Art Works Blog

Spotlight on Poetry Out Loud

“A good poet expresses myriad ideas and revelations within just a few lines of language. Your job as a reciter is to live with these truths and make them a part of yourself....” — Lawson Marchetti

With school right around the corner, it’s time to get ready for the 2017-18 Poetry Out Loud (POL) season! To kick off another year of inspiring poems and exciting competition, we interviewed seasoned POL veteran Lawson Marchetti. Marchetti was an active POL competitor in high school and reigned as the Mississippi state champion for two consecutive years. He is so fond of the program that he wrote his college application essay on the experience! About to enter his first year of college, in our interview Marchetti reflected on his favorite memories from the competition and what Poetry Out Loud has taught him about art, as well sharing his advice for future competitors.

NEA: Were you interested in poetry before participating in Poetry Out Loud?

LAWSON MARCHETTI: I don’t think I realized how awesome language was until my time with POL. I’d always loved stories, and I liked reading, but did not really understand poetry.

NEA: You have been the state champion of Mississippi for two consecutive years. How did competing at the state level for a second time compare to the previous year?

MARCHETTI: It honestly was not that different. Before both competitions, I prepared vigorously; I anticipated that I would have to work hard and fight for the title. I’ve been in the top three in the state for four years, and understand that it can be a combination of several random circumstances out of my control that determines who steps away with the title. So I do my job, what I think is the coolest, awesomest job in the entire world: live, breathe and inhabit a poem for as long and as thoughtfully as I possibly can. So, I suppose the only difference was that the second year I knew exactly what I was preparing for in Washington.

NEA: What is your favorite memory of participating in Poetry Out Loud?

MARCHETTI: One of the things I loved most about it was probably the immense support that I got all four years from my classmates and my teachers. Almost every day in activity period, during what we called Poetry Season, I’d easily have a room full of English teachers (as well as other teachers, administrators, students) eager to listen and give feedback for my recitations. Our poetry sponsor, Dr. Lisa Whitney, would have epiphanic dreams about my poems and hunt me down in the halls, excitedly sharing her revelations. Other fond memories include working with our incredible state coordinator, Ken Bolinsky, and going to nationals. I’ve met some awesome people from all over America, which has really caused me to be a better person. And, for the first time in my life, I got to travel to Washington, DC, which I think is one of the coolest cities ever!

NEA: What are some of your interests outside of poetry?

MARCHETTI: I like all art. I love the expression of the human experience. So, music, theater, literature, film, visual art. I also love the outdoors. I enjoy fishing, which is an experience that makes beautiful poems, several of which I have recited!

NEA: You wrote about Poetry Out Loud for your college application essay. What were some things you wrote about?

MARCHETTI: I talked about my beginnings in poetry, how it all started in ninth grade. I talked about my yearly process, and the growth that occurs time after time. I discussed what poetry is and how I am but a vessel for the poetry to the audience, and how the words of the poet are another vessel themselves, carrying and evoking different emotions and responses from individual to individual. I talked about how humbling and formative this is. And I talked about how Poetry Out Loud brought out the art lover in me.

NEA: Do you plan on pursuing the arts in college with classes, extracurriculars, or just on your own?

MARCHETTI: Yes! I’m currently on board to be a double major in Vocal Performance and English, with a minor in Theater. However, I am also interested in film, French and several other things. I’m currently on a vigorous summer arts schedule. I am taking cello, piano, and theory, and I am in a summer book club (we are reading Ulysses by James Joyce), as well as an art and cooking club. In art club, I’m painting an image from the poem “every single day” by John Straley, which I’ve recited in competition. I’m also trying to read and write poetry. And watch some good films. My parents also want me to get a real job so we’ll see how that goes. I definitely want to go into the arts.

NEA: What advice would you give to students participating, or thinking about participating, in Poetry Out Loud?

MARCHETTI: It changed my life more than anything else up to this point has. Poetry is the most dense and intricate of all of the art forms I have encountered. A good poet expresses myriad ideas and revelations within just a few lines of language. Your job as a reciter is to live with these truths and make them a part of yourself, and then share them, which is the most rewarding experience in the entire world. Do it! You will not be sorry.

NEA: Why do the arts matter?

MARCHETTI: The arts unite us—they are what make us human. They are what set us apart from other species; they allow us to learn from and know ourselves. They yield to each participant a new set of sensory organs through which to participate in life: a nose and tongue to savor every moment as precious; feet that feel the good earth they tread upon; ears that yearn to hear every word spoken into a canyon and soak up the echoes; and eyes peeled every waking minute for, in the words of poet Stephen Dunn, “always something more beautiful.” To understand why we are here and to seek higher and deeper beauty are the elegant purposes of art, and well worth our time and efforts.

For more information about Poetry Out Loud and to participate in the official competition, please contact your state coordinator.

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