Kimmel and Liepins advance to state Poetry Out Loud competition

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Niko Liepins performs a poem at the school competition

Two competitors prepare in advance of the state competition Mar. 7: sophomores Gavin Kimmel and Niko Liepins.

Liepins has been performing in plays since he was nine years old, but it wasn’t until this year that he ventured into performing poetry.

“I decided to give it a shot because I really enjoy performing, and I don’t have as much time to do it anymore, so I thought this was a good outlet to express that performing side of me,” Liepins said.

Kimmel also has an affinity for performing, and this year’s competition has allowed him to combine two of his interests.

“I like it a lot, I’ve always liked performing and I’ve also always liked poetry so I think it goes well [together]. There are a lot of interesting poems out there, and hearing people recite them is fun. Discussing poetry and what it all means is also fun too,” Kimmel said.

Both Liepins and Kimmel are required to have three poems prepared. One poem had to be 25 lines or fewer, one that is pre-twentieth century, and then one of the competitors’ choosing.

“I’m using ‘Megan Married Herself’ by Caroline Bird for semifinals along with ‘When You Are Old’ by William Butler Yeats. Then if I move onto finals I’m going to use those two along with ‘The Animals in the Country’ by Margaret Atwood,” Kimmel said.

Sophomore Gavin Kimmel recites a poem at the school level competition

“I have one called ‘Undivided Attention’ by Taylor Mali, and that’s about a teacher whose having trouble getting the attention of his students because a piano is getting pushed out of a window across the street. I’m doing one called ‘Very Large Moth’ [by Craig Arnold] that’s essentially about a large moth that someone is mistaking for a bat, and also touches on how there are multiple things in the world that we want to see but stay distant and not touch. The final one that I’m doing is called ‘The Windhover’ [by Gerard Manley Hopkins] and that one’s just very fun, very vibrant and exciting,” Liepins said.

Liepins is most comfortable with ‘Undivided Attention,’ mainly because he’s been performing it the longest, and it’s in a much more conversational tone.

“Because of it’s more of a real-world situation, more people can relate to it, and it’s very good to help engage with the audience,” Liepins explained.

Since this is Liepins’ very first time performing at a state level, he’s committed to keeping an open mind about whatever is to come, and is overall just excited to perform poetry in a new setting.

“Because of my background in performing, I’m not so much nervous as excited for this opportunity to try a new medium of performance. Because my background has really been in plays, musicals, and stage productions, whereas poetry is a much more intimate kind of thing, I’m really looking forward to having that setting in the Loft, and since it’ll be a lot more intimate, that’s something I’m not used to yet,” Liepins said.

Regardless of the outcome of the competition, Liepins says he definitely sees himself continuing to perform poetry in the years to come.

“The results really don’t matter to me, it’s more so just that opportunity to perform, and that’s the part that I really love about it,” Liepins said.

Kimmel agrees that the most important part of the state competition is not who wins.

“I think I’m definitely going to want to do Poetry Out Loud the next year just because it was just fun discussing poetry with de Sa [e Silva] and Wahmanholm, and it was a good experience and I enjoyed it,” Kimmel said.

The state Poetry Out Loud competition will be held Mar.7 at Open Book.


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