The Last Hurdle before the Semi-finals of the Poetry in Voice Competition: the School Finals


Brandon Zang, Grade 12, recites “A Supermarket in California” by Allen Ginsberg.

During the lunch break of February 13th, 2018, in the seminar room (115), the selected winners from the grade competitions competed against each other in the school finals with their recitations. The winners from grades 9-12 were required to memorize one additional poem for the school finals; although they only had two weeks to prepare, their recitations were nothing short of impressive.

Each competitor performed twice, first reciting their original poem from the grade competitions, and then reciting their additional poem. As opposed to having two or three judges per grade in the grade competitions, the school finals had nearly the entire English department coming together to evaluate the recitations.

Jay Luo
Teachers from the English department come together to judge the selected winners from each grade.

Leonard Hsiung, a grade 10 student and a first-time competitor at the Poetry in Voice competition, recited “Echolalia” by Ian Williams and “I am graffiti” by Leanne Simpson at the school finals, looks back and realizes how far he’s come in the past two weeks: “I’ve never really expected myself to make it that far, and it’s been a huge stepping stone that [allowed me to get] out of my comfort zone” since back in grade 9, he was “encouraged to [compete] by [his peers], but did not”, and this year, with the help of the Express cohort, he was finally able to step up his confidence and compete in the 2018 competition, which he had huge success in.

When asked about how Poetry in Voice plays an important role in the English classes at St. George’s, he expresses that “Poetry in Voice fosters an appreciation of the [beauty of] poetry” and that “[this competition] brings a new art form into the classroom–you don’t have to do just art or just ceramics. [Poetry] brings this sense of creativity that people can be passionate about.” Passion coupled with creativity gives unlimited possibilities of unique interpretations of poems, which is why poetry never gets old.

Jay Luo
Hamish Marissen-Clark, Grade 11.

Congratulations to Hamish Marissen-Clark, the school champion selected by the judge committee! It was a very difficult process to select one recitation from all of the great performances by the winners from each grade. Being the winner of the school finals, Hamish will advance to the semi-finals of the nation-wide competition on an online submission forum, where he will submit three recitations.

While this stage of the competition is a completely new experience to some competitors like Leonard, it also has been a revealing and memorable experience for performance veterans like Hamish, who has been involved in performance arts throughout his high school career and has been “passionate about Poetry in Voice” ever since Ms. Gin introduced it to him back in English 8.

“In my experience, I’ve always found that Poetry in Voice hugely enriches the school environment, both inside and outside the English classroom,” Hamish reflects, “As we venture further into the digital age, the ability to have organic human interaction seems to be rarer and rarer as each day passes, and Poetry in Voice revives this skill which has proven imperative to a healthy society.” In such a “chaotic time” of the modern age, Hamish adds, “the values of empathy, presence, and human interaction” is fading away, and Poetry in Voice allows students to “interact and be human once again, even if it’s only for 25 lines or fewer.”

Having participated in the Express Cohort when he was in grade 10, Hamish is grateful for the “cornucopia of possibilities” that Poetry in Voice offered him as it allowed him to “discover myself and find freedom in recitation”, as opposed to being “drawn to [the competition] for the performance aspect.”

If selected by the judge committee, Hamish can qualify for the National finals, which will take place in Toronto from April 17th to 20th, consisting of both competition and workshops for the competitors. Congratulations to all the performers in the school finals this year, and good luck to Hamish on the semi-finals!