Hopkins at CT Colt Poetry Contest
On April 3, 2019, Hopkins students kicked of National Poetry Month by travelling to Rockville High School to participate in the 38th annual CT COLT (Connecticut Council of Language Teachers) Poetry Contest. Tey competed with over 500 students from 52 schools, and out of the 33 Hopkins students that attended, 18 were medalists in their divisions.
COLT provides a slate of poems, grouped by level and language, from which students and teachers could pick. Modern language students begin preparation for their in-class recitation during the month of March. From there, either teachers or a class vote determine the best performers to move on and travel to the COLT contest, always held during the frst few days of April.
The process of learning a poem in a foreign language must be met with care and precision, according to Liz Bamgboye ’20. She said, “What I found most challenging was making sure that I practiced the right thing each time. It’s way too easy to practice the wrong thing and perform the poem completely wrong.”
“The poem recitation defnitely helped me focus more on the pronunciation of the language that I’m working on, which is Chinese,” said Elliot Calderone ’22, “Making sure every tone and pronunciation was perfect really helped me pay more attention to how I speak the language.”
When asked if the poem preparation aided in a better understanding of her language, Sarah Lopez ’19 said, “As Italians would say, ‘nì’ (yes and no). It defnitely was a weird poem considering it was written in an old dialect of Italian but it is cool to recite something in Italian dialect rather than ‘standard’ Italian.” In contrast, she enthusiastically spoke on the perfor- mance aspect of her poem: “I am not a performer in any sense of the word. My voice is naturally very monotone and my resting face is serious so I had to work really hard to convey the emotion in the poem. It was about the joy of love and youth so I needed to recite in a higher pitch as well as move my hands and smile. I was worried I would freeze but I didn’t! I even surprised myself by adding a gasp on the fnal line of my poem.”
Students who are fuent or speak a second language at home competed in the “Heritage” division. One of these competitors, Ian Dailis ’20, refected on the challenges of the competition. He said,“I came in thinking that the biggest challenge for everyone would be memorization, while in reality the focus was expression of the poem, [since] fuency was already mastered by everyone. The girl I competed against had fuency equivalent to mine but much better expression of feeling so she understandably got a silver while I got a bronze.”
For gold medal winner Olivia Capasso ’19, participation in the contest was par for the course. She said, “Italian has been my favorite course throughout high school and I’ve always looked forward to preparing for the poetry competition. I’m the only student in Italian 5 honors so I couldn’t not participate in the actual contest.” However, she did end up finding the experience to be a rewarding parting gift, adding, “I enjoy the process of practicing and reciting my poem for weeks, so winning my section was defnitely both rewarding and enjoyable, especially since this is my fnal year at Hopkins.”
The contest was a learning experience for some and a performance exercise for others. Bronze medalist Daya Baum ’24, summarized her sentiments of gratitude and contentment: “I found it rewarding that I even got to experience this.”