New Technology High School senior Riley Miner admits she gets nervous when performing in front of people.
“Whenever I’m about to perform in front of an audience, I feel my heart pumping really hard,” the Poetry Out Loud contest winner said, adding that it takes her about three minutes of deep breathing to calm down.
“A trick that really helps me feel less focused on the audience staring at me is I concentrate on the tip of my nose,” Miner said. “It distracts me and I can deliver my poem as though I’m alone — just me and my nose.”
Miner won the competition, and a $500 college scholarship, after reciting “Magnitude” by Howard Nemerov and “The Albatross” by Kate Bass.
In all, seven students from four Napa County high schools participated in last week’s event, which was held at the Napa Valley Playhouse in front of an audience and a panel of judges that included Napa County Poet Laureate Leonore Wilson.
The students had to recite two poems each for a chance to win scholarship money and advance to the state finals.
Miner, who also performs in theater, said she used her time in dance classes to practice her recitation so she could ingrain the poems in more than one way. It took her about a month to memorize both poems, she said.
New Technology senior Pookie McGlothern placed second in the Poetry Out Loud competition and was awarded a $300 college scholarship.
McGlothern said performing in front of a panel of judges was a nerve-racking experience, but there were at least two friendly faces in the audience.
“My mom came to watch me, and my boyfriend got me roses,” McGlothern said.
The two New Tech students were joined in the competition by students from St. Helena High School, American Canyon High School and Napa High School.
The Poetry Out Loud competition is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance and competition.
Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a countywide competition, then to a statewide competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, D.C.
Approximately 365,000 students from more than 2,000 high schools nationwide participate in the program each year, according to the Arts Council of Napa Valley.
The Napa County students recited works they selected from a collection of more than 650 classic and contemporary poems. The judges evaluated student performance based on voice and articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy, according to the Arts Council.
Miner will advance to the state finals in Sacramento scheduled for March 25. The winner of the California competition will advance to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals on April 29-30 in Washington, D.C., where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed.