By Devin Rotz ’25
Scarlett McArthur ’24 earned the position of first runner-up in the 2023-2024 Poetry Out Loud (POL) regional contest on January 25 at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg, PA.
McArthur, of Toronto, ON, Canada, was selected as Mercersburg Academy’s representative through an open audition coordinated by faculty members Michele Poacelli P ’24, ’26, and Kelly Dowling P ’21, ’21, ’23.
Last year’s representative in the 2022-23 regional contest was Eliana Sandy ’24 who also placed as a first runner-up.
“Mercersburg has been represented by many brave and determined students in the poetry recitation contest,” said Poacelli, English Department Head and Writing Center Director.
McArthur is no different, having worked hard on her three pieces:
"Always Something More Beautiful" by Stephen Dunn
"Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun" by Emily Brontë
"Where the Wild Things Go" by D. Gilson
“We’ve been working with her once a week. We’ll spend a whole rotation reviewing pieces, what they are about, what you can imagine, and who the speaker is,” said Poacelli. “The person has to be a conduit for the poem and not just a performer for the poem.”
POL is not only a contest between different schools, it’s also about education, what you can learn from poetry, and yourself.
“I learned a lot about myself, especially as a performer,” said McArthur. “I learned a lot about different poetry styles and how to really dive deep into the meaning and expression of the words chosen by the writer.”
This experience has a lot to offer to the students who step up and indulge in it. “I feel like I would love to do something similar in the future and am so excited and grateful for this whole experience,” McArthur said.
The goal always is for Mercersburg to win, but there is more to gain from a competition like POL.
“The real value in this experience is the process. Some students don’t understand poetry or they are scared of it,” Poacelli said.
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of poetry by offering free educational materials and a recitation competition for high school students, according to the Poetry Out Loud website. The program, which helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life, is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies.