CCA students compete in Poetry Out Loud

Winner Sadie Stevens.
Winner Sadie Stevens (center right) from Valley Center High School and second place finisher Xiaofan (April) Zuo (center left) from CCA.
(Ken Jacques)

Sadie Stevens from Valley Center High School was the regional winner and Xiaofan (April) Zuo from Canyon Crest Academy was the second place finisher in Poetry Out Loud, a recitation competition for high school students.

Another participant, Canyon Crest Academy senior Sarah Datta, competed in the regional finals for the second year in a row.

Sarah Datta
Sarah Datta

The event was live streamed on Feb. 8, with the winner advancing to the state finals in Sacramento. The winner of that will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C.

“I think I’ve always really loved reading and writing, and so after taking English classes in high school, I think that liking poetry was the next step,” said Sarah, 17.

In addition to Canyon Crest Academy and Valley Center High School, other San Diego schools whose students participated in the competition included Bayfront Charter High School, Eastlake High School, and Patrick Henry High School.

“There are so many great poets out there,” Sarah said. “We’ve seen Amanda Gorman recently, who has been an incredible poet, in the inauguration. And then currently, for Poetry Out Loud, I’m performing poems by D.H. Lawrence and Laetitia Pilkington, which have been really fun to interpret and perform.”

Sadie Stevens (center R) from Valley Center High School and runner up Xiaofan (April) Zuo (center L) from CCA.
(Ken Jacques)

Sarah’s mother once gave her poetry collections of Pablo Neruda, William Butler Yeats, and Rainer Maria Rilke as a gift, which she said inspired her love of poetry. Sarah added that “both competitions have been a lot of fun” so far, referring to her experiences this year and last year.

“Doing the competition last year was a nice setup for this year because I have the experience of what the competition is like and what it’s like to memorize poems,” Sarah said.

Veronica Murphy, artistic director of partner organization Write Out Loud, said in a statement that organizers are “excited to once again provide an opportunity for students to become involved with poetry by learning and reciting favorite poems for the community and their peers.”

“This year we are especially thrilled to be able to give voice to a young Afghani poet as an opening to the San Diego Poetry Out Loud Regional finals,” Murphy said.

That poet is Fariba Mohabi, an 11th grader in Kabul, who has been communicating with a class at Canyon Crest Academy via Zoom. Her work will be recited as part of a special opening ceremony for Poetry Out Loud.

Poetry Out Loud also helps students develop their public speaking skills, self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life, according to the program’s website.

“I really like just drawing from the world around me, what I’ve learned in class and the things I’ve studied,” Sarah said. “High school English classes have been so helpful for learning about different styles and being exposed to different types of work. And Poetry Out Loud has also been amazing at exposing students and me to different types of poetry and letting us learn about all these amazing different poets.”

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