St. Agnes Academy junior Denise Geronimo was the runner-up in the Tennessee state Poetry Out Loud competition held in Nashville in March. The statewide competition, which is sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission, featured 21 finalists from across Tennessee. 

As state runner-up Denise receives a scholarship award, and the school will also receive a stipend for the purchase of poetry books and supplies. This was the first year that St. Agnes competed in the competition. 

Denise, an avid reader with a love for literature, has written and published two short stories and two poems. She has always loved the thrill of public speaking, and she has known since she was a freshman at SAA that she wanted to participate in the Poetry Out Loud competition.  

In preparation for the competition she worked with Ann Neal, Director of Theatre Arts at St. Agnes Academy, to select three poems from a catalog of over 900 poems. “I looked for those poems that resonated with me,” Denise said.  “You have to have an emotional attachment to deliver a poem. When I deliver a poem, I want it to be a conversation with the audience,” she said.  She spent numerous hours preparing, reciting with Mrs. Neal, rehearsing in front of her classmates, and even reciting on her way to school. 

In the first two rounds of the state competition, Denise recited Mr. Darcy by Victoria Chang and Invictus by William Ernest Henley. She advanced to the final round of 10 competitors where she recited Barter by Sara Teasdale. 

Denise has performed in several plays at school, but noted that reciting poetry is a very different experience. “This was a very humbling feeling, being completely by myself. It was harder without a cast next to you on stage.”

At St. Agnes Academy all Upper School students study a unit on poetry delivery as part of their Drama I –Oral Communications curriculum.   “When you recite poetry, it is someone else’s words. The words are a gift to you, and you give them back as you see fit,” said Mrs. Neal. 

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, building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form. 

“Poetry Out Loud is an incredible opportunity for all students to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn something new about themselves and others from across the state,” Tennessee Arts Commission Chair Steve Bailey said. “The hard work of these students and their educators was very evident.” 


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