Taha Vahanvaty, a senior at SHS, recently won the state title for the Poetry Out Loud Competition.
“I just really want to give a big shout out to Ms. Griswold,” said Vahanvaty. “Without her I would have never have completed this competition, and none of this would be possible.” Ms. Shari Griswold is an SHS English teacher who runs the Poetry Out Loud Competition.
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. Poetry Out Loud is in partnership with several organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies.
Participants are required to pick three poems from the Poetry Out Loud anthology and then recite them. Their challenge is to convey as much emotion as possible through their words and facial expressions in front of a live audience. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s competition is all virtual.
“I picked this poem because Fatima Asghas’ poem stood out to me because it used words, themes, and references that I could attach to my everyday life as a Muslim American teen,” said Vahanvaty.
Vahanvaty first heard about this competition from English teacher Ms. Shari Griswold, who he says is his biggest supporter. Griswold encouraged him to compete.
“I chose to enter this contest because nobody thinks they’re good at poetry, including me,” said Vahanvaty. “But it’s because of people like Ms. Griswold that I took that leap, stepped outside my comfort zone, and chose to compete in Poetry Out Loud. Anyone who wants to challenge their comfort bubbles: this is the thing for you,” said Vahanvaty.
The participants are evaluated by a panel of award-winning judges who review each competitor’s poetry recitation through video submission. Vahanvaty has competed at the state level among students from 14 regions and 110 schools across Pennsylvania. He won the third round which made the winner in the state of Pennsylvania. Vahanvaty will receive $200 from the Poetry Foundation, his school will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials, and he will go on to compete at the National Finals, which begins virtually on May 2.
Below is a link to the regional competition performances.
Regional Competition Performances