More than 1,100 students participated in the event, culminating in a final night at the library attended by 140 faculty, parents and students. Only 41 students earned the privilege to perform on the final night.
Students competed in two categories, original work and poetry performance. Prizes were awarded for both first and second place in each category and in each grade division. All poems were limited to two minutes in length.
Lake Forest’s librarian, Vince Stone, organized and served as emcee for the event dressed in 18th century period clothing in honor of the contest’s namesake, Edgar Allen Poe. Students were judged on their interpretation, memorization, voice and overall effect.
“We wanted to expose the student body and parents to poetry and make it as fun as possible,” Stone said. “I was pleasantly surprised how the audience got into it and showed their support. They were snapping their fingers in approval, and it was very big-city hip for such a small community like Cleveland. The judges really had a challenge tonight.”
Although there were poems recited by popular authors like Poe and Shel Silverstein, what really stunned the audience was the quality of original poetry that came from this young group. They were unafraid to tackle difficult subjects such as bullying, love, divorce, nature or death. But, lighter subjects were also addressed such as football, tarantulas and even the big toe.
First prize in each category was awarded a $100 gift card, and second prize received $50. In total, more than $900 in prizes were given out.
Lake Forest Principal Ritchie Stevenson said he could not have been prouder of the talent that was showcased during the evening.
“We had some great young poets show up tonight,” Stevenson said. “It’s not easy to get in front of this many people and recite complicated verse. It was a great night at the Lake Forest Media Center, and we hope it grows even bigger next year. Our library and English language arts department demonstrated what great things can happen when teachers collaborate toward a common goal.”