After winning the school, regional, and state levels of the Poetry Out Loud competitions, senior Lili Myers competed at the National semi-final level, winning honorable mention. Out of the 18 national semi final contestants, Lili was one of 8 students to move on to a third round. At that point in the competition, three students moved on to the national level, with Lili earning the single honorable mention achievement.
Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national competition in which high school students memorize and recite works of both traditional and contemporary poetry. In the state of NJ, over 8,000 students competed from 66 different high schools. While at Cinnaminson High School, Lili has won the school competition twice: her freshman year and her senior year. Unlike her freshman year, the 2021 POL competition was held through a virtual format on March 16.
At the state level of Poetry Out Loud, Lili was required to recite three poems. Lili chose the poems “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne, and “The Woman at the Washington Zoo” by Randall Jarrell.
“It doesn’t sound like recited poetry – it sounds like she is speaking her own words with emotion that is palpable,” said Lili’s former English teacher, Mrs. Carroll.
Competing against 10 other regional champions, Lili was named the NJ State Finalist – the one student from the entire state to move onto nationals. As the State Champion at the 2021 New Jersey Poetry Out Loud (NJ POL) State Finals competition, Lili continued to compete against students from all over the East Coast, attempting to earn the national POL title as well as different scholarship opportunities.
Having taught Lili in both honors survey English freshman year, as well as AP Language and Composition junior year, Mrs.Carroll has gotten to know Lili’s mastery of poetry. Also working with Lili through the CHS Amaranth Literary Club, Mrs. Carroll explained Lili’s “undeniable understanding” of poetry, combined with her overall sense of confidence contributes greatly to her strong recitation ability.
“She has a passion for writing and a confidence for performing that made her a force even as a 9th grader when she first won our schoolwide POL competition. Her performances always seem effortless, but when you realize the complexity of her poem selections, you realize how much time and understanding went into her performance,” noted Mrs. Carroll.
Despite the differences that the 2020-2021 school year has presented students and staff with, Lili’s current English teacher, Mrs.Hyland, explained how Lili makes positive contributions to the classroom.
“Lili is the type of student that all teachers would love to have in class because she generates conversation and dialogue which causes others to think,” said Mrs.Hyland.
Mrs.Hyland also said that she connects with Lili through their similar sense of humor, which has brought additional personality to the classroom.
“I think it comes from her love of poetry and her personal creativity that she has an acute understanding of people and human nature which are topics that are discussed often in class,” said Mrs. Hyland.
Both Mrs.Hyland and Mrs.Carroll expressed the opinions that when Lili performs, it is clear she thoroughly understands, and enjoys, the poems she chose; this deep understanding and passion for poetry has allowed Lili to both get herself into character and engage the audience.
Mrs Laskowski, the teacher who organizes the CHS chapter of the Poetry Out Loud competition, shared similar sentiments
“Lili’s ability to determine when to use hand movements, which words to stress, how to phrase verses precisely—just makes makes her a natural. It all comes down to her artistry and her decision making skills as an artist. She takes your breath away and makes you feel the poem; she’s truly gifted,” said Mrs. Laskowski
Going farther than any other Cinnaminson High School student in the Poetry Out Loud Competition, Lili’s national semifinal performance, and subsequent Honorable Mention recognition, has made her the highest reaching CHS POL competitor.