Public Poetry by Alabama Teenagers

Last year, right about now, I was panicked about starting a graduate program. It was never really something I meant to do. I meant to start teaching high school students, but the jobs just weren’t there for me. I’ve been blessed beyond belief, however, by the graduate program. In fact, a professor recommended me for an internship with a program for high school students. The kind people at the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the generous spirits at the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities took me on introduced me to a program called Poetry Out Loud. It is essentially a national recitation competition for grades 9-12. Students recite poems of their choosing from a rather extensive anthology and have the opportunity to compete starting at the classroom level.

Alabama also has an original recitation competition. As I’m sure you guessed, students write their own poems and that’s what they recite. This competition culminates at the state level. The thing that I like about the program, as a teacher and general fan of the arts, is that it gives students a voice. Whether they are reciting Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” or one they’ve written on their own, you learn something about that student from the recitation. There are so many different ways to read an understand poetry. Students embrace that and they share the meaning they’ve found in a three minute recitation. Can you beat that?

So, without further adieu, I want to share with you four poems written by Alabama students for the original competition. Check them out. Listen to their voices. Thanks to Olivia Pugh for the beautiful designs, to the Arts Council and Pebble Hill, and most importantly, to the teens who are sharing their work.

If you’d like to learn more about Poetry Out Loud, please visit You can find information out about your state representatives there as well.


About michelleh7040

I'm a grad student studying creative writing and learning how to teach writing (of all sorts).
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