Cornwall High School students Kristen Henry and Jessica Wu are no strangers to the Poetry out Loud competition. Both will be making returns, on Feb. 3, to the regional portion of the competition after finishing second and first respectively in the in-school competition last week.
“I’m excited we’re both going,” Henry said. “I think we both have a good chance to do very well.”
Henry, a senior, qualified for the regional competition as a freshman and sophomore, but never made it to states. Last year she failed to qualify as the high school’s winner or runner-up, losing points for accuracy when she read “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns.
Wu, a sophomore, is two-for-two when it comes to being one of Cornwall’s representatives at regionals. Last year she moved past the round before bowing out in the state finals.
“I feel it gets easier the more you get up and recite poems,” Wu said. “The more I do it, the more I like it.”
To get where they are now, both had to choose a poem to read in their English classes. Moving on to the in-school competition, the duo had to add a second poem to their repertoire.
Wu chose “Chorus Sacerdotun” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville and “Old Men Playing Basketball” by B. H. Fairchild. The latter was a dedication to her grandfather.
“I didn’t know much about him, but two things I knew was he loved basketball and poetry,” said Wu.
Henry recited “Beautiful Wreckage” by W.D. Ehrhart and chose to resurrect “To a Mouse.”
“It’s very difficult to say because it’s in old English,” Henry said. “I liked the challenge of trying to memorize it because it was a lot of words you normally don’t come across day to day.”
Reciting the poem required Henry to take on a Scottish accent in order to appropriately pronounce the words, something she failed to do last year.
For the next round, Henry and Wu will need to choose a third poem to recite, but as of last week neither had made their selection.
In preparing for the competition, Wu found it helpful to write out the lines as she memorized them. Henry would recite them over and over. Both practiced in front of friends and family members and welcomed any feedback.
Win or lose, Wu and Henry have enjoyed the competition and believe reciting poetry has made them better public speakers.