience.

Expressions: What poems did you memorize and why did you choose them?

DellaPelle: The first poem I chose was “Planetarium” by poet Adrienne Rich, and when I randomly found it months ago for the classroom competition it really spoke to me. I love the galactic imagery and the theme of trailblazing in the face of inequality. My second one was “Self-Portrait as So Much Potential” by poet Chen Chen. It’s got a great mix of humor and emotional complexity, and it deals with homosexuality and parent-child relationships. My third was “The New Colossus” by poet Emma Lazarus, which is actually inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. I felt like it was really important in our current political climate to remember what our country is supposed to represent. That was my poem for the final round so I was able to perform it in the State Capital Senate Chamber, which made it even more impactful.

Expressions: Did you enjoy the experience?

DellaPelle: Definitely, it was super special meeting students from all over the state. Plus, there were several really passionate and inspiring speakers who shared their words.

Expressions: What advice would you give to future competitors?

DellaPelle: I’d say the main thing is to really delve into the poem and find out what it means to you. It can be easy when reciting poetry to just say the words because that’s what you’re supposed to do, but once you have your own interpretation it becomes a thousand times easier for the audience to follow you. And of course, just relax and have fun with it!

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