Hopkins Students Celebrate the Performance of Poetry
In 2008, William J. Kneisel ’65 HGS, provided funds to honor his mother, a lover of literature and poetry, by expanding the collection in the Calarco Library.
In 2008, William J. Kneisel ’65 HGS, provided funds to honor his mother, a lover of literature and poetry, by expanding the collection in the Calarco Library. Part of the funds established an evening of poetry, where students would recite and read their works in diferent languages. Hence, the annual Celebration of Poetry at Hopkins was born. In conjunction with this event, but separate all the same, is the COLT (the Connecticut Council of Language Teachers) Poetry Contest, an opportunity for students across the state to recite poetry and display their talent.
“The poems are chosen by CT COLT; each year they approve a list of fve to eight poems for each language and level,” said Tilden Daniels, Chair of the Modern Language Department. For languages not taught in many schools, students can still submit and recite poems. “This year, Hopkins [qualifed] fourteen heritage speakers and 24 non-heritage speakers,” said Daniels. The contest was held on April 25, 2017, at Bristol Central High School, but transportation problems prevented Hopkins from attending.
“Last year, I took Chinese and recited the poem ‘Small Grass,’” said Burton Lyng-Olsen ’20, “Preparing a poem helped me study and improve my tones in speaking, a crucial aspect of vocal Chinese.”
First-place COLT reciter Yasmin Bergemann ’20 also found the process to be rewarding. “My Spanish poem gave me a sense of popular culture, in addition to helping me with pronunciation,” Bergemann ’20 said.
Dylan Sloan ’18 recited the poem “A Song of the Great Wall,” by Xi Murong. “When reciting the poem, I learned a lot about how different students and different schools run their language programs and how they all come together to celebrate poetry,” Sloan said. “I had a memorable experience meeting students and bonding over a shared love of poetry.”
For both heritage and non-heritage speakers, understanding the poem helped render its dictation more fluent. Hannah Melchinger ’17 recited “He Andado Muchos Caminos,” by Antonio Machado as a Spanish heritage speaker. While reciting the poem she said, “I took a deep breath, and then thought only of the story I was telling with Machado’s poem. I imagined I was the “yo lírico” (poetic voice) who had ‘walked many paths’ and so it was easy. It became my story, my poem, and I felt comfortable telling it.”
Many of the participants fnd it helpful to receive feedback from friends and family. Maliya Ellis ’19 “performed it for my family, especially because they didn’t understand its meaning, to see if I could convey it just through the infection and tone.”
Sloan also believes that conveying is crucial. “Reciting poetry is an art, not a science, and pronunciation, speed, emphasis and emotion are just as if not more important than memorizing the poem!”
Many students emphasized calm recitation. “If you are relaxed and confdent, and don’t let your nerves get the better of you, you can really enjoy something as potentially scary as a poetry recitation,” Melchinger said.
One of the recommendations given by Liv Capasso ’19 is to record yourself to work on speed, pronunciation, and emotion. “The better you know your poem, the less nervous you will be when reciting to a large group of people.” Capasso said that the recitation experience helped her to expand her interest in Italian outside of the classroom: “I really came to enjoy practicing and improving my poem, and I believe that in doing so I was forced to leave my comfort zone, which helped me overcome my fear of public speaking.”