Riverside Student Advances to State Poetry Competition

Katie L. Martin
Kolaiah Newkirk, a junior at Riverside, wanted to improve his public speaking skills, so when Riverside’s poetry competition was announced, it provided an outstanding opportunity to test those skills in a hands-on way. Although it was Newkirk’s first time competing, he went on to win the school competition, advanced to the Poetry Out Loud regional competition placing second overall, and then advanced to the state competition in Atlanta on March 14 which consisted of only 15 competitors. 

At the Poetry Out Loud State Final, the performers were asked to present two poems, one consisting of 25 lines or fewer and one written before the 20th century. Newkirk performed “The Last Laugh” by Wilfred Owen and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Judges graded the performers not only on accuracy in the recitation of the poems but also on hand placement, articulation, and presentation. 

Although Newkirk did not qualify for the National Finals, he said the competition was a positive experience that allowed him to grow in his speaking skills. “Something as simple as a poetry competition can help you better prepare for future job interviews and presentations. The skills you learn will translate directly to how you present yourself in front of people. You’ll sit taller, speak with more articulation, and have more confidence,” he said.

Newkirk values the experience he’s had as a cadet for nearly three years at Riverside, saying, “The structure at Riverside has provided me with a rhythm that makes me more productive. I’ve learned organizational and relational skills which have grown my ability to express myself to others.” One of the mentors who has strongly impacted Newkirk is English Department Chair Andy Jobson who encouraged Newkirk to participate in the poetry competition.