“Up at the Mic”

“Poetry Out Loud” and “Louder than a Bomb” are two poetry competitions featured at West.


Third-place winner, sophomore Alex Patterson performs in the “Poetry Out Loud” audition.

Lindsey Shirley, Writer

“Poetry Out Loud” and “Louder Than a Bomb” are two poetry competitions that West participates in. Poetry Out Loud is focused on performing memorized readings of a select group of well-known writers, while Louder Than a Bomb emphasizes a participant’s own creativity in language and performance with slam poetry and spoken word.

As defined by Mrs. Lawler, West Poetry Out Loud sponsor, spoken word can be defined as “poetry that is written by the performer…probably edgier than what you’d find in Poetry Out Loud’s anthology.” Spoken word is generally depicted with slam poetry.

Poetry Out Loud is a performance based competition of poetry from writers among many different centuries.

“Poetry Out Loud competition [is] sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts, and the purpose of it is to get classical poetry and poetry that has literary merit back into the classroom and to get kids interested in it,” said Lawler.


Schools that participate in Poetry Out Loud hold their own school-wide contest, in which the winner of that competition gets to compete in the regional round of Poetry Out Loud. The student that then places first in the regional competition, goes to perform at the state contest. Finally, if they are successful, are invited to travel to Washington, D.C. to compete in the esteemed national competition.


This year, West’s Poetry Out Loud competition has concluded with junior Belated Turner in first place, senior Eian Wright as runner up, and sophomore Alex Patterson in third place.  


On speaking about how his interest was sparked in the competition, Wright said, “The first time I did Poetry Out Loud was last year. There was a poem on there that I really liked. (Battle Hymn of the Republic) So I decided I wanted to perform that…I went ahead and did Poetry Out Loud that year.”


“When I was younger I liked to write all the time, and first it was just music, and then as I got older, I started reading, and then I found poetry.” First-place winner Turner said. “My English teachers would tell me you should try [performing poetry].”  

Poetry performances can cause poems to be interpreted differently than they would be if read silently, as they can feature a diversity in emotion, tone, and audience.

“ When you read poetry silently […] you don’t really get the meaning,” Turner said, “but when you read it out loud, you get to put all the feeling [into the poem] and actually live the poem.”

Maleah Zumalt, an enthusiastic freshman who participated in this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition said, “[When] reading [poetry] out loud, you have to say what the words mean and interpret the words like the author intended.”

“You can’t share [poetry] effectively if you can’t understand what it means.” Lawler said.

“When you read poetry out loud, it becomes something you’re sharing with others, so it increases the amount of people that are interpreting it,” Wright said. “Because poetry is meant to be shared. It’s not meant to be written down.”


Performances of poetry is also an effective outlet for those to express themselves and improve on public speaking.

“I think learning to perform poetry has really helped me [learn] how to speak with emphasis.” Wright said, “It’s allowed me to figure out what my range of voice is and how to not be monotone.”

“I think…[this poetry is] still relevant because it’s a way for people to just get their emotions out.” Turner said. The many forms of poetry can undoubtedly provide a cathartic, relieving effect for both the writer and reader.


In addition to Poetry Out Loud’s format of poetry and performance, competitions such as the up-and-coming “Louder than a Bomb” serve as an outlet for the performer to also deliver their own message through spoken word. West is currently holding auditions for this competition on February 1.

“Louder than a Bomb” Poster

Poetry competitions like Poetry Out Loud and Louder Than a Bomb have created an opportunity for students to perform poems that speak to them and voice the message they want to share with others, but don’t know how.