By Nick Sestanovich
The method of learning by doing is certainly true of poetry. After all, one can learn a lot about becoming a great poet by immersing oneself in the great poetic works and performing them for an audience.
That is the basic premise of Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest founded by California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia which teaches poetry to high schoolers through memorization and recitation. The competitions begin at the local level, then move on to the county competitions, the state competitions and finally the National Finals in Washington, D.C.
Benicia High School and Liberty High School have participated for a number of years and had some success, including in 2012 when Austin Carr made it to the state finals. This is the first year students will be advised by Benicia High English teacher Michele Lesko, who has a lot of experience in the field. She is the founding editor of IthacaLit.com, a quarterly online journal that publishes poetry and visual art. Additionally, Lesko herself is a professional writer whose poems and short stories in journals, and one of them won a Reader’s Choice Award from Pedestal Magazine. She also has taught creative writing and incorporates poetry as part of her English curriculum.