Going to Nationals

Lynsay Strahorn '11 captured the hearts and minds of judges and finished first in the State at the Poetry Out Loud Competition held on March 13, 2009. Strahorn was one of 28 students from Ohio high schools to participate. In addition to receiving top honors, she won $200, an all-expense-paid trip to the national competition taking place in Washington D.C. on April 29, and $500 for CJ to use to purchase poetry books.

Strahorn has a passion for poetry fueled her drive for success this year. “We always read prose in the classroom, but I love the way poetry sounds and the way poets use words in different ways. You really have to find a meaning, and it can connect to readers in so many ways. I am really excited and nervous to compete nationally. It really is the best of the best at this point. I will have time to work on my poems and perfect them.”

Strahorn competed last year as a sophomore and placed third at the State level. This year, at Ohio Dominican University, Strahorn took first place by performing the poems “Walking Down Park,” by Nikki Giovanni; ”I Am,” by John Clare; and “For Love,” by Robert Creeley.

“After finishing third last year, Lynsay was determined to win it all and do what was necessary to win. She proved to her classmates that if you work hard at something, you’re going to get better,” said Jim Brooks, CJ English teacher and Poetry Out Loud moderator. “She is a great student, great person, and very dedicated.”

Poetry Out Loud is in its third year at CJ. Students in English classes compete within their classes. Winners from each class move on to a school-wide competition. This year, CJ had 18 students participate in the school-wide competition with Strahorn representing the school as the champion.

She will now move on to represent Ohio and CJ at the National Finals in the footsteps of CJ graduate, Rachel Chandler, who won State in 2008 and competed nationally.

Students choose and memorize a poem from over 600 poems on the Poetry Out Loud website for the classroom competition. As students advance, their requirements and the competition increase. At the state level, participants were required to memorize three poems, of which one or a combination had to be 25 lines or less and stem from the pre-20th century.

“The major benefit is a greater familiarity and appreciation for poetry. Another great aspect is the performance aspect,” said Brooks. “They don’t think of poetry as an art form presented publicly. Finally, they learn to internalize the poem. They make it their own, and take on the voice of the poet.”

Strahorn, the daughter of Derrick and Kris Strahorn of Harrison Township, also plays varsity basketball and soccer for CJ.

According to its Web site, Poetry Out Loud’s mission is to encourage the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. The program provides an opportunity for students to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

By Tim Herrmann, March 15, 2010