Colorado teen heads to national poetry recitation competition

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Photo: Alice KilduffAlice Kilduff, a 17-year-old student at Denver School of the Arts, will represent Colorado in Washington, D.C. at the end of the month at the Poetry Out Loud finals.

Launched in the spring of 2006, Poetry Out Loud is a country-wide poetry recitation competition that aims to expose high schoolers to classical and contemporary literature, as well as help participants develop performance and presentation skills.

Kilduff beat out 27 other students, each representing a different Colorado high school, at the statewide competition a few weeks ago to earn a place in the national finals.

In addition to reciting verse, Kilduff also writes her own poetry as a creative writing major at the Denver School of the Arts.

Kilduff dropped into CPR to chat with arts editor Chloe Veltman about her passion for poetry and to recite “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” by Hart Crane, one of the poems she competed with at the state championships and will take to nationals.

Listen to CPR’s arts show today at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear the full interview with Kilduff, or listen online anytime.

Here is a taster of Kilduff’s conversation with Chloe:

CPR: How long have you been interested in poetry?

Alice Kilduff: For me it’s been a life-long love affair because my father is an English teacher and my mother is an avid reader. I grew a more personal relationship with poetry towards the end of my seventh- or eighth-grade year.

CPR: What were some of the poems you competed with? Are you competing with those same poems at the finals?

Alice Kilduff: I competed with “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” by Hart Crane and “My Brother, the Artist at Seven” by Philip Levine. I’m doing the same poems at nationals because I feel I did well with them at state.

CPR: How do you go about preparing these poems for competition?

Alice Kilduff: I begin by doing what we call an explication, which is where I take the poem line-by-line and I really break it down to look at what the poet is talking about, what is the poet feeling and where is the poet coming from. I also read about the poets’ lives and what were their major influences. Then I work on memorization because that is key to being able to perform and not rely on your mind to give you the words, but your gut. Next, I work on bringing out what this poem evoked in the poet and what this poem evokes in me. The trick is, it’s not acting. You are not a character; you are yourself. But you are a vessel for this poem.

The Poetry Out Loud finals are in Washington, D.C., at the Lisner Auditorium on The George Washington University campus April 28-30.