Seaby Bruno Representing Mercersburg at Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition 

Thursday, January 14, 2021
Chelsea Seaby Bruno ’21

Chelsea Seaby Bruno ’21 has been selected to represent Mercersburg Academy in the Poetry Out Loud regional competition. Seaby Bruno submitted her pre-recorded poems in mid-January. Judging will take place during the week of January 25, and regional winners will be announced on February 1. Information for participation in the state contest will be provided to the winners.

The competition encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. More than 3.8 million high school students from more than 16,000 high schools across the United States have discovered the magic of language through Poetry Out Loud. 

Seaby Bruno recited “The Days Gone By” by James Whitcomb Riley, “More Lies” by Karin Gottshall, and “Aria” by David Barber.

A small committee of faculty members and, this year, a student (Saskia Mentor ’21, president of the Poetry Club) helps vet and prepare the students who represent the school; those faculty members include Doonie Brewer, English faculty; Laurie Mufson, arts faculty and director of the Burgin Center for the Arts; and Michele Poacelli, English faculty and director of the Writing Center. 

“It’s so much fun! I love Poetry Out Loud because of the way I’m able to work with students,” said Poacelli. “We’ve spent more than a month working on three poems. It’s such a great experience—it’s an English teacher’s dream to be able to go this deep with poetry with students.”

Poacelli said that getting to spend this much time on three poems allows the student to experience it from the inside out. “It’s such a full body experience with a poem. You get the layering by spending so much time with the piece and understanding it,” she said. “For each poem, Chelsea is creating a backstory and a character. The student is a vessel for the poem to manifest it and make it come to life. It’s an incredible experience for the student.” 

Seaby Bruno chose the poems from the Poetry Out Loud bank of poems available. Poacelli said that Seaby Bruno chose poems strategically and well, identifying poems that show her range. 

In the beginning, Seaby Bruno said she was afraid that she wasn’t the right choice: “Before Poetry Out Loud, I didn't have a lot of exposure to poetry. The most time I had spent with a poem was in English class. Looking back I see that my worries were unwarranted. Throughout the process, I learned to interpret poetry's hidden meanings with Ms. Poacelli and to pronounce words with bravado with Ms. Mufson.”

Seaby Bruno said she’s grown through the process of preparing her pieces to recite. “I understand my three poems on a personal level, like an extension of myself. Representing an entire school is certainly nerve-wracking, but I believe I will make Mercersburg proud,” Seaby Bruno said. “I am so honored to have this opportunity!”

Seaby Bruno said that preparing her poems with Mufson and Poacelli has been so helpful, meeting up multiple times a week on Google Meet to get feedback on her reading: “Sometimes we would try to imagine the location of the poem; other times we focused on the pronunciation of words and the pacing of stanzas. Afterward, I would recite the poems over and over again, creating different versions every time. I think being open to criticism helped to uncover the poem's complexities. When the meeting was over, I would take the suggestions and continue to practice the poems. I would practice in bed, while getting food from the kitchen, anywhere where I would feel comfortable.”

“What a wonderful experience it was to work with Chelsea on preparing her recitations for Poetry Out Loud,” said Mufson.“The depth of understanding and nuance Chelsea brought to her work was key to her development of each poem. She was so open to exploring how to bring the poems to life with specific vocal skills and physical gestures.”

Seaby Bruno said that her work reflects all the effort she put in: “Of course, you can keep worrying about your work, thinking you can make it even better. But honestly, I could not be any happier with what I produced. The support I have received has been amazing! Without my work with Ms. Mufson and Ms. Poacelli, my recitations would not be anywhere as good as they are now.”

Mufson said she couldn't be more pleased with Seaby Bruno’s final renditions of each poem that was submitted to competition. 

“She will make Mercersburg proud as our representative,” Mufson said.