Saturday, March 15, 2008

'Happiness' Is Runner-Up

Posted By on Sat, Mar 15, 2008 at 12:09 PM

We'd heard that Jessica Knapp from North Coast Prep was chosen to go to Sacramento for the California Poetry Out Loud state finals, a contest that involves reciting other people's poems. She didn't win, but she did make it to the tie-breaking third round, as noted in this press release:

Sacramento - Placer County student Roshawnda Bettencourt of Oakmont High School took first place in this year's highly competitive California Poetry Out Loud state finals... This year marks the third time the California Arts Council has produced the Poetry Out Loud competition, a contest that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition of classical poetry. The program was started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, and is fulfilled in the states by the state arts agencies. Local arts agencies and school districts implement the program on the county level.

"I was astounded at the savvy choice of poems that each competitor chose, and of the emotional maturity and poise these students exhibited today," said California Arts Council Vice Chair Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, a judge in 2008 state finals for California Poetry Out Loud. "Not only were these pieces performed well, but the students understood them deeply, on a truly profound and emotional level. They were all so fantastic it was almost impossible to be a judge."

Five students of the 20 competing made it to a tie-breaking third round of the competition when the judges decided the scores were too close to determine a clear winner and runner-up. They were, in no particular order: Jessica Knapp of North Coast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy (Humboldt County), Spencer Klavan of Laguna Blanca High School (Santa Barbara County), Annie Griffin of St Monica High School (Los Angeles County), Malachia Hoover of Tamalpais High School (Marin County), and Cecily Stevens of Salesian High School (Contra Costa County).

(See the full list of the 20 competitors, their counties, high schools and their poetry choices.)

"We think of poetry as being text, but it really lives in the heart," said California Poet Laureate Al Young, also a judge in the 2008 California Poetry Out Loud competition. "Language moves us because it is very close to music."

The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students--a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers. The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry, recitation and performance.
Note: photo above by Steve Hellon. Can anybody tell which one is Jessica?

What did Jessica Knapp read?
1st Poem: Happiness by Jane Kenyon
2nd Poem: Sonnet CXVI: Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds by William Shakespeare
3rd Poem: Fever 103 by Sylvia Plath


There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine

Jane Kenyon

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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