Poems bring language to life

Annelise, seated, and Maggie Schulte alternate poetry reading as they practice for Poetry Out Loud in front of their parents at their home. The statewide competition will be from 10 a.m.-noon today at Missouri River Regional Library.

Annelise, seated, and Maggie Schulte alternate poetry reading as they practice for Poetry Out Loud in front of their parents at their home. The statewide competition will be from 10 a.m.-noon today at Missouri River Regional Library. Photo by Stephen Brooks.

Poetry is as commonplace as breakfast for the Schulte family.

“We’ve always had poetry books; they’re just around,” 15-year-old Maggie said.

With a degree in English, mother and teacher Paula Schulte said she shared her enjoyment of poetry with her family.

“We love language play,” Paula Schulte said. “If you’re really in tune to language, it brings that out.”

So when the Jefferson City Home Educators (JCHE) group decided to participate in the Poetry Out Loud competition, the Schulte home was onboard.

“I thought it would be fun,” said Annelise, 17.

And “our friends were doing it,” Maggie added.

This year, the Jefferson City Home Educators fall co-op, where parents pool their resources for a few weeks of classes together, included a class on poetry led by Schulte.

Annelise appreciated learning more about the meaning behind poetry and the importance of enunciating vowels in delivery, she said.

As she recently practiced reciting “Eating Poetry” by Mark Strand for her family, Annelise used that knowledge to bring a sing-song tale to life with long vowel sounds and a lilting tone.

In selecting which three poems to perform, the sisters looked for topics they could relate to.

With Annelise’s selection of “Fishing” by A.E. Stallings, she has had the experience of not wanting to do an activity that was expected of her and in the end finding it was a good time, just as the father and daughter discover in the short poem.

Maggie selected three distinctly different poems to show flexibility in her recitation abilities, she said.

To memorize their poems, the Maggie and Annelise have recited their verses out loud in their room.

“Hearing and feeling how it comes out of your mouth helps,” Maggie said.

Memorizing poetry is easier because of the rhyme and meter and because each poem has an independent meaning, Maggie said.

“It’s easier than (competitive) speech; it’s not like you have to memorize a whole book,” Annelise said.

Some poems, like tongue-twisters, are fun to speak, Maggie said. From last year, the sisters enjoyed the “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, recited by their fellow JCHE member Rose Hoyle, who won the statewide competition in 2010.

Annelise said she likes how poetry can help her recall things, places or events. Or when she’s doing everyday activities, a poem may come to mind relating to what she’s doing — or eating. There are many poems about food, she noted.

“Some poems can apply to a lot of things,” Maggie noted.

She is working on “Much madness is divinest sense” by Emily Dickinson for Saturday’s event.

“It almost seems like nonsense and then you can apply it to things,” Maggie said. “Then maybe it’s not nonsense but genius.”

A key point to Poetry Out Loud is that the poems are recited, not dramatized, Paula said.

Judges listen for both nuance of delivery and perfection in the words spoken.

Students are given a list from which they select three poems — one must be from pre-20th century and one must be less than 25 lines.

The pre-20th century selection often is the most difficult for students, particularly due to the difference in language, Paula said.

The exercise of researching and selecting their poems, then understanding and memorizing them, will remain with the students long after the Poetry Out Loud event.

On Saturday, the Jefferson City Home Educators and Lighthouse Preparatory Academy will hold their schoolwide event, which is open to the public from 10 a.m.-noon at the Missouri River Regional Library.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to hear poetry,” Paula said. “I think they will be pleasantly surprised at how it can be moving or funny.”

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